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El Tovar was built in 1928 by the Michigan Land and Home Corporation. It was a time when Detroit was experiencing rapid growth and the demand for apartment units in desirable neighborhoods was high. Total construction cost is estimated to be $210,000. The building is an excellent example of Spanish Moorish / Art Deco style. With 4 1/2 stories and 72 apartments it is one of the largest apartment buildings built in the area at that time.
The building itself is U-shaped with a center pavilion entrance that is flanked by two carved lions. It is a truly striking building. It has tall slender tower-like projections, a gable roof, and arched openings at the corners of the front facade as well as throughout the building.
The building was listed on the National Register February 28, 1991. Church of the Messiah Housing Corporation purchased El Tovar in 1988, rehabilitated the apartments and opened the building as section 8 housing in 1992.