The G.A.R. Building Detroit

The Grand Army of the Republic



The work continues to continue and this week’s news involves some discoveries.  Not big discoveries (we’re still looking for what are certain to be vast treasures of Confederate loot that have been squirreled away), but items of interest that we’ve moved from the G.A.R. for the construction phase.55ce6-dsc_6503-jpeg-scaled1000The marble plaque was discovered intact during clean-up of the old dance studio which had last occupied the 2nd floor behind a small wooden platform.  Astonishing, really, that someone would simply cover it up, and equally astonishing that it has survived in such pristine condition for all this time.  The plaque commemorates William C. Claxton, William H. Fisher, Edgar A. Shook, Richard W. Allen, Charles F. Brown, and Samuel B. Dixon for their efforts in having the original building constructed in 1899.  Following the discovery we immediately dove into the research basket and unearthed (thanks, Bruce!) a Detroit Free Press article from May 25, 1897 mentioning Samuel B. Dixon as a proponent of establishing the G.A.R. Building in Detroit. The city fathers argued for two hours and turned the proposal down!  Cheers to the perseverance of Mr. Dixon and the other veterans involved in changing minds.ae2a9-dsc_6619-jpeg-scaled1000Also discovered are a small series of metal plaques that were used during the building’s original function.  L.G.A.R. stands for Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic, D.U.V. 3 references Daughters of Union Veterans, and L.N.L. 9? Maybe someone out there can help us on that one. These were still part of existing cabinetry when found by the carpenters (thanks, Randy & Nick!)c45b5-_dsc7319-scaled1000We have discovered a bonafide skeleton in the basement!  Thanks to Chad and his crew from EME for saving this bizarre anomaly during asbestos abatement.  The spider apparently died in it’s web and then was calcified over the years.  Noteworthy to the storied past of this amazing building?  Maybe not.  But really cool, nonetheless.

And in other types of discoveries, the Mindfield staff was finally able to tour their future offices en masse for the first time.  We had a great time discussing the fantastic possibilities of laying out the office, how we would best use it and how to maximize and already impressive space – for hard work, much fun, and, of course, honoring the history.

Thanks for keeping tabs on us!  It’ll only get more fun from here!

Author: G.A.R. Building

The G.A.R. building was purchased by the media production firm Mindfield from the City of Detroit in November, 2011. Mindfield has started renovating the G.A.R., with opening slated for November 2014. Mindfield plans to occupy the top two floors itself, lease the ground floor for 2 restaurants, and dedicate a memorial to Civil War Veterans. The G.A.R. Building was designed by architect Julian Hess, and constructed at 1942 West Grand River and Cass as an appropriate structure for meetings and other G.A.R. related activities. The original construction cost was split between the Grand Army of the Republic (who paid $6000 of the cost) and the city of Detroit (who paid the remainder of the $44,000 total cost). Construction commenced in 1897 on the five-story building.

6 thoughts on “DISCOVERY WEEK

  1. FYI, the GAR building was THE hot spot for Detroit Table Tennis in the 1960’s and 1970’s. We had a club on the 4th floor with room for 3 tables. Many in attendance were U.S. and state champs. Competition was intense.

  2. So glad to see this architectural gem saved! Former Detroit firefighter, visited this building in a professional capacity in the 70’s. A beauty of a building, and historically significant.

  3. L.N.L=Ladies National League. It’s referenced in this article: "So even though the veterans said they didn’t care what happened to the GAR, a petitioning group composed of the local Women’s Relief Corps (an auxiliary organization to the GAR); the Ladies of the GAR; the Daughters of the GAR; the Children of the GAR; the Daughters of Union Veterans; and the Ladies National League formed the GAR Memorial Association in an effort to have the building saved as a memorial. These groups also wanted to be allowed to use the building for their meetings."

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