Page C1.1 . 06 August 2003                     
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    QUIZ

    150 Years of SmithGroup

    by William Lebovich

    The Detroit-based SmithGroup turns 150 this year, making it the oldest architecture firm in the United States. It is also the country's fifth largest, according to a 2002 report from Building Design & Construction. A look back at past successes and recent innovations such as in the McNamara Terminal and Chesapeake Bay Foundation headquarters and a look ahead to projects still on the boards demonstrate that the SmithGroup continues to reinvent itself.

    In the early 1800s, Sheldon Smith learned architecture by apprenticing to an older brother. His first credited building was the West House Hotel (1853) in Sandusky, Ohio. In 1855 he moved to Michigan, where he contributed to the growth of the small town of Detroit.

    He was followed in his firm by his son and grandson, but when the firm incorporated in 1903, it was as Field, Hinchman & Smith, giving apparent primacy to the two partners who were engineers. They were soon renamed Smith, Hinchman, & Grylls in 1907, and Fred Smith, the founder's grandson, became president.

    Building Detroit

    The early 20th-century work of Smith et al. was for the automotive, retail, banking, and utility industries, and for local government. The firm was successful but better known for engineering expertise than design finesse. For nearly the next hundred years, the firm built on its reputation in these industries.   >>>

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    ArchWeek Image

    The West House Hotel (1853) in Sandusky, Ohio, was the first building credited to architect Sheldon Smith.
    Photo: Courtesy SmithGroup

    ArchWeek Image

    Sheldon Smith (1818-1868), founder of SmithGroup.
    Photo: Courtesy SmithGroup

     

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