The G.A.R. Building Detroit

The Grand Army of the Republic



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



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

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DSC_2057Not really, actually. Hopefully the new sprinkler system will be the most underutilized piece of equipment in the building. It’s going in either way – and for the first time in 115 years, there will be a fire suppression system in Detroit’s G.A.R. building.DSC_2051We’ve been told by some, that “back in the day” some of the ravers in the building would start fires on the lobby floor to stay warm. There remains soot on a few of the ceilings as proof of those stories. Fortunately, that was the worst of the damage left behind.DSC_2047The team from Falcon Fire Protection is working with us to hang lots and lots of steel pipe throughout the castle. They’re wasting no time as the second floor is done now and they’re on to the next.DSC_2043Before long, they’ll turn a valve or 2 and we’ll have water for “just in case”.

Photos by Mindfield’s Lindsey Yeo



DSC_2095DSC_2087One thing the Detroit’s G.A.R. building did NOT have was a full bathroom. And while you might not know it to look at us – there are some occasional workouts and morning runs downtown prior to sitting down at our desks. So, we’re adding one full bath, washer / dryer and a place to freshen up after yet another 20 hour day at Mindfield.DSC_2247DSC_2258It’s rough to envision in it’s current state but, on the balcony level where a walk in closet used to sit off the last “turret room”, we’re adding just such facilities. It had been the most “dead” space in the building. It was part long hallway and part closet and neither of any use.DSC_2312The stairway to the attic is off to the right in one photo. Our man Nick chips away at some hanging brick in another.DSC_2326DSC_2249And if you can read Spanish…

Photos by Mindfield’s Lindsey Yeo

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G.A.R. WallpaperWe’re told that at one point, there were upwards of a dozen or so small shops on the first level of Detroit’s G.A.R. building. Back in the day (pre-Target) you’d go to one shop for women’s hats, another for men’s collars and a third for children’s toys. As we pull down walls and remove soffits, we’re occasionally revealing remnants of what these interiors might’ve looked like.G.A.R. Wallpaper 2In the first floor area where we will build out the restaurant kitchen we’ve found a strip of original wallpaper border. We’re guessing it was hung close to the turn of century and in one of the building’s first stores… largely because it covered up when they added more modern utilities to the building.G.A.R. Wallpaper 3There is a great “period” wallpaper website called “Bradbury and Bradbury”. They make and sell reprints of historic wallpapers. After a quick scan of their site, there were no images of this particular design, but we think what we found would fall into an early era of the building’s history.

Here are a few shots taken from ground level…

Photos by Mindfield’s Lindsey Yeo

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Our team’s have been chipping away at all aspects of bringing the restaurant outlets on-line at Detroit’s G.A.R. building.Diner constructionLast week the team toured a number of Chicago restaurants checking out design cues and the latest in popular fares in that market. 3 days and probably 25 different diners, bars and restaurants stirred the imagination of the chef, GM and interior designer. (Not to mention Sean, Tom and David)

Meanwhile back here, the work has been just a productive, if not a lot messier. Our crew has wrapped the final round of demo in the space which will become the diner.GAR workerThe last of the original ceiling was too far damaged to be saved for future use, the plaster and lathe was destroyed by years of rain and snow falling through the turret hatch opening.Removing plaster and lathThe teams have placed plywood along the exterior walls to prevent damage to the glass, the entire exterior was restored in 2013.Cast Iron RadiatorsThere were still 20 to 30 cast iron radiators left in the G.A.R. (scrappers seem to leave those behind). Here are a dozen waiting to be recycled.

Photos by Mindfield’s Lindsey Yeo

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SAW Detroit’s G.A.R. has been modified quite a bit over the last 100 years.  A few walls added here… a door moved from one spot to another… we have actually discovered some great old wallpaper that had been covered up at one point by a soffit (we’ll post pictures of that soon).  Last year we demo’d and removed any “added” walls to get the building as close to the original floor plan as possible.Saw_sparks
holeToday, our teams broke through one of the wall on the first floor.  The goal was to create an access point to the basement from one of the restaurants.  Cool power tools but messy work.DSC_8842
DSC_8814Check out the shot from the basement… creepy looking!bricksonstairs

Photos by Mindfield’s Matt Reznik & Lindsey Yeo