Rehab Addict History Lesson: 8 Things to Know About Detroit's Ransom Gillis House

See why the Rehab Addict team thought this 1876 Detroit home was worthy of a massive renovation.

Front House exterior. Nicole Curtis recreated what she envisioned the exterior ooked like at the Ransom Gillis House.

Photo by: Eric Klang

Eric Klang

Nicole Curtis loves a structure with a story. The Ransom Gillis House, which she renovated for her new show Rehab Addict: Detroit, definitely fits this description. Overflowing with rich history, what was once a crumbling building in Detroit is now a perfect blend of old and new. It’s hard to imagine this magnificent home wasn’t treated like a true treasure. Fact is, though, it wasn’t always given the attention it deserves. Read on to learn more about this home's rich history.

It's been a Detroit landmark during three centuries.

Built between 1876 and 1878, the house was designed by Henry T. Brush and George D. Mason. It was built for a man named Ransom Gillis, a wholesale dry goods merchant. 

It was the equivalent of a million-dollar home in its day.

The house was built for just $12,000 – the equivalent of $1.8 million today! Including both prep work and actual construction, the house took a year and a half for completion. Boasting 4,800-square-feet, the house was considered a mansion at that time.

The house was the first of its kind.

The Ransom Gillis House was the first Venetian Gothic style of architecture in Detroit. This design was made famous by the book The Stones of Venice by John Ruskin. Ransom Gillis sold the property in 1880 and from then until 1919, the house was bought and sold, and bought and sold by many upper-class Detroit families. 

The Ransom Gillis carriage house was home to five Detroit businesses.

The carriage house behind the structure throughout the years was home to an auto repair shop, a battery service shop, a filling station, a restaurant and a pottery studio.

The property fell into disrepair and became city property.

It remained unoccupied from the mid-1960s. As of 2001, the property was owned by the City of Detroit.

The renovations proved too difficult and costly for three former owners.

Renovation attempts were made in the 1970s, 1980s and mid-2000s. The roof was replaced in 2007, but renovations stalled until HGTV and Rehab Addict took over. 

Before the Renovation

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Take a tour of the property before HGTV's massive renovation. 

Exterior, Before

The Ransom Gillis House, a 4,800-square-foot, 1876 Venetian Gothic style home, sits at 205 Alfred Street in Detroit’s Brush Park. Nicole Curtis, host of HGTV’s Rehab Addict: Detroit took on the home’s renovation as a unique project.

Photo By: Rick Osentoski / AP Images

Turret, Before

The structure’s turrets, considered the focal point of the place, show the intricate design of the structure. It includes five rows of tiles of simple geometric designs in hues of bright blue, red, yellow and brown. This same pattern of tile work was spread throughout the rest of the exterior structure.

Photo By: Rick Osentoski / AP Images

Interior Detail, Before

Cracked and peeling paint show the house’s years of neglect and lack of attention.

Photo By: Rick Osentoski / AP Images

Interior, Before

Peeling paint, crumbling walls, missing windowpanes, rotting wood and broken bricks were only a few of the challenges Nicole faced when taking on this project home for Rehab Addict: Detroit.

Photo By: Rick Osentoski / AP Images

Staircase, Before

An old and rotting staircase, faulty electrical wiring and unsteady flooring made this a safety disaster. Still, Nicole saw the potential hidden behind the property.

Photo By: Rick Osentoski / AP Images

Interior, Before

Holes in the walls and missing windowpanes were more than the norm, than the exception, at Ransom Gillis House.

Photo By: Rick Osentoski / AP Images

Stone Detail, Before

The bottom of the home’s original turrets were decorated with intricate stone carvings of quadruplets of flower blossoms.

Photo By: Rick Osentoski / AP Images

A very pointy, dark slate mansard roof shows the style of the time and gives the structure an almost castle-like appearance.

Photo By: Rick Osentoski / AP Images

The renovated home nods to the carriage house history.

Front House tile work at the entry and base of the staircase. Nicole Curtis recreated what she envisioned the stairs looked like at the Ransom Gillis House.

Photo by: Lauren Ariel Noess

Lauren Ariel Noess

Pewabic Pottery, founded in the carriage house of Ransom Gillis in 1903, is still made locally in Detroit and is well-known for its signature irridescent glaze. To commemoriate its connection with the house, the company crafted a commemorative plaque to sit just inside the Ransom Gillis doorway. 

Today, it's finally back to its 1870s splendor.

After more than a 100 years, this home is restored to its original glory. 

Tour the Renovated House

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Flip through photos of the home's stunning makeover. 

History, Restored

Unoccupied since the late 1960s, the Ransom Gillis mansion was ready to crumble when the Rehab Addict team came to the rescue. See how this Detroit landmark was transformed from top to bottom. 

Photo By: Eric Klang

Exterior, Before

This icon of Detroit's historic Brush Park neighborhood was crumbling when the HGTV team acquired the property. 

Photo By: Rick Osentoski / AP Images

Exterior, After

The construction crew rebuilt the property literally brick by brick to restore the original look and feel. 

Photo By: Eric Klang

Turret Roof, Before

Though property's roof was rebuilt in 2005, it didn't evoke the grandeur of the original property. 

Photo By: Rick Osentoski / AP Images

Turret Roof, After

New shingles and a copper finial shine atop the restored turret.

Photo By: Eric Klang

Chimney, After

Behind the turret, the last remaining original chimney stack in the neighborhood was restored to its original glory with a mortar mix customized for historic bricks.

Photo By: Eric Klang

Window, After

Customized stained glass windows mimic the look of those featured in the original 1870s home. This quatrefoil-shaped window is a focal point in the home's master bedroom. 

Photo By: Eric Klang

Front Porch, After

A large front porch greets visitors to the newly-restored Ransom Gillis house. 

Photo By: Eric Klang

Front Porch, After

Concrete urns sit at the base of the newly-restored grand staircase that leads to the front house entrance.

Photo By: Eric Klang

Front Porch, After

The home's molding was recreated and painted to match the surrounding historic homes. An American flag greets neighbors, as in all of Nicole's Rehab Addict restorations. 

Photo By: Eric Klang

Front Door, After

A stained glass window emblasoned with "RG" for Ransom Gillis House sits atop the double front door. 

Photo By: Eric Klang

Entryway, Before

Before the renovation, the staircase railing didn't align with the upstairs railing, and the whole entryway needed to be rebuilt from the floors up. 

Photo By: Rick Osentoski / AP Images

Entryway, After

Nicole mimicked the entryway look of another home original to the neighborhood to create an entrace true to history. 

Photo By: Lauren Ariel Noess

Entryway Tile, After

Pewabic Pottery, founded in the carriage house of Ransom Gillis in 1903, is still made locally in detroit and is well-known for its signature irridescent glaze. The company crafted a commemorative plaque to sit just inside the doorway of the front house. 

Photo By: Lauren Ariel Noess

Entryway, After

A stained glass window and a double door provide a grand first impression. 

Photo By: Lauren Ariel Noess

Entryway, After

A historic chandelier greets visitors just inside the front door. 

Photo By: Lauren Ariel Noess

Staircase, After

No detail was left undone: The updated staircase features a period-appropriate geometric detail at the top of each spindle called a cathedral baluster.

Photo By: Lauren Ariel Noess

Staircase, After

A custom-turned stair post with a traditional finial sits at the bottom of the new staircase. 

Photo By: Lauren Ariel Noess

Staircase, After

More custom details on the staircase skirtboard add historic charm. 

Photo By: Lauren Ariel Noess

Living Room, After

Restored to its former glory, the living room sits just off the home's grand entry. 

Photo By: Eric Klang

Living Room, After

Nicole Curtis recreated what she envisioned the living room looked like at the Ransom Gillis House.

Photo By: Eric Klang

Fireplace, After

To give the home's many fireplaces a cohesive look, Nicole copied the marble surround in the home's dining room in the living room. 

Photo By: Eric Klang

Fireplace Tile, After

Stone and tile mason David Ellsion took scraps of the original fireplace tile and recreated it to restore the home to its former glory. 

Photo By: Eric Klang

Living Room, After

This house was changed into a duplex, so the wall was closed off in the front house living room. Nicole left clues along the walls in the event that some day the owner wants to return it back to a single family home.

Photo By: Eric Klang

Kitchen, Before

Before the renovation, this large space was a grand dining room in the front of the Ransom Gillis House. Nicole transformed the space into a combined kitchen and dining room, separated by pocket doors.  

Photo By: Rick Osentoski / AP Images

Kitchen, After

In the front house kitchen, Nicole merged modern appliances and features with cabinets and furniture consistent with the home's history. 

Photo By: Eric Klang, Eric Klang

Kitchen, After

A custom marble-topped island features open storage beneath the work surface. 

Photo By: Eric Klang, Eric Klang

Kitchen, After

A stainless steel stove and vent hood add modern function to this historic space. 

Photo By: Eric Klang, Eric Klang

Kitchen Sink, After

A large, white apron-front sink features brass vintage-style hardware, nodding to the home's original fixtures. 

Photo By: Eric Klang, Eric Klang

Kitchen Cabinets, After

Custom-made cabinets feature tall, paneled doors and custom brass latches to mimic the look of period kitchens in the neighborhood. 

Photo By: Eric Klang, Eric Klang

Kitchen, After

Vintage-style pocket doors separate the kitchen and dining room. 

Photo By: Eric Klang, Eric Klang

Hardwood Floors, After

Though Nicole loves to save every part of old homes, this home was completely gutted of hardwood floors when she first set foot inside. Nicole and her crew installed more than 5,000 square feet of new hardwood floors, stained to replicate the look of the original surface. 

Photo By: Eric Klang, Eric Klang

Dining Room, After

Though smaller than the dining room in the original house, this formal dining room is still large enough to seat a large family for a holiday meal. 

Photo By: Eric Klang, Eric Klang

Dining Room, After

High ceilings and vintage-inspired lighting create high style in this formal space. 

Photo By: Eric Klang, Eric Klang

Dining Room, After

A reproduction of the window originally featured in the room was created by a local stained glass artist. 

Photo By: Eric Klang, Eric Klang

Dining Room, After

The new stained glass window is the focal point of the updated space. 

Photo By: Lauren Ariel Noess, Lauren Ariel Noess

Fireplace, After

A tile expert recreated the original fireplace surround using marble tiles. 

Photo By: Lauren Ariel Noess, Lauren Ariel Noess

Upstairs, Before

The home's upstairs rooms and hallways were stripped down to the studs and restored from scratch.

Photo By: Rick Osentoski / AP Images

Master Suite, After

Stained glass restoration artist Ann Baxter replicated this room's original quatrefoil rosette window, which serves as this room's focal point.  

Photo By: Eric Klang

Master Bedroom, After

Nicole salvaged all the remaining original trim from the 5,000-square-foot house for use in the home's master bedroom. 

Photo By: Eric Klang

Master Bedroom, After

A mirror and dresser line the wall in the newly-renovated master suite. 

Photo By: Eric Klang

Master Bedroom, After

An original fireplace adds ambiance to the room. 

Photo By: Eric Klang

Master Bathroom, After

The new master bathroom is the perfect marriage of historic charm and modern luxury. 

Photo By: Lauren Ariel Noess

Master Bathroom, After

A marble-topped double vanity is set inside a vintage-style cabinet. 

Photo By: Lauren Ariel Noess

Master Bathroom, After

Nicole Curtis adds photos of her family in every home she renovates; here, a photo of Nicole with her son, Ethan, sits sinkside. 

Photo By: Lauren Ariel Noess

Master Bathroom, After

Double light fixtures outfitted with Edison bulbs cast warm light throughout the space. 

Photo By: Eric Klang

Clawfoot Tub, After

A large clawfoot tub sits next to the window in this luxe master suite. 

Photo By: Lauren Ariel Noess

Clawfoot Tub, After

A vintage-style chrome faucet adds a dramatic touch to the tub. 

Photo By: Lauren Ariel Noess

Shower, After

The Rehab Addict team used white subway tile to create this extra-large, luxurious shower. A glass shower surround allows the eye to flow to the room's back wall, making this spacious bath appear even larger.  

Photo By: Lauren Ariel Noess

Master Bathroom, After

It's all in the details: Plants and linens add a homey touch to this space. 

Photo By: Lauren Ariel Noess

Shower, After

White subway tile with gray grout adds a modern touch to this history-inspired space. 

Photo By: Lauren Ariel Noess

Shower Niche, After

A built-in niche provides a spot for shower essentials.

Photo By: Lauren Ariel Noess

Master Bathroom, After

This luxe space is ready for its first occupant! 

Photo By: Lauren Ariel Noess

Turret Room, After

Inside the restored turret is Nicole's favorite spot in the entire house. Each of the windows was replaced with a custom-built replica of the original. 

Photo By: Eric Klang

Turret Room, After

A vintage desk sits inside turret room's large bay window. Nicole added vintage clocks — an accessory she places in every home — to add style on the desk surface. 

Photo By: Eric Klang

Turret Bedroom, After

A vintage brass bed adds historic style to this room.

Photo By: Eric Klang

Turret Room, After

This room feature another one of the home's many fireplaces. In this room, Nicole simply cleaned up the original brick and left the fireplace as-is.

Photo By: Eric Klang

Jack-and-Jill Bathroom, After

Set between the turret bedroom and the mantel bedroom, Nicole Curtis created this luxurious bath full of historic charm. 

Photo By: Lauren Ariel Noess

Jack-and-Jill Bathroom, After

A double vanity with a marble topper combines modern convenience with historic charm. 

Photo By: Lauren Ariel Noess

Jack-and-Jill Bathroom, After

Small white hexagon tiles with gray grout create the look of original fllors. 

Photo By: Lauren Ariel Noess

Jack-and-Jill Bathroom, After

A snowflake pattern in black hexagon tiles adds interest underfoot. 

Photo By: Lauren Ariel Noess

Jack-and-Jill Bathroom, After

The glass surround on this stand-up shower lets the eye flow to the back wall, making the room seem larger. 

Photo By: Lauren Ariel Noess

Jack-and-Jill Bathroom, After

Vintage-style stainless steel features add historic charm to the room. 

Photo By: Lauren Ariel Noess

Jack-and-Jill Bathroom, After

Large white subway tile with dark gray grout complements the smaller hexagon tile on the floor. 

Photo By: Lauren Ariel Noess

Jack-and-Jill Bathroom, After

The room's second door leads into the adjacent mantel bedroom. 

Photo By: Lauren Ariel Noess

Mantel Room, After

Nicole nicknamed this bedroom the "mantel room" because this room's fireplace is the only one of the home's 12 fireplaces that still features an original mantel. 

Photo By: Eric Klang

Mantel Room, After

Though Nicole considered replacing or restoring the fireplace surround, she eventually decided to clean up the surround and embrace the piece's history and imperfections. 

Photo By: Eric Klang

Mantel Room, After

A new marble shelf sits atop the original fireplace mantel. 

Photo By: Eric Klang

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