© Brian Callahan 2011 All rights reserved.
This fine old mansion and the companion carriage house currently houses law offices and is for sale.
Col. Frank J. Hecker was born in Freedom, Michigan in 1846. He joined the Union Army at age 18, and rose to the rank of Colonel. After the conclusion of the Civil War, he hired on as an agent for the Union Pacific Railroad. Using this experience, he later organized the Peninsular Car Company (with Charles Lang Freer, whose home is next to Hecker's) in Detroit, making his fortune in the railroad supply business. Hecker served in the Army again in the Spanish-American War, where he was in charge of transporting Spanish prisoners. This service brought him to the attention of President Theodore Roosevelt, who in 1904 appointed Hecker to the Panama Canal Commission. Hecker also served as Detroit Police Commissioner, organized several banks in the midwest, and sat on the boards of the Detroit Copper and Brass Rolling Mills, Michigan Fire and Marine Insurance Company, and the Detroit Lumber Company.
In 1888, Hecker hired architect Louis Kamper and began construction on the 21,000 square feet (1,951 m2) home on Woodward Avenue at the corner of Ferry. The house is an imposing example of French Châteauesque style, based on the Château de Chenonceaux near Tours, France. Col. 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 sienna marble were used in the vestibules.
Carriage house of the Hecker house. The structure on the right is the carriage house of the nextdoor Freer House.
Col. 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. During this time, both the Detroit's Chamber Music Workshop and Women's Symphony started on the premises. When Smiley died in 1990, the building was sold to Charfoos & Christensen, PC. The firm rehabilitated the mansion, and it currently serves as their law offices. The mansion also served as the Royal Danish Consulate in Detroit.