[graphic header] Detroit: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary, National Park Service


The Col. Frank J. Hecker House, an imposing example of French Chateauesque style architecture, was built by one of Detroit's most well-known and wealthy turn-of-the century citizens. Col. Frank J. Hecker was born in Freedom, Michigan in 1846 and at age 18, joined the Union Army. After the Civil War, he worked as a railroad superintendent in New York before founding the Peninsular Car Company in Detroit with Charles Freer in 1879. During the Spanish-American War, he was responsible for moving Spanish prisoners from Cuba to Puerto Rico and then to Spain. Gaining President Theodore Roosevelt's confidence, Hecker was appointed to the Panama Canal Commission in 1904. During his military and government service, Hecker also helped to organize several major Midwest banks, served as Detroit Police Commissioner, and sat on the controlling boards of the Detroit Copper and Brass Rolling Mills, Michigan Fire and Marine Insurance Company, and the Detroit Lumber Company. In 1888, construction began on a house that would reflect Hecker's status in the Detroit community. Taking three years to construct, the house was designed by architect Louis Kamper and was based upon the Chateau de Chenonceaux near Tours, France. Hecker hosted elaborate society parties at his home where he entertained Presidents McKinley and Hayes. In 1947, twenty years after Col. Hecker's death, the mansion was sold to the Smiley Brothers Music Company. Used for commercial purposes and for musical instruction and practice, the Hecker House/Smiley Brothers Building was the birthplace of Detroit's Chamber Music Workshop and Women's Symphony. The building has recently been rehabilitated under the Federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program and serves as law offices.

The Colonel Frank Hecker House is located at 5510 Woodward Avenue, three blocks south of the Edsel Ford Freeway (Interstate 94) The building is open to the public.

Colonel Frank Hecker House Colonel Frank Hecker House
Photography courtesy of the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office

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