The G.A.R. Building Detroit

The Grand Army of the Republic



DSC_6442-EditHere’s a design question we thought we would get some outside opinions on… what do you think we should do with the four niches which are found on two sides of the G.A.R. Building in downtown Detroit? One might imagine how cool they would look with statues of Civil War soldiers standing in each. Sadly, the original plans to the building have been lost over the years and we have no drawings to indicate the original intent of the architects.DSC_6443There are two niches each on both the Grand River and Cass sides of the building. We are guessing (and we know the builders were working with a tight budget) that they ran out of money and could not afford to place any statues of the soldiers in them. They have sat empty since the day the building was complete.

The question now is, do we put the statues in anyways (assuming that was the intent of the architect) or do we leave them entirely empty (as that was how the building was ultimately constructed in 1900.)?DSC_6448Which “historically accurate” path should we go down?

Thanks for weighing in!

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.

30 thoughts on “YOUR THOUGHTS?

  1. Hire locals to stand in period garb? 😉
    Seriously, if the budget allows, statues.

    The building is looking great!

  2. I just love those photos. Some of us have been batting this around since touring the building. Historically correct would be to “leave it be,” but I would just love to see the soldiers stand tall in those niches – realizing more cost, of course. I will wait to see how others weigh in. You guys are great!

  3. I agree with Aaron, maybe something like on the Soldiers & Sailors Monument, with a statue representing the four branches of the military (1860’s style), infantry, artillery, cavalry & navy.

  4. Empty. I think there’s a real danger in restoration work of overdoing. I would look at this building as a 1900’s style Guggenheim- minimum of decor, building shape and site does the talking.

  5. I say statues, but do up a photoshop image of the building with statues. You might like them without. Also, statues can be a little pricey,

  6. In addition to Civil War soldiers, perhaps some women from that war or Athena, the goddess of wisdom.

  7. While I agree with Paula D. I think it would be a great tribute to include statues of Union soldiers ie Sherman in the niches or perhaps just young soldiers to commemorate what this building was… a memorial to Civil War veterans.

  8. I realize you aren’t asking “what kind of statues?” but simply statues or no? Empty seems “correct,” but statues seem RIGHT.

  9. Flowing water art.

  10. Statues. And I am glad this was brought up. When I visited the GAR back in November 2012 with my sister (from Boston), we ask this very question: what was or suppose to be there? I think leaving it empty would be kind of silly. If it was meant for statues, then by golly put statues there. What kind of statue? I would stay true to the original purpose of the building. Civil war guys and gals. After all, that is who errected the building. I would say a soldier, perhaps one of the founders of the GAR. LIncoln? I think that would be cool. BTW, excellent work on the building. I have been keeping track of progress. Can’t wait to have lunch at the main level restaurant with my sister when she visits during Thanksgiving. It will be awesome!

  11. I echo the sentiments of some of the other’s commenting above:
    -Empty seems “correct,” but statues seem RIGHT.
    -a statue representing the four branches of the military (1860′s style), infantry, artillery, cavalry & navy.
    I also agree with the comment about a study done virtually. I was really surprised that a 3D virtual model and utilization of BIM was not done throughout this project. That would have been a much quicker resolution to the 4th floor ductwork challenges.

    Regardless, congratulations on what you have accomplished and will in as you bring this landmark back to life.

  12. I echo the vote for Statues. That was the architects intent and I think it will add more to the building. The Building looks great. I was down there a few weeks ago for the Jimmy Buffett concert and tailgated near the GAR. It was great to see the progress on the building and life being restored to it. Great job guys!

  13. I there are bunch of statues at Fort Wayne that may be suitable. Maybe a deal can be worked out.

  14. I also vote for statues. I’d like to add that I am so impressed with the work you guys are doing on this building. When those restaurants open, I am there.

  15. Keep the integrity of the building. I see three choices. Leave as is, authentic, period statuary or something completely contemporary and obviously not original. NO REPLICAS OR MODERN INTERPRETATIONS OF HISTORIC DESIGN.

  16. Put the statues in, help realize the architect’s original design over 100 years later.

  17. There may be other GAR buildings built to the same or similar specs. If so what did they do?

  18. If you do go the statue route consider incorporating the principles of the G.A.R. “fraternity, charity and loyalty” and utilize imagry from their badges. The Grand Army of the Republic monument in Washington D.C. is three sides that show each principle represented from the imagry on the badge and would be a good starting point. The fourth statue could be B. F. Stephenson (founder of the G.A.R., and also included on the D.C. monument) or to honor a local G.A.R. member – Russell Alger who was the first Department of Michigan G.A.R. commander and 18th Commander-in-Chief of the G.A.R. (not to mention that he was also Governor, Secretary of War, and a U.S. Senator).

  19. I also agree with the comment “Empty seems “correct,” but statues seem RIGHT” . My first thought is to agree the statues representing the four branches of the military (1860′s style), infantry, artillery, cavalry & navy would be best, but whatever statues placed should represent what is believed to be the intent of the original designer.

  20. The niches should honor Michigan’s 2 distinguished Civil War Generals:

    Israel Bush Richardson (Battle of Antietam victory)

    George Armstrong Custer (infamous commander of the “Michigan Wolverine Brigade. Victory at Battle of Gettysburg)

    and famous and history making Brigades:

    24th Michigan Volunteer Infantry the “Iron Brigade”. 24th Michigan regiment lost 397 out of 496 soldiers at the Battle of Gettysburg, an 80% casualty rate.The regiment was selected as escort at funeral of President Abraham Lincoln.

    Michigan’s Volunteer Negro Soldiers the 1st Michigan Colored Infantry – 102nd U.S. Colored Troops

  21. It seems that if the intent is to adhere to the historic purpose of the building, then each the 4 niches should be used in a mannery consistant with the original purpose of the GAR frarternal organization.
    Which was made up of these 4 groups :

  22. I believe there are some civil war statues left over from the city hall building at Fort Wayne Detroit in the CRC building. Contact Jim Conway at Fort Wayne or the coalition.

  23. Have you ever seen the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Hackley Park, Muskegon? Some excellent statuary representing the branches of the military from not long after the Civil War. Really worth a look as design inspiration.

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