The G.A.R. Building Detroit

The Grand Army of the Republic



We spent almost 3 years negotiating the purchase of the G.A.R. building. The fun began in 2008 and wrapped up in 2011 when we finally signed the papers. One element, which was a concern for all of us, was that there were appropriate displays in the building to tell the story of the Union veterans group.

The Grand Army of the Republic was designed as an entity which would cease to be when the last veteran died. That happened in the 1940’s.DSC_8391Most of the “original” artifacts in this G.A.R. building disappeared in the early 80’s when the city mothballed the castle. We’re told people were just allowed to walk away with paintings, plaques and furniture as the doors were locked for a final time.

While our plans for displays of a larger scale lie down the road a bit, there are 2 obvious spots in the lobby which we have had some fun with in the time since we’ve moved in.DSC_8393The opening pictured here was once a doorway between the lobby and one of retail spaces on the first floor. Instead of simply boarding it up, we created a 2 sided display case with the Republic’s bar butting up on one side.

Pictured here are Civil war era pieces. People entering the building can take them in as they wait for the elevator, others sitting at the bar while they have a drink in honor of the veterans themselves.DSC_8394The canteen and the leather piece were actually carried into battle by our Great Grandfather, a member of the 17th Maine.

All photos by 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.

7 thoughts on “DISPLAYS…

  1. Thank you, thank you for all you have done to keep alive the memories of our Boys in Blue. How wonderful to see that you have your own piece of history to share with all of us. Can’t wait for the Grand Opening!

  2. A slight correction–the last member of the G.A.R. was Albert Woolson who passed away in 1956. The last G.A.R. member of Michigan passed in 1951.

  3. is that a red/white/blue G.A.R. medal I see…. super cool ! 🙂

  4. Thank you Patriotblue1 – good catch!

  5. It’s probably been mentioned elsewhere, but in the aftermath of the G.A.R., the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW) were given the sole legal successor to the G.A.R. Your work on behalf of our ancestors to preserve their memory alongside the needs to make the building commercially viable have been encouraging. Our National Encampment (annual meeting) is in Lansing. I will be there from California and am looking forward to visiting if at all possible. If anyone would like to know more about the descendants of the GAR, please go to Thanks again!

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