This beautiful french renaissance castle on Woodward Ave. was the home of railroad and ship-building baron Col. Frank J. Hecker. In 1888, Hecker hired architect Louis Kamper and began construction on the mansion at Woodward Avenue on the corner of Ferry and Woodward. The massive home is 21,000 square feet, and is an imposing example of French Châteauesque style based on the Château de Chenonceaux near Tours, France. Hecker used his home to host elaborate parties where he entertained luminaries such as presidents William McKinley and Rutherford B. Hayes.
The exterior of the home has large turrets at the corners, and Flemish dormers in the steep hip roof. Several bays project from the main body of the home, and wrapped around the whole is a balustraded, colonnaded loggia. A carriage house in the rear is clearly visible from Woodward. At one point this structure was converted into a concert hall capable of seating 200.
The interior has 49 rooms, including a large oak-paneled hall designed for large parties, an oval dining room done in mahogany, a lobby done in English oak, and a white and gold music room. The fireplaces were constructed of Egyptian Nubian marble and onyx and Italian Siena marble were used in the vestibules.
Hecker lived in the home until his death in 1927. For the next twenty years, the home was owned by the Hecker family, but operated as a boarding house for single college students. In 1947, the mansion was sold to Paul Smiley of the Smiley Brothers Music Company, who used it for musical instruction and practice, as well as a sales office. When Smiley died in 1990, the building was sold to Charfoos & Christensen, P.C. law firm that renovated the mansion, and it served as their law offices until 2014. In September 2014, Wayne State University purchased the house for $2.3 million for its Alumni Relations Department.
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