In Detroit, broken or boarded-up windows and crumbling facades have become the unfortunate norm. But even in the midst of a blighted city, Alfred Street stands out: Just four houses—less than a quarter of the original number—remain, leaving a field, oddly spacious, in the middle of a city. Perhaps the most famous among the final four homes is the Ransom Gillis mansion, a looming brick structure, standing proudly, though now a bit forlornly, on the corner of Alfred Street and John R Street.
The once-stately brick home, built in the Venetian Gothic style for a Detroit dry goods merchant, has been abandoned for decades—until now. Nicole Curtis, host of DIY Network’s hit show Rehab Addict, has undertaken the daunting task of renovating the 5,000-square-foot mansion. (She's partnering with Quicken Loans for the pricey project.)
|Ransom Gillis, the original owner.|
Over the years, the Ransom Gillis home's purpose has shifted with the times, transitioning from a private residence to a rooming house in 1919, and then, in the 1930s, a storefront was added to the structure.
The decline of the Brush Park neighborhood began as early as the 1910s, when wealthy Detroit residents began to favor the suburbs over Alfred Street. By the 1920s, all of the homes had been converted to apartments or rooming houses, unofficially signaling the end of the era of opulence. In 1946, a writer called the neighborhood “blighted,” stripped of its elm trees and old-money families, with only “dismal” homes remaining. Now, nearly seven decades later, the description is still unfortunately fitting.
There have been attempts to save the Ransom Gillis mansion—in the 1970s, the 1980s, and most recently, in the mid-2000s—but all have failed, leaving the home vacant since the 1960s. (The city did shore up its roof and foundation about a decade ago, which may explain why it's still standing at all, after so many years of being unoccupied.) In March, Curtis, a Detroit native, announced her plans to breathe new life into the structure. The renovation is part of a $70 million plan to revitalize the Brush Park area.
|The storefront addition, which has since been torn down.|
The exterior alone makes the home worth restoring, but what can you expect to see on the eight episodes of Rehab Addict that follow the home's transformation? The mansion has 11 fireplaces, space for five bedrooms, and a potential master suite with 20-foot ceilings. (See a sneak peak of the interior here.) "It's a happy home," Curtis told Curbed.com. "Every day when I come here, I have goosebumps. If I have goosebumps, that's a good thing."
|The home in its glory days. (Photo: Wikipedia.org)|
|The decline begins... (Photo: 63alfred.com)|
Curtis recently tweeted a picture of the gorgeous new window she commissioned for the home. If this is a sign of what's to come, the home is going to be a showplace!