The G.A.R. Building Detroit

The Grand Army of the Republic



DSC_8397Somehow, after more than 100 years and 30 years worth of break-ins, the stairway at Detroit’s G.A.R. building remained almost entirely intact. Our teams may have replaced 12 spindles. Aside from that, the work done to them was about stripping the wood and refinishing the stain and protective coating.DSC_8382Before the common areas become too cluttered with “finishing touches” we thought we’d show off what is currently the highlight… the staircase.DSC_8373These photos will lead you from the lobby up to the third floor.DSC_8367Imagine the aged men with white hair steadying themselves as the climbed these steps and met with their fellow Civil War veterans.DSC_8349(Note: we do have a replacement “pineapple”for the lobby – it’s being stored a bit longer as we still have trades carrying gear past where it will live)

All photos by Lindsey Yeo



DSC_8413The second display case set up in the lobby currently holds items “found” in the Detroit’s G.A.R. building during the renovation. Our construction team was great at setting aside items they would come across as they dug holes or tore through walls. Over the 2 or 3 years they amassed a few dozen items from the building’s past. We’ve put most of them out just to the right of the elevator.DSC_8411It’s a varied collection of artifacts. Some were of the building itself, many were things the workers would have thrown away while the were building the castle and of course, a handful are items used by the veterans and their associates during the period this was a G.A.R. Hall.DSC_8416The liquor bottles were found in the rafters up in the attic. These appear to be from the period AFTER the “Boys in Blue” used the building. And how do we know this? Well, if you’ve been to Republic for a drink… you too would know the veterans whiskey of choice was “White Horse”.DSC_8412They left remnants of the case behind when they hand crafted their own cigar humidors.

Resourceful gentlemen that they were.

All photos by Lindsey Yeo



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



It’s been a while on these posts – we’ve been busy unpacking and opening Republic down on the first level (thanks to all of you who have come out to try the tavern, BTW).

All in all – it’s a lot of fun around here. You can’t help but smile as you walk through the doors each morning which the “boys in blue” once walked through themselves.

Still much work to do at Detroit’s Grand Army building. While phase 1 was the exterior of the building, phase 2 finished the restaurant spaces, common areas and Mindfield’s new home. Phase 3, which we begin this summer, are the spaces in between, the second and third levels. We will prep them and prepare to lease.


The team made one discovery this week – a previously unknown doorway. It had been hidden behind a plaster wall. We’ve no idea when it was covered up. As we’ve said, we have no original plans for the building and only a hand full of photos.

If you look closely, you can see the arched brick along the opening’s top. It was a quick patch for someone. The lathe ran an area not bigger than the opening itself.

We have a few cool “adds” coming soon. Mindfield is waiting on the rest of our furniture to be delivered and a few more original elements we’re putting back in place.

Keep an eye out.



DSC_1085Walking through the G.A.R. at this point is usually for a very specific purpose. We dash in to check colors going up on the walls or to see that the final mechanical systems are up and running. Sadly, not too much time spent noticing how far the building as a whole has come.DSC_5426
DSC_8246Every now and then someone forwards a “before” picture… nothing makes you take note of the changes more than that. These show where the stairwells began when we bought the building and where they are today.DSC_8247

NOTE – Our good friend and staff photographer Lindsey left Mindfield for “another guy”. She’s off getting married and making a new home in another state. She will be greatly missed – as much for her awesome talents as the part she played here in the Mindfield family. Her many years here helped shaped our firm into what it is today. We all wish her the most “best-est” of everything that is to come. These new photos here will be some of the last she provides for this blog. Enjoy!

All photos by Lindsey Yeo



GAR_xmasPostIt’s been an exciting year for us here at Mindfield. We are in the final stages of planning the new studio for our team at the Grand Army building here in Detroit.

Outside and all around us the neighborhood is popping. DTE plans to start work on their park across from us in the spring, the Red Wings broke ground on a new arena just a few blocks to our north and of course, a team is being put together to create 2 great new restaurants inside the G.A.R.. If all goes accordingly, Republic and the Parks & Rec Diner will begin welcoming guests in the early weeks of 2015.

As important as all of that is, as we enter into the holiday season, we are taking time to reflect not only on the men whom this building was meant to honor but also all the men and women who have served our country in the time since. The “castle” is an amazing structure and we’re proud to be the team which is restoring it to it’s former glory, however, we ask that no one lose sight of the “why” it was built.

The Detroit Free Press ran an article in February of 1887 – 12 years before construction of the G.A.R. even began. In it was written that the hall would ultimately serve “to perpetuate the memories of all soldiers who ever aided to put down the rebellion”. While the U.S. has not seen a conflict exactly like the Civil War since, countless men, women and their families have continued to make great sacrifices to protect our nation.

We at Mindfield and the entire team at the Grand Army of the Republic building offer up our gratitude to all U.S.veterans and all those serving on active duty around the globe today.



unnamedAnd when it does – the two soon to open restaurants in Detroit’s G.A.R. building will have the front doors in place to hear it.

If you look closely at old photos of “the castle”, you’ll see there were a number of shops on the first floors over the years and a number of entrances. When we took over the building in 2011, the few that remained were either solid steel or heavy wood for security reasons… not the original white oak and plate glass.

The 3 pictured below are recreations of what the G.A.R. veterans would have seen as they arrived to meet at the building at the turn of the last century.

Our construction teams put the final touches on the stain / finish inside what will soon be the Parks and Rec Diner.

One step closer.