WSU's signature building: Old Main

2014 photo by Amir Johnson

Old Main was built on the southwest corner of Cass and Warren avenues between 1894 and 1896. The building provides space for College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts departments of music, communication, the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance and the James Pearson Duffy Department of Art and Art History, as well as CFPCA's Elaine L. Jacob Gallery and Schaver Music Recital Hall. Old Main also houses the dean's office of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Department of Geology, the Museum of Anthropology, the university's planetarium and general classrooms. Old Main is a substantial piece of the history of education in the city of Detroit. Click here for a brief yet detailed history of the building, view a collection of historic Old Main photos provided by the university's Walter P. Reuther Library and consider purchasing a copy of the book A History of Wayne State University in Photographs.


On September 1, 2011, members of CFPCA's Office of the Dean were allowed a brief tour of the interior of
Old Main's floors five and six, the famous clock tower. Check out the video.


Old Main's distinctive clock tower inspired the design of the official logo
of the University Art Collection by alumnus Daniel Sperry in 2010.
Click on the logo to visit the University Art Collection's website.


This watercolor of Old Main was used for the university president's holiday card in 2005.


A sunrise photograph in 2005 reminds us that Wayne State University is the only place in the state
where students find an urban full-service university experience.


This painting of Detroit's Central High School decorated the outer entrance of the university's Office of the President in late 2004.



A line art rendering of the clock tower for use on directional signage
throughout the building was proposed in summer 2004.



At the outset of 2004 kiosk style directional signage, such
as the example here, was installed all across campus.


Students hang out under the grand archway of Old Main's front
entrance in fall 2003 just as they have for many generations.


In 2001, the Masonry Institute of Michigan featured Old Main in its magazine The Story Pole. Click on the image above to read a PDF of the column.


August 2001

October 1999


June 1999



After being closed for three years and $41.8 million in renovations, Old Main re-opened in April 1997 just in time for celebrations of its centennial.
Click on either of the images above to zoom in on the wording of the building's Michigan Historic Site sign.


The university's 1995-6 annual report, released in March 1997, celebrated Old Main's
renovation and included a time line of milestones in the building's history. Click
on the booklet's cover above to view selected pages featuring that time line.


During Old Main's 1994-6 closure, an annex was added off the building's southwest
corner at 480 W. Hancock Street. It contains theatre and music rehearsal facilities
on its upper floors and houses the Schaver Music Recital Hall and (pictured
here in the foreground) the Elaine L. Jacob Gallery. Click on the image
above to view a photo collection, shot in late summer and early fall
of 1996, that is a circuit around the outside of the building.


1976 artwork by '54 art alumnus William Bostick inspired the design of this blank notecard. Click on the card to view and read it, front and back, as a full size PDF.


This aerial shot of Old Main is from around the late 1950s / early 1960s. Click on the image
for a high-resolution version that expands the view northward to the New Center Area.


Old Main provides the backdrop in this shot of the WSU Marching Band rehearsing at the northeast corner of Warren Ave. and
Second Ave. (which now is Gullen Mall) in approx. the mid-1950s. Click on the image to view a larger version.


This snapshot from 1951 was shared with us courtesy of '53 art alumnus Joe Hoover.
Click on the image above to view a larger version.


This Detroit Central High School post card bears a 1914 post mark and was delivered for the price of one cent.
Click the image above to view the card, front and back, as a full size PDF.