Letting the light back in

On Friday we took a brick out of the building, and we were all cheering. OK, you may say, what’s the big deal? Let me explain a little about the history of the building to help you understand what led to our reaction.

The Green Garage building was constructed in 1920, a boom time for Detroit with the burgeoning auto industry. For a year it was the home of the DeFord Motor Truck Company, and then became a sales center for the Ames-built Sales Corporation, which made bodies for Model T cars. This is why it’s on the National Register of Historic Places. Here’s what it looked like in 1920. Notice the windows.


By the early 1960’s, the building had gone through many owners, and eventually housed a company called Kanners and Patrize, which sold sundry goods to departments stores like Hudsons. Here’s how it looked. Notice the windows beginning to shrink.


In 1967, around the time of the Detroit riots, all of the windows were bricked up, and remain so until today. Here is a current photo of the exterior.

Current exterior

When we bought the place, we understood the relationship between the windows and events in Detroit’s history, and also what removing the bricks from the windows would symbolize. So this past Friday, as we met to discuss the passing of the design phase and approach of the build phase, we wanted to pause and celebrate the removal of the first brick from the facade. So while Joe Gallagher got up on the ladder outside and began hammering away, the rest of us stayed inside with the lights off, waiting for the first light to shine into the building. Here is a picture of Joe outside, followed by a short video showing what it looked like inside the building. Warning: it gives new meaning to the term film noir. You won’t see much, but I think you’ll get the story.


Leave a Comment