Visit with a Giant
If filmmaker Ron Howard sought a Detroit location for "The Da Vinci
Code," he would certainly land inside the Bishop's Residence in Palmer Woods
, occupied for decades by the Catholic hierarchy and now owned by
the bishop of an evangelical church with global outreach.
is where power and spirituality converge in 39,000 square feet of
space, lit by the fires of 10 intricately carved marble fireplaces.
Dressed up for the holidays, it is the hottest spot among four houses
included in the Dec. 3 Palmer Woods Holiday Home Tour, aptly titled,
"Light My Fire."
This tour marks the first time in 17 years
Bishop's Residence is included in the Palmer Woods tour, usually
relegated to beautiful but not as massive homes designed by such
architects as Albert Kahn, Wallace Frost and Minoru Yamasaki, who also
built the World Trade Center.
In this mammoth mansion, a
phalanx of designers painted murals to soften its walls and halls for
the 1995 Designer Showcase, but the mythical Holy Grail could hide
somewhere within its 62 rooms.
"We're thrilled to have the
Bishop's mansion on the tour this year," said Jane Strand, co-chair of
the Palmer Woods tour and long time resident. "It is among the finer
urban treasures in our neighborhood."'Just a home'
paneled oak walls and Sicilian marble pillars tell no tales of secret
meetings with the Illuminati or Knights of Templar, but stories must
lurk in the dark corners unlit by glittering crystal chandeliers.
Ecclesiastical icons look out from every vantage point.
rooftop copper statue depicts St. Michael the Archangel battling Satan.
New Testament authors Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are carved into the
wood paneling above the fireplaces in the conference room and chapel,
evoking God's help decision-making.
A bas relief panel
depicting a chirho, the Greek symbol for Christ, surmounts the portico
while two huge antique safes hide behind extra wide doors on the first
and second floor, reminding visitors it took great influx of dollars to
keep the clergy in hierarchical style.
Stepping past the
400-pound oak door protected by an ornate copper screen, visitors find
the conference room. It has hand-hewn Pewabic tile on the floors and
ceiling and dark wood paneling. Equally awesome is the chapel,
constructed directly above the conference room with its marble floor,
vaulted ceiling and stained glass windows.
More of the
contemporary meetings held by 11-year homeowners Bishop Wayne T.
Jackson and Dr. Beverly Y. Jackson of the Great Faith Ministries
are held in the baronial dining
room. Furnished with an octagon table it seats 20 on imported Italian
provincial chairs, viewing a regal fireplace, carved with a Latin
phrase that translates to "All things in Abundance." Church guests
repair to the living room with gilded furniture and a white laminate
The master suite, 14 bathrooms, 24 closets, four
visitor suites, carriage house, in-ground swimming pool, and the four
screened-in porches serve the family and the congregation, according to
Corrine Bozeman, mother-in-law of the bishop who oversees events and
operations. "It's just a home," she says, noting private suites are
excluded from the tour.
Maybe so, but guests have included
political, entertainment and other luminaries, including Rev. Jesse
Jackson, Winnie Mandela, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and hip hop
artist Mase. The movie, "Forbidden Fruits," produced by Marc Cayce in
2005, was filmed almost entirely inside the estate.John Salley slept here
guiding patrons of the Palmer Woods tour will tell visitors of the
mansion's rich history. The seven Fisher brothers, who founded Fisher
Body and made a fortune marrying carriages to General Motors car
bodies, spared no expense to build a home for then-Bishop Michael J.
Gallagher. The Gothic Revival structure, designed by Maginnis and
Walsh, took two years to complete in 1926. The architects imported wood
from the Black Forest of Germany, marble from Italy and a phalanx of
Until 1989 it was occupied by bishops,
cardinals and staff. Then the church sold the dwelling and removed the
papal throne, relics, the altar and the Stations of the Cross. Bachelor
and then-Detroit Pistons star John Salley purchased it for $1 million
in 1989, even turning the chapel into a home movie theater and staying
Spirituality returned when Bishop Jackson, his wife
and eight children, bought the dwelling. He conducted numerous prayer
rituals to re-consecrate the house and dedicated a Michigan Historical
Placard outside. His mother-in-law, Corrine Bozeman coordinates family
and church functions while the Jacksons stay in another mansion in
Bloomfield Hills. The rest of the tour
from throughout the metro area come to glimpse how the auto barons,
theater owners and early civic leaders built lush palaces to their
burgeoning profits, how a new breed of urban pioneers adapt and revive
the homes for modern use. Homes are decked in boughs of holly, mammoth
pine trees and antique ornaments greet long lines of visitors on tour
day. People come to explore urban living at its finest.
people don't realize what a physically beautiful neighborhood we have
here," says Barbara Barefield, a 19-year resident, graphic artist and
sculptor. "People take walks, ride bikes and attend events with a wide
cultural and racially diverse assortment of neighbors who span the
Palmer Woods began in the early 1900s when major
executives built regal homes in a subdivision platted by landscape
architect Ossian Simonds. Curved and winding streets took names such as
Gloucester, Balmoral and Cumberland to reflect English history and
brick Tudor styling. The new neighborhood adjoined Palmer Park, a
100-acre plot gifted to the city of Detroit by U.S. Sen. Thomas Palmer
in the late 1800's.
Current residents include the roster of who's who in Detroit, including jazz artist Spencer Barefield, GM's
Chief Designer Ed Welburn, retired Marygrove President Glenda Price and
Detroit Institute of Arts director Graham Beal and WSU Board of
Governors member Eugene Driker. Residents hope to combat a spate of
for-sale signs by encouraging tour visitors to consider the
One incentive may come from the newly passed
Neighborhood Economic Zones, according to Kenan Bakirci, a real estate
agent for Hall and Hunter. The NEZ cuts property taxes 25 to 35 percent
for those who purchased after 1997.
"The NEZ puts our taxes on
par with Grosse Pointe or Bloomfield Township, and you can get a lot
more house for the money. It is housing stock unmatched in most other
areas," says Bakirci, noting houses range from $300,000 to $800,000.
from the Palmer Woods Holiday Home Tour go to beautify the neighborhood
and to help the Coalition on Temporary Shelter. Tickets are $15 in
advance, $20 on the day of the tour at the Western District Police
Station (formerly 12th Precinct) at 1441 W. Seven Mile. For ticket
sales locations or other information contact (313) 670-0893 or visit
The Main Sitting Room
The Second Floor Hallway
A Carved Marble Fireplace Detail
The 20 Person Dining Room
The Original Intercom System
All Photographs Copyright Dave Krieger