Although Mindfield is currently getting all the attention for the restoration of the G.A.R. building in downtown Detroit…we feel there is someone infinitely more deserving the credit that the structure even still is standing today. Long before we 3 came along, a group headed by a woman named Celestine Hollings waged a legal battle we should all be thankful for.Built in 1900, the G.A.R. building was initially a gathering place for the veterans of the Civil War. When the last local soldier passed away in the 1940’s, the building reverted back to the city and was used for decades as the center for Detroit’s Parks and Rec Department. Faced with dwindling funds, Detroit mothballed the building in the early 1980’s. The once grand meeting hall sat neglected for nearly 20 years.
Around 2000, rumors started that unless sold, the building was at risk of being torn down. Enter Celestine Hollings. A woman whose great-grandfather was a black man who fought for the north during the Civil War. Celestine is a member of the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War (D.U.V.C.W.). Upon learning of the possible fate of the G.A.R., Celestine took the city to court to block any actions which might risk the site.After a long-fought battle, Celestine and her supporters eventually prevailed and had the building and the area designated as a historic site. Celestine’s perseverance saved the building and also protected architectural elements inside from being altered by future developers.
Thanks to Celestine, Mindfield is currently able to not only fix up the G.A.R. but return the building to it’s original look and design.Last week, we welcomed Celestine back to the G.A.R. to see the progress on the renovation.
Photos by Mindfield’s Lindsey Yeo