This is Part V in a series. Part I is here. Part II. Part III. Part IV.
The 1870s Ransom Gillis House in Brush Park, Detroit.
The Gillis house, like most of Brush Park, was ravaged over time, and the house became the most famous ruin in Detroit.
Amazingly, the city purchased the wreck and stabilized it.
Even more amazingly, Quicken Loans, which has been a major force in the resurrection of Detroit, purchased the house and rebuilt it. Wow. The project was meant to spearhead the massive development of Brush Park. The cast-iron columns of the tower were returned by a neighbor.
And today. Astonishing.
In my previous four posts in this Detroit series, I detail how three historic homes in Brush Park were reborn on the cheap (by a massively well-funded developer), while one home is being carefully and meticulously restored to a very high standard (by a developer of modest means).
The Gillis House falls between these two standards. The exterior work was not done as cheaply as possible but it was not done, well, to the high standard the iconic home warranted.
See this incredible roofing detail? The angled wall of the chimney bay created its own little roof tower, topped by glorious fretwork and double finials. Fabulous!
This wondrous detail though was not recreated, and the current simple roofline does not match up with animated brick and stone house below.
Note also the boldly scaled round tower finial, and the boldly scaled roof cresting.
Sigh. The tower finial is a type available on Amazon for $100. The roof cresting is half the hight it should be, and half the intricacy.
It is not hard to find cresting of the right scale and intricacy.
See the chimney adjacent to the round tower roof?
It was not recreated. Around the block, the owner of the Henry Glover house recreated TWO lost chimneys.
The tower was eccentrically held aloft by a single stout column resting on highly detailed, highly animated stone.
The current anorexic column and banal base. It is like a toothpick holding up a boulder.
The original porch was separate from the adjacent window bay, creating the kind of animation adored by Victorian-era architects. This wonderful drawing is by briguyinla.
The new porch simplified the original animation. The beefy original railing atop the porch roof was not recreated. The round details on the roof cornice…
…mimic an original detail.
Inside the house, essentially no effort was expended to recreate the original interiors. Only a single original mantel remains (in this upstairs bedroom) but most of the original trim was discarded, sconces were not installed where gas sconces once were, and picture rail was not recreated. It would have been nice to at the very least do a single room in a period manner. This wonderful drawing is by briguyinla.
I applaud Quicken Loans for undertaking such a project. Yet, rather than push for 100% they settled for 80%. They settled for OK rather than expend the extra effort for WOW. For THE premier project of Brush Park this seems curious.
Most people will, of course, walk by the house today and be thrilled by its beauty. But…people could have walked by the house and gasped.