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One of the things that fascinates me so much about architectural ornamentation how sculptors and artists put so much symbolism into their designs. My favorite symbol to find on buildings is the bee hive – and in Detroit we have quite a few structures. The hive is a symbol of organization and structure and buzzes like a factory or workshop of tireless activity. Bees produced honey which some say is the food of the gods. Combined they are symbols of industry, regeneration and obedience.

Temple of Odd Fellows Building

Here is the first – in chronological order – building we see with a hive. This is the Temple of Odd Fellows Building built in 1874 on the edge of Greektown on Randolph and Monroe. It’s of late Victorian commercial design with red brick and cream colored terra cotta.

Masonic Temple exterior ornamentation

Secondly, we see the bee hive several times – both exterior and interior – at Detroit’s Masonic Temple. Built in 1926 by the Dean of architecture himself, George D. Mason at 500 Temple, formerly Bagg Street. Below, is an interior image of some decoration of a lodge room.

Interior of Masonic Lodge Room


Guardian bee hive

In the window jambs of the Art Deco Guardian Building of 1928, we see Mary Chase Perry Stratton’s Pewabic version of the bee and it’s hive. This is above the Congress Street entrance.

Fisher Building bee hive Grand Boulevard entrance

My most favorite bee hive of them all… this graceful allegorical figure on the Fisher Building holds a beautiful platter with her hive for all to see. The Fisher Building was built in 1929 by Albert Kahn for the Fisher Brothers.

Bee hive at base of door hinge on Fisher Building

There is even a bee hive on the base of the door hinge on the main entrance on Grand Boulevard. Here, this version has stylized art deco flowers coming from it’s top.

The interior of the Fisher has beautiful lunettes designed by Geza Marotti and can be seen from the third floor balcony.

Photos (c) 2005 – 2011 Jack P. Johnson and Jennifer Baross