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19th-Century Detroit 'Castle' Gets A Makeover

Grand Army of the Republic building
(credit: Lindsey Yeo)

DETROIT (WWJ) - What's this little castle doing in downtown Detroit?

For roughly 30 years, passers-by have wondered about the eye-catching shuttered building on the corner of Grand River and Cass.

Officially known as the Grand Army of the Republic building, the 19th century structure is getting a 21st century makeover.

WWJ Newsradio 950's Marie Osborne spoke with Tom Carleton — a partner at the Detroit media group "Mindfield," and one of the building's co-owners.

"We were [some] of the many thousands of people that drove past this building," said Carleton, "and saw it barricaded for years and years and years, and said to ourselves, why is that building not being developed? What's going on with it?"

"Once you come inside and you get a feel for what has gone on in this building and what it represented, it really grabs your heart," he said.

Grand Army of the Republic
(credit: Tom Carleton/MINDFIELD)

The Grand Army of the Republic was a Civil War veterans group that grew into one of the nation's political powerhouses.

Carleton said he is honored to help restore a building that recognizes the accomplishments of Union veterans.

"[The Grand Army of the Republic] is credited with starting Memorial Day and the Veteran's Administration, so that were some benefits for those people that sacrificed so much," Carleton said, "And it became a political force in that you couldn't be elected President in this county without an endorsement from the G.A.R.."

The building's woodwork, flooring and plaster has remained pretty much intact.

Renovations at the 24,000-square-foot building will include office space and two eateries.

The project should be completed by next year.

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