Stairway, main corridor, Majestic B. [Building], Detroit, Mich.
In 1857 Elisha Otis introduced the safety elevator, allowing easy passenger access to upper floors. A crucial development was also the use of a steel frame instead of stone or brick. An early development in this area was five floors high Oriel Chambers in Liverpool, England. While its height is not considered very impressive today, the world's first skyscraper was the ten-story Home Insurance Building in Chicago, built in 1884–1885. Most early skyscrapers emerged in the land-strapped areas of Chicago and New York City toward the end of the 19th century. In a building like these, a steel frame supported the entire weight of the walls, instead of walls carrying the weight called "Chicago skeleton" construction. 1889 marks the first all-steel framed skyscraper in Chicago, while Louis Sullivan's Wainwright Building in St. Louis, Missouri, 1891, was the first steel-framed building with vertical bands to emphasize the height of the building and is therefore considered by some to be the first true skyscraper. After an early competition between Chicago and New York City for the world's tallest building, New York took the lead by 1895 with the completion of the American Surety Building, leaving New York with the title of the world's tallest building for many years. New York City developers competed among themselves, with successively taller buildings claiming the title of "world's tallest" in the 1920s and early 1930s, culminating with the completion of the Chrysler Building in 1930 and the Empire State Building in 1931, the world's tallest building for forty years.
Detroit was the Silicon Valley of the late 19th and the first half of 20th century. The city grew into a hub of commerce and industry spread along Jefferson Avenue, with multiple manufacturing firms taking advantage of the transportation resources afforded by the river and a parallel rail line. Around the start of the 20th century, numerous entrepreneurs in the Detroit area forged into a production of the automobile, capitalizing on the already-existing machine tool and coach-building industry in the city. A thriving trade set the stage for the work of Henry Ford, whose automobile Highland Park Ford Plant in 1910 revolutionized not only automobile manufacturing but virtually created the concept the assembly line and mass production. Historic Gilded Age gave rise to upscale neighborhoods, including the Boston-Edison, Indian Village, and Palmer Woods. In 1930s, with the factories came high-profile labor unions. The labor activism during those years increased the influence of union leaders in the city such as Jimmy Hoffa of the Teamsters and Walter Reuther of the Autoworkers. The city became the 4th-largest in the nation in 1920, after only New York City, Chicago and Philadelphia, with the influence of the booming auto industry. The Great Depression was devastating for Detroit, as sales of automobiles plunged and there were large-scale layoffs at all industrial enterprises. Major Murphy insisted that no one would go hungry, and set up the Mayor's Unemployment Committee that set up relief soup kitchens and potato gardens. From 1942 to 1945, production of commercial automobiles in the city ceased entirely, as its factories were used instead to construct M5 tanks, jeeps, and B-24 bombers for the Allies. By 1945, Detroit was running out of space for new factories. The postwar years 1945-70 brought high levels of prosperity as the automobile industry had its most prosperous quarter-century. Detroit, like many places in the United States, developed racial conflict and discrimination following rapid demographic changes as hundreds of thousands of workers were attracted to the industrial city. In the 1970s and 1980s dozens of violent street gangs gained control of the city's large drug trade, which began with the heroin epidemic of the 1970s when the crimes became increasingly more destructive. Hundreds of vacant homes across the city were set ablaze by arsonists. The number of fires was reduced only by razing thousands of abandoned houses - 5,000 in 1989-90 alone. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the city began to experience a revival, much of it centered in Downtown, Midtown, and New Center.