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The little-known history of the Detroit Stock Exchange

Aug 6, 2015

Buildings at the corner of Congress and Griswold in downtown Detroit. From left to right: the Buhl Building, the Penobscot Building Annex and the Ford Building.
Credit By Umdet (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Many from the region may not know it, but Detroit once was home to a thriving financial district with its very own Detroit Stock Exchange.

Founder of HistoricDetroit.org Dan Austin recently wrote about this part of the city's history for the Detroit Free Press.

The stock exchange originally opened in 1907 in the Dime Building according to Austin.

The exchange provided a way for local businesses to receive funding, often for expensive machinery they wouldn't have been able to afford otherwise says Austin.

"A lot of these companies trading on the stock exchange were local, the investors were local and you went to a local broker to do it, to make the investment," Austin says.

Some of these regional and local businesses included Chrysler, General Motors and Sears Roebuck.

The exchange was doing so well that they invested in a new art deco building. But when the markets crashed on Black Tuesday it was a struggle to keep the location. The building opened in 1931, but lost the mortgage just eight years later.

That wasn't the end of the Detroit Stock Exchange though, and Austin says people often don't believe him when he says it survived until the mid-1970s.

He says the eventual demise came from changes and deregulation on Wall Street that made it simpler for investors to purchase and trade stock on the NYSE without brokers in Detroit acting as a middle man.

Now the Penobscot Annex, once home to the Stock Exchange, is being restored by Detroit Lives and sister company Space Camp. Austin says they're dedicated to restoring as much of the space as they can.

Austin is glad to see them "breathing new life into a forgotten space. As far as I can tell that space has been empty since 1976."