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About the Center

The building at 163 Madison Street has a rich history. The building was designed in 1907 by the Detroit architectural firm of Stratton & Baldwin as a Renaissance Revival building with Modernistic tendencies. 163 Madison is constructed of rusticated light gray masonry with brick upper floors. The heavy terra cotta molded frieze of the parapet wall is supported by four two-story pilasters and the building is topped by a double-arched cupola.

The original tenant was the Home Telephone Company of Detroit. C.H. Ledlie, one of the most prominent consulting telephone engineers in the country, designed and built the spaces and installations necessary for the companies 12,500 subscribers. In 1909,the Home Telephone Company of Detroit became the Home Telephone Company of Michigan, and In 1912 the company was sold to a rival firm, the Michigan State Telephone Company.

In 1923, 163 Madison was sold to Michigan Mutual Life Insurance Company and in 1935 became the home office of Michigan Mutual Liability Company. In 1951, it was purchased as the headquarters of the Jewish Welfare Federation of Detroit. The building was dedicated in memory of Fred M. Butzel, a founder of - and major contributor to -the Jewish Welfare Federation of Detroit.

For the next four decades, the Fred M. Butzel Memorial Building housed more than a dozen Jewish community organizations. In 2000, the building was purchased by Don H. Barden, who built the Barden Companies into one of the nation's largest African-American owned businesses through the introduction of cable television into Detroit and investment in casinos. A philanthropist and community leader, Mr. Barden was instrumental in organizing a series of regional economic peace conferences to address Detroit's crime problem, national reputation, and need for economic development.

The Barden building was purchased by Grand Valley State University in 2012. The Grand Valley State University Detroit Center will serve as a central meeting place for university professionals conducting business in Southeast Michigan.