Boston-Edison's iconic Charles T. Fisher mansion to open doors as show house

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News
The 18,000-square-foot Charles T. Fisher Mansion is the largest home in Detroit's Boston-Edison District. After a dramatic transformation, it'll open for tours Saturday as the Junior League of Detroit's Designers' Show House.

Actor Hill Harper chuckles at the size of the investment he's had to make to bring the iconic Charles T. Fisher mansion back to life in Detroit's Historic Boston-Edison District, but it's worth it, he said on Thursday. And he hopes there is a spillover effect.

"If it inspires one person, or 10 people or 100 people or 1,000 people to do the same thing, in this neighborhood or around the city of Detroit, then we're going to be providing jobs and beautification and that helps communities," said Harper, standing in the living room. "...This house, to me, is Detroit's White House."

See the result: Charles T. Fisher mansion goes from drab to dreamy for Designers' Show House

And now "Detroit's White House" is opening its doors to the public briefly after a dramatic transformation as the Junior League of Detroit's Designers' Show House. After major structural changes since Harper bought the 18,000-square-foot home roughly two years ago, 39 designers from across the country swooped in to decorate 44 separate spaces inside, from bedrooms to a lower level ballroom.

The house will open for tours Saturday, which will run through Oct. 7. A media day on Thursday offered a sneak peek at the dramatic changes.

Actor Hill Harper, who bought the house roughly two years ago, sits in the newly redesigned living room.

"So many people have brought their hearts to this project," said Harper, who has appeared on the "The Good Doctor" and "CSI: New York." "They've done an amazing job. The house is such a beautiful, wonderful historic home, it already tells in certain ways what it wants to be and a lot of designers used that as inspiration and I think a lot of it is consistent."

The 1922 home is the largest home in the Boston-Edison district. It was built for Charles T. Fisher, his wife, Sarah and their five children. Fisher co-founded the Fisher Body Company with his brother.

The house was designed by architect George D. Mason in a Tudor revival style and originally included 14 bedrooms, a pub, private chapel, gym and carriage house.

But by the time Harper bought it, it was in rough shape.

"This house had been neglected for a very long time," Harper said. 

Harper worked with Detroit architect Chandra Moore of coG Studio and many contractors to bring the historic mansion back to life and create a home where he could both entertain and live.

Several companies sponsored the Show House, donating materials, including Ciot, Benjamin Moore, Kohler and Scavolini Store Detroit. 

Steve Mandel, publisher of Aspire Design and Home Magazine, the Show House's national media sponsor, said he and his team have done many show houses and there's nothing like this one.

"This is absolutely amazing," said Mandel.

This year's Show House marks the first time the Junior League has selected a home in Detroit (they're usually held in the Grosse Pointes). The Show House is the Junior League's largest fundraiser and proceeds will go toward its Project EAT initiative. 

And while the house may be historic, designers didn't shy away from giving it a modern new look. Dark hues -- such as black, blue and green -- make a statement in several rooms.

Loretta Crenshaw and her team at Crenshaw and Associates transformed a lower level ballroom into a salon.

Detroit interior designer Loretta Crenshaw and her team at Crenshaw and Associates transformed a lower level ballroom into a chic salon with a mix of modern and vintage furniture, art and accents. The walls are painted Benjamin Moore's Natural Slate.

"We tried to create an experience, evoke an emotion and tell a story," said Crenshaw.

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2018 JLD's Designers' Show House

  •  Sept. 15-Oct. 7; open primarily on weekends.
  •  Advance tickets are $35 if purchased through 9/14; $40 at the door. 
  •  Proceeds support the Junior League of Detroit’s community projects and programs, including Project EAT to promote health eating. 
  •  Go to for hours and other events.