For its 2018 Designers’ Show House, the Junior League of Detroit will be giving a makeover to the rooms and grounds of the historic Charles T. Fisher mansion in Detroit’s Boston-Edison District.

For its 2018 Designers’ Show House, the Junior League of Detroit will be giving a makeover to the rooms and grounds of the historic Charles T. Fisher mansion in Detroit’s Boston-Edison District.

Photo by Jeff Garland Photography, provided by the Junior League of Detroit

Public invited to preview storied historic Detroit mansion

By: K. Michelle Moran | C&G Newspapers | Published April 17, 2018


DETROIT — For more than 40 years, the Junior League of Detroit has been conducting its biennial Designers’ Show House fundraisers at homes in the Grosse Pointes. That’s about to change.

The JLD’s 2018 Designers’ Show House — its 22nd house since this fundraiser started in 1976 — will take place at the historic Charles T. Fisher mansion in Detroit’s Boston-Edison District. The largest home in the district, the three-story English Tudor is just under 18,000 square feet and has 14 bedrooms, 14 bathrooms, a gymnasium, a pub, a private chapel, a carriage house and a Prohibition-era liquor vault.

It was purchased by author, actor and philanthropist Hill Harper, who’s now starring on the hit TV drama “The Good Doctor,” and who also starred on “CSI: NY,” the Showtime drama “Homeland” and HLN’s “How It Really Happened with Hill Harper.”

Harper, who launched the Manifest Your Destiny Foundation to help underserved youths to succeed through scholarship, mentorship and grant programs, is also the owner of Roasting Plant Coffee in Detroit, and agreed to allow the JLD to use the home for this year’s show house.

The house — whose rooms will be reimagined by local interior designers over the next several months — will be open for public tours from Sept. 13 to Oct. 7. But for those who’d like to see the house before that happens, the JLD will be hosting Sneak a Peek public tours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 28 and from noon to 4 p.m. April 29 at the home, located at 670 West Boston Blvd. in Detroit. Tickets cost $10 and will be sold at the door.

“We knew we wanted to be in Detroit,” said Liana Dabir, of Grosse Pointe Farms, one of this year’s show house co-chairs with Sabine Iafrate and Cynthia Menna, both of Grosse Pointe Park. “We were really excited about that. The three of us just fell in love with (the Boston-Edison) part of the city.”

Dianne Bostic Robinson, of Detroit, a former JLD president, is now the president of the Historic Boston-Edison Association. According to its website, the district has more than 900 homes, most of which were constructed between 1905 and 1925. Early Boston-Edison residents included Henry Ford, Joe Louis, James Couzens and Sebastian Kresge.

“The Historic Boston-Edison Association is thrilled to have Mr. Harper as a new owner in our historic community, and even more excited to have his beautiful home chosen as the 2018 Designers’ Show House,” Bostic Robinson said in a press release. “This event will bring thousands of visitors to our community, highlighting our special neighborhood while also boosting our local businesses. We are honored to be the location for the first Designers’ Show House within the city limits.”

The Fisher Mansion was designed in 1922 by architect George D. Mason.

“It makes perfect sense for us to host the 2018 Designers’ Show House in Detroit,” JLD President Mayra Rodriguez said in a press release. “The Show House is a showcase for transformation through design, and there is no better example of transformation than the city of Detroit itself. We are so grateful to Hill Harper and the Historic Boston-Edison Association for their generosity and support of this project.”

Chandra Moore, the owner, founder and director of design for Midtown-based coG Studio, was chosen by Harper as the lead designer for the house, and she’ll be coordinating with the show house interior and landscape designers and Harper’s own design team on this project. She said their goal is to celebrate “the historic details and ornate architecture” in the house. Moore said her firm looks at a house as “a living thing.”

“We really take a moment to see how the house wants to be impacted, how the individual (resident) wants to be impacted,” she said of coG’s philosophy.

Craig Wilkins, of coG, will serve as the architect of record on this project, Moore said. She said the overall master plan for the house will likely take a couple of years to complete. Among their goals with the house and property is to create “an oasis” in the large garden at the back of the home. The front of the mansion is traditional and reflects the era when it was built, but Moore said the back of the house “has a very eclectic and ornate exterior.”

The Fisher Mansion was occupied when Harper purchased it in late 2016, but it was in need of some repairs, Moore said.

“We look forward to welcoming thousands of guests to the Designers’ Show House in September 2018, to view the home’s historic architecture alongside the work of the area’s greatest design talents, all while helping us raise money to support the JLD’s work in the community,” Rodriguez said.

Dabir said she believed this was the largest house the JLD has ever used. It’s expected to be remarkable for those who take a tour.

“We think it will be the biggest design event in Michigan for 2018,” Dabir said.

Proceeds from the Show House will go toward the JLD’s health and nutrition initiative, including Project EAT, which helps support healthy eating for Detroit families in need and provides kitchen kits to families in a partnership with Humble Design. The JLD is now working with the local nonprofit The Empowerment Plan to address food insecurity in Detroit.

“It’s the largest fundraiser we do,” Dabir said of the Designers’ Show House.

For more information about the JLD’s Sneak a Peek event or the upcoming Designers’ Show House, call (313) 881-0040 or visit