Encyclopedia Of Detroit

G.A.R. Building

The G.A.R. Building, or the Grand Army of the Republic Building, is located on the triangular shaped corner of West Grand River and Cass avenues in Detroit on land willed to the City of Detroit in 1866 by Lewis Cass. Construction on the five-story, Richardsonian Romanesque style building, designed by architect Julian Hess, began in 1899. It was funded by both the Grand Army of the Republic veteran’s organization and the City of Detroit. The cornerstone was laid on July 4, 1899 as a memorial to Union Army soldiers. Opened in 1900, the G.A.R. Building was meant to serve as a location for meetings and other G.A.R. related activities and events, although the building also included 13 shops, a bank, office space on the second and third floors, and a small auditorium on the fourth floor. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

The Grand Army of the Republic, founded in 1866 by Union surgeon Dr. Benjamin F. Stephenson for veterans of the Civil War Union Army, had more than 490,000 members by 1890. However, shortly after the building’s construction, membership in the G.A.R. began to dwindle and by 1930, the building had been vacated and the City of Detroit took ownership. The building was used until 1973 by a women’s group called the G.A.R. Memorial Association.

Toward the end of the 20th century, the City of Detroit attempted to sell the building, but was prevented from doing so by the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War and Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. Both of these groups claimed that the city could not sell the building, citing a clause in the deed stating that it must remain as a memorial for Civil War Veterans.

The city was able to sell the building to a Detroit-based media company, Mindfield USA, for $220,000 in the fall of 2011 with the provision that a Civil War Memorial would be maintained in the building. Renovation of the building was completed in 2013 with the opening of two restaurants, Republic and Parks and Rec, on the ground floor. Mindfield USA uses the top two floors as its company’s headquarters and dedicated part of the building to a memorial to Civil War veterans.



G.A.R. Building, 1960

G.A.R. Building postcard, 1906

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