Former Detroit Lumber HQ Reimagined as ‘Curiosity’ Museum


The former headquarters of Frederic M. Sibley Lumber Co., built in 1925 at a time when the enterprise was Detroit’s second largest lumber operator, is in the process of being converted into an art museum with the overarching theme of exploration and wonder.

“I think that we would like to explore the idea of curiosity in the modern age,” says Julia Solis, the museum’s co-founder. “What we are trying to do now is figure out what still arouses curiosity in an age when almost any information is at your fingertips. We would like to approach the topic of curiosity in a playful and philosophical manner and explore all sorts of interpretations.”

Located at 6460 Kercheval in Detroit, the brick and limestone building will soon become home to a 4,000 square-foot gallery space featuring art and exhibits from around the world as well as related classes and workshops. The concept of the museum is inspired by cabinets of curiosity, or collections of strange ephemera from natural history, anatomy, mineralogy, and folklore.

Examples of planned exhibitions include a shipwreck installation of artifacts retrieved in local waterways, a video installation that places Detroit folklore into a broader mythological context, and an interactive exhibition involving a vault found in the building itself that has remained unopened for the past 25 years. The non-profit group is working with support from the Michigan Historic Preservation Network to renovate the building.

Solis says that they have had architects and structural engineers survey the building and offer advice on maintaining the integrity of the building, while updating it for modern use. The plaster detailing is among the features that will stay intact throughout the renovation process.

“There is a plaster trim along the walls that is seafoam colored, which gave us the original inspiration to call it the Seafoam Palace,” she says. “We kind of fell in love with (the detailing) when we first saw the building.”

The group hopes to have all renovations completed by spring or early summer of 2015, and is currently raising funds via a Kickstarter campaign to replace the building’s roof and complete other projects. 

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