The G.A.R. Building Detroit

The Grand Army of the Republic



Although the Grand Army of the Republic building did not have the first electric elevator in the city of Detroit, it did have one of the earliest. (Apparently that honor goes to Wright-Kay building on Woodward and John R). So, one of the first questions we had when we took possession of the “castle” was what shape the elevator was in. Installing a new elevator in a well preserved shaft is expensive enough, if we had to do major structural work things could have gotten ugly quickly.

Once again we got lucky. Somehow, the elevator chase escaped any significant damage. The elevator itself was toast but anything we needed to install a new lift was right where it should have been.

When we talked finishes with the elevator company we requested they salvage anything possible for the new cab. Sadly, 100 year old elevators do not offer much up along the lines of re-use. The one element that did show some sign of life was the original roof of the cab. We had to hope that under 20 layers of paint there would be something interesting.DSC_7833Like solid steel.

After a bit of work by George (one of our favorite workmen) and a period light fixture from Senate Resale (our favorite shop for stuff we don’t really need) we’ve got just enough old to offset the new.

Photo by Lindsey Yeo

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unnamedAnd when it does – the two soon to open restaurants in Detroit’s G.A.R. building will have the front doors in place to hear it.

If you look closely at old photos of “the castle”, you’ll see there were a number of shops on the first floors over the years and a number of entrances. When we took over the building in 2011, the few that remained were either solid steel or heavy wood for security reasons… not the original white oak and plate glass.

The 3 pictured below are recreations of what the G.A.R. veterans would have seen as they arrived to meet at the building at the turn of the last century.

Our construction teams put the final touches on the stain / finish inside what will soon be the Parks and Rec Diner.

One step closer.


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DSC_7697As we move closer and closer to move-in day – the final details are taking shape and most of the original elements are going back into place. 100 plus years of paint and dirt took it’s toll…but luckily, our teams restoration efforts are beginning to show what the architects had planned for the G.A.R. back in the 1890’s.DSC_7699In addition to the handrails being stripped and repaired you can see the toe kicks along the stairs are being restored and made as close to original as possible.

Imagine the aging veterans making their way up these stairs in the 1920’s and 30’s.

Note that the walls have also all been plastered and restored to their original look and feel as well.

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More close up shots of Detroit’s G.A.R. building… as to keep the finished product under wraps for another week or two.

The old floor in the assembly hall meeting the new wainscoting (replacing what was torn away decades ago).

Both getting ready for finishes.


Photo by Lindsey Yeo


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