The boards are off the windows at the Ransom Gillis House, sparking spirited discussion among Detroit architecture buffs. Nicole Curtis, HGTV's Rehab Addict, begins filming a season of the popular series in Detroit this summer, and plans to extensively remodel the 1876 mansion. Designed by George D. Mason, who also built the Palmer Park Log Cabin, the home was recently a location in Detroit shoots on Superman vs Batman. The Alfred Street house is rumored to be the stand-in for Wayne Manor. A visit to the property today shows demo well underway, with the lot scraped clean to soil and the property encircled by security fences and patrolled by guards from local firm Securitas.
We've all seen pictures of this historic home, sadly fallen into disrepair despite efforts by previous owners at rehabilitation. A new roof went on in 2007, but that owner soon gave up on the project, which pretty much begins and ends with a brick shell—nothing remains inside Gillis House. No floors, no Pewabic tile to restore, not a stick of stair rail. While the exterior remains imposing, and the house's legacy makes it well worth preserving, past attempts failed because of the enormous expense. With midtown resurgent and a new Red Wings stadium in the works nearby, Curtis told WXYZ that she "found a way to make the numbers work."
But what about the block? A visit to the corner of Alfred and John R reveals many homes of similar age and stature to Gillis House, mostly abandoned and in need of extensive restoration. While this is disheartening, visitors can also stroll in a community garden just across the street from Gillis, and a local artist has turned the industrial building on the third corner of the block into a massive live/work space with a lavishly tended flower and sculpture garden. As you stand in front of Gillis House on a Friday, workers from Comerica Park walk by on their way to an afternoon game against the Chicago White Sox (Go Tigers!). The view from the home's front walk offers iconic pieces of the Motor City: Ford Field, Comerica Park and the soaring, blue-lit towers of General Motors world HQ dominate the horizon.
Whether remodeling the house is a risky venture (but great TV), or a safer bet, Brush Park already shows signs of new development. Upscale senior condos are just a block away from Gillis house, and the place is even within walking distance of Detroit's 3-year-old Whole Foods. Only time will tell, but with Curtis and crew coming in, the story should occupy Detroiters' house- and city-proud imaginations for the foreseeable future. - Rebecca Golden
· Nicole Curtis: Brush Park Ruin Begins Rehab This Summer [Curbed DC]
· Ransom Gillis House [Historic Detroit]
· Batman v Superman action moves to Detroit mansion; Bruce Wayne Manor speculation swirls [M Live]
· 'Rehab Addict' Nicole Curtis picks her next Detroit project, visits WXYZ studio [WXYZ]