The GAR Building is officially The Grand Army of the Republic Building. Most people refer to this building as the “Detroit Castle” because of its Romanesque Revival archirecture and castle-like design. The GAR Building was designed by Julien Hess was built in 1899 at 1942 Grand River Avenue in Detroit. The GAR Building occupies another one of those strange triangular pieces of land downtown Detroit. The building is bordered by Grand River Avenue, Adams Street, and Cass Avenue.
The GAR Building was built as a meeting hall for civil war veterans. Membership was first restricted to veterans of the Civil War Union Army, but by the 1930’s the membership plummeted and the GAR Memorial Association took over the building. The GAR Memorial Association was a group of daughters of Civil War Veterans. In 1973, the GAR Memorial Association and the City of Detroit opened up a recreation center of sorts in the GAR Building, but it was short-lived. The recreation center closed in 1982. The GAR Building has remained abandoned ever since, however, renovations began in 2014 to develop the building into office space, retail space, and most importantly, a Civil War Memorial.
Like many of the buildings in Detroit, the GAR Building is not without controversy. In 1996, the City of Detroit tried to sell the building. The GAR Memorial Association stepped up and vetoed the sale because the 1899 land contract states that the building must remain as a memorial and a dedication to veterans of the Civil War. It was a huge victory for the GAR Building.
In 2012, renovations began on the former GAR Building as the Detroit-based, Mindfield Company purchased the historic location. They will have their headquarters on the upper floors and a restaurant on the first floor.
As of 2017, the former GAR Building has reopened as the Mindfield Company’s headquarters and office space, as well as a restaurant on the first floor. The restaurant is named “Republic” in honor of the building’s rich history.
The GAR Building in 2010:
The GAR Building in 2012 (at the start of the renovations):