not all those who wander are lost

Hey – calling all cars: I need help with this place. Im researching the bejeeberz out of this thing for some friends, and theres lots I need input on.

Here is the standard AIA Detroit data on this building:

3975 Cass Avenue

In 1925 the adjoining house was purchased from Robert and Jennie Brown and this Art Deco Egyptian Revival building was added. The William Hamilton Funeral Home (now located in Birmingham on Maple ~df) converted the house to a funeral parlor, and added this gorgeous Deco “mortuary chapel” around 1930.

Heres what I am asking for help with, the below bas reliefs adorn the front of the mortuary chapel building. Data on the architect is missing everywhere I look, and I am trying to figure out who these figures represent. They are obviously from several ancient civilizations, but it seems to me that they must represent actual people in the medical or funerary professions. Just curious who they are, its a great detail thats so easy to overlook.

Assyrian or Babylonian ? Looks like Cuneiform writing.

Obviously this one is Egyptian. Hieroglyphic writing. Imhotep ?

Looks Greek to me. No really, looks Greek.

Definitely Roman with Latin.

Certified Mortician ?

AIW or anyone, what are more in depth ways to look for the architect name ? If AIA didnt put it in the book Im wondering how hard is it to find that. I did contact the current day Hamilton Funeral Home to see if they have archives or data on the buildings. We’ll see how that goes when I hear back.

Looking for old photos too.

First Congregational Church

Excuse me, thats HISTORIC First Congregational Church. Another gorgeous red sandstone church thats disintegrating slowly. Done in stunning Victorian Romanesque (Byzantine details, Romanesque structure).

The towering campanile is topped with a gold statue of Archangel Uriel.

Rosette stained glass on south face

Castle like windows on campanile

This is one of many famous buildings in Detroit that were the essential “last stop” on the historical Underground Railroad.

Next stop was Canada and freedom.

One nickname of this building is “church of the seven arches”..Because it has seven arches surrounding the porch.

Okay, the little one is a trefoil, the next one is a quadrafoil..What are the other two called ? Hahahaha !

My favorite view – it looks like they converted the church into a “Churchs Chicken”. Bwahahahahaha !

10 Responses to Mortuary Chapel

  • Heyo Carpy

    I actually have only a mild peripheral interest in Cashwan. My goal is to establish who put this building together. It strikes me odd that even American Institute of Architects can not name an architect.

    So in a nutshell – Ive never heard of Cashwan before this investigation. Hahaha !

  • Howdy dFUNK:
    There is always a chance that Parducci did the exterior and Cashwan the interior. Parducci did ONLY intriors at Masonic Temple and Kahn used four different sculptors on the Fisher Bldg. Cashwan contributed some figures to St. Aloysius – nominally a Parducci site, and so it goes.

    I could put together an info pack on Cashwan if you wish, but it could consist of things like “Get a copy of Colby’s “Art and a City: the Story of Detroit’s Society of Arts and Crafts’ and check out pages 28, 60, 71, 74, 77, & 78. This is doubly useful since the book is NOT indexed and I took these notes while reading it.

    And there would be more like that. What is your interest in SC anyway? His best work [opinion] is in East and regulatr Lansing.

    Meanwhile, I am intrigued and delighted to discover [actually I was pointed here by AIW] this discussion and inquiry going on. Einar

  • Hey gb –

    YOU ROCK !

    That is fantastic. I am doing this research for the ArtCenterMusicSchool which currently owns the buildings – so ultimately our research ends up as part of their written history. Its fun, but its pretty important to me too.

    Thanks !

  • Heyo Carptrash ! welcome to dFUNK.

    Its been too long, brother.

    I went to Burton Historical Library yesterday and looked up the schools history. They have a box of data but it was misplaced – I am going back today because they found it. We’ll see what Burton turns up about the buildings origins.

    Dude Im going to flip out if I discovered a yet unascribed Parducci work.

    Check this out through the Carpcomputers:

    Samuel Cashwan ?

    I believe he did the interior marble reliefs that adorn the foyer area going into the chapel. Any chance he is also our exterior sculptor ? All I can find by him locally are the statues on the Newsboys Goodfellas monument on Belle Isle. (james j brady memorial)
    Cashwan was an instructor at Arts and Crafts and I think maybe U of M.
    Russian born.

    If Parducci did the exterior bas reliefs, wouldnt he have also done the exterior appointments ? The light fixtures were really knock out in their day – thats why I ask. There is part of one remaining.

  • I’ve been out swimming around – not in touch with my Canadian contact, so clueless. I have now gone over my whole Parducci carpchive and have been unable to pin this one down. I do think that it is a Parducci – but would suggest also looking into it’s being by Weston-Ellington, or Harley – Ellington or whomever they were at that time. Some version of the firm is still in existence in Southfield, and at least ten years ago allowed me to splash around in their archives. They had done White Chapel [Troy, MI] around then and it features figures somewhat like these on the monumental entance.

    Also worth looking into is/was the Detroit Stock Exchange Building, designed by O’Dell and Diehl with, among things, Assyrian styled sculpture by Emil Siebern. The sculpture , or much of it, was saved and is in the building that was erected on it’s sight.

    Coest off all this advice? Letting me know what you discover.

    Oh yes, do you know about “Michigan Architect & Engineer” Magazine? Plan on spending 4 to 6 hours at the Detroit Library Main Branch [Cass Gilbert], bring $20 in quarters to feed the copy machine and have a great day. What you are seeking is there – – – somewhere.

  • Great pictures! My curiosity was really piqued when I saw this place after visiting your web site and I sent an inquiry to the Classics Dept. at WSU about the translation of the Latin and Greek. Here’s what I learned:

    “The Latin is Cicero, De Senectute (On Old Age): “For certainly one must die.”

    The Greek is Marcus Aurelius, Meditations Book 11 chapter 3 section
    1: “This is what the prepared soul is like.” The previous sentence
    runs, “Such is the soul that is ready, whether indeed it is to be
    released from the body or extinguished or dispersed or mingled with
    others. ”

    Now to find someone who knows Phoenician, or what ever that other script is.


  • re: The figures on the mortuary building, Im thinking the first 2 are –
    Gilgamesh– “the lord Gilgamesh- his hair was heavy, black and curly and dressed in thick rolls of curls from the crown of his head to his forehead, but falling around his nape like a sleek helmet. His black eyes were prominent and thick lidded under arched brows, his nose large and aquiline. His lips curved and sensous. He wore his curly beard carefully arranged in 12 long ringlets that ended in a straight row of little curls about the level of his armpits.”
    The only other likelihood from that tradition that I can think of off hand, is Ut-napishtim who gained immortality and who is essentially the primordial Noah.
    and the 2nd figure is likely Thoth –“Thoth who wore the Ibis head kept the records of the Gods” However, the ibis was supposed to have a more downward hooked beak, so I may be incorrect.
    So far as the greco and roman figures they could be several different archetypes as the only identifying marks are the actual inscriptions, which I dont read.

  • Beautiful pics man! I have taken tons of pics of my favorite homes in Bostn Edison and Palmer Woods, etc., and the occasional “wow!” structure. I love these photo essays.

  • Right on AIW – you rock
    Calling out the heavy guns on this one.
    Light the “CarpSignal” over Gotham City !

    Im headed to Burton with a pro on either Tues or Wednesday. That will be just a start Im sure.

    Aside from the reliefs on the facade, the chapel interior and exterior are treated with some knockout appointments. Sure sign of something like the Kahn/Parducci method of design. Kahn doing “macro” overall structure design, and Parducci doing “micro design” – i.e. details, interiors, appointments and sculptural work.

    The Carp will set us staight on that issue.


  • The funeral home huh?… The way I did stuff like that up is to try and see if there is anything in old Newspapers, Try the Burton collection? Many times Newspapers would have a rendering and/or all relevant data on the building. This could be in two places, when the project was announced or when the project was completed and/or had its grand opening.

    The carved figures look kind of Parducci-ish or maybe a little like Ricci’s work.

    If they are Parducci, that leaves the usual suspects for being the architects…

    1 – C. Howard Crane, couldn’t have been him, he was working in London, England by 1930

    2 – Smith, Hinchman & Grylls, I’ll look in my material and see if there is any record of this

    3 – Albert Kahn, It’s possible…

    4 – Diehl & Diehl (or during the Depression – O’Dell, Trace & Diehl) – A firm that did mostly church work, however during the Depression they working in both Windsor & Detroit under the above name… I have an older Job list at home, I’ll look through too…