David Whitney Building's iconic neon sign returns to Detroit's skyline

Neon sign returns to Detroit's skyline with ceremonial lighting

DETROIT – The David Whitney Buildings iconic 1959 neon signs returned to Detroit’s skyline Thursday with a ceremony and lighting of the classic 20th century piece of iconography.

Whitney Partners, LLC, a partnership of the Roxbury Group and Trans Inns Management, celebrated the re-lighting of the iconic David Whitney Building with a ceremony benefiting The Detroit Historical Society, a key collaborator in the neon sign’s restoration. The event was attended by local economic development officials, historic preservationists and members of the Whitney family.

In 1959, the iconic David Whitney Building neon sign was erected and remained lit until 2014 when it was taken down as part of the building’s redevelopment and historic restoration. While the northern facing façade of the building was accurately restored with with the building’s name on a cornice, because of the iconic nature of the neon sign, the building owners were dedicated to its restoration and reinstallation. 

Through the support of the Detroit Historical Society and work of Detroit-based Spectrum Neon, the developers brought back the five-foot-tall stainless steel letters, now lit by LED bulbs, to the building’s southern-facing side.  Whitney Partners collaborated with the Detroit Historical Society who lent their expertise to maintaining the historical integrity of the sign through the restoration process while Spectrum Neon Co. Signs and Lighting led the sign’s refurbishment and modernization efforts. 

The 19-story David Whitney Building opened in 1915 and for decades was an integral downtown retail and office center.  In 1999, the building closed its doors and sat empty until March 2013, when Whitney Partners LLC, a venture of the Roxbury Group and Trans Inns Management began a $92 million award-winning renovation of the building.  Today the high-rise houses the 136-room Aloft Detroit and more than 100 apartments.

Financial support for the David Whitney is made possible through a combination of historic, brownfield and new market tax credits, as well as funding and investment from the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, Invest Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan Historic Preservation Network and the Michigan Strategic Fund.