The G.A.R. Building Detroit

The Grand Army of the Republic



DSC_9983Although 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.DSC_0060-EditBuilt 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.DSC_0095After 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.DSC_0093Last week, we welcomed Celestine back to the G.A.R. to see the progress on the renovation.

Photos by Mindfield’s Lindsey Yeo

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.

4 thoughts on “THANK YOU, CELESTINE!

  1. So how does she like the work so far?

  2. Pingback: Detroit rallies round the G.A.R. once again and what that means for downtown | Whats Up Detroit?

  3. Pingback: Francis Grunow | Detroit's 'Castle' Inspires as Innovative Model of Revival | Cultural Weekly

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