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Detroit, Michigan

Grand Army of the Republic Building

Detroit’s downtown castle is one of the oldest structures in the city. 

Built in 1899 at a cost of $50,000 dollars, this turreted building served as the meeting hall and memorial for an organization called The Grand Army of the Republic.

The GAR was founded in 1866 by a surgeon who had served in the American Civil War and became one of the most influential fraternal organizations in America. By the 1890’s, the organization had grown large and influential with its endorsement almost a necessity for anyone with political ambitions. In recognition of this growing influence, the City of Detroit called upon the services a well-known architect, Julian Hess, to build the largest GAR hall in Michigan.

Built on land deeded to the City of Detroit with the stipulation that that it forever be used as a “marketplace,” the GAR leased the lower floors to various businesses such as a bank, barber shop and tire store. This arrangement continued until 1934 by which time the aging veterans in the city had dwindled to only 24. Celebrating their last Memorial Day in the building during May of that year, the building became the property of the city and served as an office for various city interests. Despite the conversion to city offices, the GAR was given one room to continue meeting and each member was provided a key to the building.

The last veteran died in 1942 and the building eventually became a neighborhood recreation center until its closure in 1982. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986 and is now undergoing restoration/renovation to be used as offices for a media production company. The plan is for it to reopen in 2013 and it will also include a civil war veterans memorial.

Contributed by
ronin
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