Obituary of William Allen “Bill” Moss – The ‘Artist of Detroit’

Bill Moss was born on Detroit, Michigan’s east side November 20, 1943 the youngest child of the late Joseph Allen Moss and Helen Dyer Moss. His daily commute to Detroit’s Cass Technical High School heightened his interest in the history and architecture of his home town. He graduated from Cass Technical in 1962 and continued his education at Wayne State University, receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in 1966. Bill’s family moved to the farm near Silver Point, Tennessee while he worked as an architectural renderer in Detroit. He also bought and sold architectural antiques obtained from the various mansions that were being demolished along Grosse Pointe’s Lake Shore Drive. He later relocated to Nashville, Tennessee and passed away at age 70 on Saturday, January 11, 2014 at his home in Silver Point, Tennessee. He is survived by his sister Jo Ann Moss of Silver Point; his sister-in-law, Mary Moss of Louisiana; and 10 nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by a brother, Ledric “Lee” Moss of Norco, LA.

Bill developed an interest in drawing Great Lakes vessels, for he sketched the cross river railroad car ferries, the freighters, the Bob-Lo Boats, the Georgian Bay passenger liners, and his first love the magnificent Detroit & Cleveland Navigation Company over night boats. When the Dossin Great Lakes Museum opened in 1960, he used the original blueprints to construct a four foot model of the steamboat City of Detroit III for the museum’s collection. This highly detailed model, with interior lighting, still graces the entry of the Dossin Museum on Belle Isle. Bill produced a number of detailed acrylic paintings of Great Lakes vessels and hosted a one man show at the Dossin Museum in 1981.

As the lake vessels he loved were taken out of service Bill’s interest turned to capturing Detroit’s past in a number of original paintings, and earned the title “Artist of Detroit”. These memories were released as a series signed and numbered limited edition prints. One could see his passion for Detroit’s history as he  captured the skyline of Detroit the with the Bob-lo Steamer Columbia in the foreground, while his ‘Detroit’s Traditions’ depicted the foot of Woodward Avenue. He produced portraits of the Old City Hall, the Hudson’s Building with Santa arriving, Music Hall, and a number of stadium views.

Briggs Stadium was the stadium portrait that evoked memories of the excitement that happened at the corner of Michigan & Trumbull.  His 1992 view of Tiger Stadium was released at Tiger Stadium and autographed by Ernie Harwell and Paul Carey. This was followed by a 1984 World Series view of Tiger Stadium that was autographed by Alan Trammell and Kirk Gibson.
He captured the glory of the ‘old red barn’ Olympia Stadium and each limited edition print was personally autographed by ‘Mr. Hockey’ Gordie Howe.  His view of Joe Louis Arena even shows a freighter passing by on the Detroit River. A limited number of the prints were autographed by the Red Wing’s team captain Steve Yzerman. Bill added a special remarque, a pencil sketch, showing the Captain holding the Stanley Cup over his head, the only time Yzerman won the trophy in Joe Louis Arena. 

In 1992 his view of the freighter Edmund Fitzgerald was used by the Great Lakes Maritime Institute and the Dossin Great Lakes Museum in a project called ‘A Link in the Chain’. The anchor from the Edmund Fitzgerald was recovered from the bottom of the Detroit River in a live underwater special on WDIV Channel 4. The resulting sale of specially marked prints funded the raising of the 10,000 pound anchor and it’s installation as the main feature in the Dossin Museum’s side court yard on Belle Isle. 

In 1995 he was commissioned to produce a painting of the Kern’s clock as it was suspended above Woodward Avenue of the WTVS Channel 56 production of ‘DETROIT Remember When’. The artwork was used on the cover of the VHS tape that was produced, and the later versions that graced the jacket of the DVD production. Bill and his artworks were also featured in the program’s production, and the production is still being aired on Channel 56.
1999 was a busy year for Bill as Erik Smith of WXYZ Channel 7, interviewed Bill about his love of ‘Old Detroit’ in a production of “From the Heart”. The Detroit Historical Society and the R. L. Polk Company used Bill’s artwork in their annual calendar. This historical calendar featured the street views, riverfront, hockey and baseball stadiums, and churches of his home town.
Bill moved to Tennessee after the passing of his parents to live on the family farm where he worked as an architectural consultant creating detailed renderings of proposed churches and buildings across the country. He continued to produce a number of limited edition prints and could be found at local summer artist markets, and his work was on exhibit in multiple galleries. One feature that Bill tried to place in his artwork was a view of a vintage corvette, a reminder of his love of antique automobiles.

Even though his health was failing, he was always looking to promote the maritime heritage of Detroit. His last project was the use of his view of the ‘Steamer Greater Detroit passing under the Ambassador Bridge’ by the Great Lakes Maritime Institute.

The Maritime Institute’s volunteer dive team discovered the anchor of the Steamer Greater Detroit in the Detroit River. The dive team worked to clear the 6,000 pound anchor, and negotiations were opened with the Wayne County/Detroit Port Authority to have the artifact rest near their building on the Detroit riverfront.

With the help of funds raised by the Great Lakes Maritime Institute, on November 15, 2016 the anchor was raised from the bottom of the Detroit River and is currently on display at Hart Plaza near the Port Authority building. 

The overnight vessel was put in commission running passengers and freight between Buffalo, New York and Detroit, Michigan in 1924. The vessel was burned as a spectacle on Lake Ste. Claire in 1956. Ninety years later the anchor of the S.S. Greater Detroit has risen from the bottom of the Detroit River to be a visible icon of Detroit’s maritime heritage on Detroit’s riverfront.
William Moss’s remaining limited edition artwork can be viewed at  or by contacting


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