Grand Army of the Republic
The GAR in photos



G.A.R. Postcard
A pre-First World War postcard of the G.A.R.

The Grand Army of the Republic was organized in Decator Illinois just one year after the end of the Civil War. Started with just 14 members the organization grew to 400,000 Union veterans dedicated to preserving the memory of their fallen comrades. The G.A.R. is best known for their encampments held across the country.

The Detroit post hired architect Julius Hess to design a building on a narrow triangular lot bound by Grand River, Cass and Adams. Work began in 1898 and the building was completed in 1900.

Fitting for the group's military origins, Hess selected the Richardson Romanesque style for the building. Richardson Romanesque, distinguished by its heavy appearance, was popular towards the end of the 19th Century. The result was a castle-like structure with small windows and load-bearing stone walls. Total cost was $44,000, most of which was provided by the city.

The building served as the G.A.R. headquarters until the 1930's when it became an office for the W.P.A. By then the Civil War veterans that were the G.A.R. had passed away and the organization also passed on. The last Michigan member had died in 1948 and the last national member in 1951.

Fortunately the building would continue a public use for the remainder of its active life. After the W.P.A. other uses included a police lockup and most recently as an activity center complete with basketball and shuffleboard in the old 4th floor G.A.R. meeting hall. Shuttered since 1982 the building's wooden structure remains in reasonable condition and is well secured. The development rights are currently owned by the Illitches, although the building remains city property. Hopefully the development rights will eventually translate into bricks and mortar revival of this truly unique and historic landmark.


Detroit News: Rearview Mirror
Hill, Eric, John Gallagher. AIA Detroit. Wayne State University Press. Detroit, 2003.

Copyright 1999 - 2004, David Kohrman
Last updated on April 29, 2004