The Murphy Building was constructed in 1903 for businessman Simon J. Murphy, who intended the building to house small manufacturing enterprises; it was originally known as the “Murphy Power Building”. Simon J. Murphy was a Maine lumberman who made his fortune in timber, oil, and mining. Murphy owned substantial property in downtown Detroit, and established the Murphy Power Company and built this structure shortly before his death in 1905. The original plan for the building was to rent space to manufacturers requiring power and/or steam heat. Murphy’s companies also constructed a number of other buildings in the Financial district, including the original Penobscot building which was under construction at the time of Simon Murphy’s death. His son William H. Murphy continued the construction of the Penobscot Building, and added two more buildings of the same name, as well as a second Murphy Power Building (now the Marquette Building) in 1906. The original tenants of the building included shoe and cigar manufacturing firms. Later tenants were primarily printing and publishing concerns.
The Telegraph Building is a six-story, flat-roofed office building faced with white terra cotta, constructed in 1913. The street-level storefronts have been renovated with green cast panels and white marble. Above the storefronts, vertical piers frame the large windows that dominate the facade, arranged in four bays on the Congress facade and eight along Shelby. At the top, a frieze and simple cornice surmount the building. The Telegraph Building originally housed the Detroit hub of Western Union.