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Thousands flock to see Fisher mansion before makeover

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

Detroit — Just how grand is the Charles T. Fisher mansion in Detroit’s Historic Boston-Edison neighborhood, the largest privately owned home in district?

By noon Sunday, hundreds were in line to tour the Charles T. Fisher mansion, which is now owned by actor Hill Harper.

It has a ballroom and a small gymnasium.

The ballroom is in the basement, which also has a pub, billiards room and liquor vault. The gym is on the third floor of the house, which was built for Fisher and his wife Sarah.

Both were available for a tour Sunday as part of the Junior League of Detroit’s Sneak a Peek weekend that let guests inside the 1922 mansion before its big makeover as the league’s 2018 Designers’ Show House. Visitors on the tour were not allowed to take photos of the mansion’s interior.

Roughly 1,200 people from Metro Detroit and even Ohio toured the house Saturday and hundreds more were lined up by noon Sunday.

“It’s been amazing,” said Cynthia Menna, a Show House co-chairs. “We are so excited. Detroit is such a hot brand right now. This was a gift to get this house, and to work with the homeowner and the city.”

And while the 18,000-square-foot house is still under construction, with tarps covering much of the second floor, Menna said they already have interior designers ready to work, which will likely start in the summer.

The Charles T. Fisher mansion opened its door for the Junior League of Detroit’s “Sneak a Peek” weekend.

The Fisher mansion was designed by architect George D. Mason in 1922 for the Fishers. The three-story English Tudor-style mansion features Flint faience tiles in the solarium and bathrooms, black walnut hand-carved panels and hand-carved lions holding the original Cadillac shield.

It has 14 bedrooms, 14 bathrooms, six fireplaces and four vaults. Unique details include a pipe organ in the foyer and handpainted Aztec-style trim in the solarium, which mimics a design at the Fisher building nearby. In the basement is a liquor vault.

Menna said some of the house’s design, such as the indoor gym, speaks to the time in which it was built and the Fishers lived there. She said it was around the time that aviator Charles Lindbergh’s son was kidnapped.

The Fishers, who had four children, lived in the house until Sarah Fisher died in the early 1970s. The house is now owned by actor Hill Harper, who owns the Roasting Plant in Detroit.

Many spaces will be restored to their original state, but some are being re-imagined, such as the gym, which will become a bedroom suite. And some spaces will be completely remodeled such as the kitchen.

The Designers’ Show House, which is a fundraiser for the Junior League and many of its initiatives, such as Project EAT, opens to the public Sept. 15 and runs through Oct. 7.