URBAN RENEWAL IN DETROIT

How a stately old mansion in a historic neighborhood got its groove back.

In the early part of the last century, Detroit was the place to be. Its population was booming, the automobile industry was revving up, and entrepreneurs with great wealth were building grand homes in the city, some of the grandest within a 36-block enclave known as Boston Edison. In 1922, Charles T. Fisher, founder of the Fisher Body Company (the world’s largest manufacturer of automobile bodies) and his wife, Sarah, commissioned an 18,000-square-foot estate in the upscale neighborhood. It was designed in the English Tudor style and featured fourteen bedrooms, a pub, a private chapel, a gym, and a carriage house.

Fisher Mansion stayed in the family for more than 50 years, until Sarah’s death in 1974. By that time, it had fallen into decline, much like the city itself. It was donated to a church, and then changed hands several times—seriously in need of some love—until Michael Fisher, a distant cousin, purchased it in 2008. A series of restoration projects brought the residence up to code, but there was still much work to be done.

Enter actor and philanthropist Hill Harper. After purchasing the residence in 2017, Harper, who is known for his work on such TV shows as CSI: NY and The Good Doctor, promptly set out to restore its architectural splendor while bringing it squarely into the 21st century. He worked with a Detroit-based design-build firm and contractors to bring the building back to life, and he partnered with the Junior League of Detroit to host its 22nd biennial Designers’ Show House in his new home. Thirty-nine talented designers (including three of our own) signed on to transform 44 distinct spaces.

Since its inception in 1976, the JLD’s Designers’ Show House has raised more than $4.5 million for community programs in Detroit, so we were thrilled to take part! Michigan-based EA designers—Tamara Stone of our Birmingham Design Center, Colleen Gahry of Auburn Hills, and Gabriella Andersen of Sterling Heights—collaborated on the living room suite on the second floor. They call it “Uptown,” a modern and sophisticated loft designed for elegant entertaining. The space is richly layered with well-chosen pieces; it’s graceful, glamorous, and gorgeous—with a hint of glitz.

The Junior League of Detroit Designers’ Show House runs through October 7. For hours, information, and tickets, visit the JLD website: jldetroit.org

For more news, tips, and inside scoops on design, subscribe to The Art of Making Home and check us out on Instagram @ethanallen.

*Photo credit of exterior Fisher House by: Jeff Garland

CATEGORY: Behind The Design

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