Moncur Associates designed custom signage for our client Principal Associates that would swiftly pique the interest of potential buyers for the historic Hecker-Smiley mansion in Detroit.


The Hecker-Smiley Mansion, an historic architectural gem located in midtown Detroit, has hit the real estate market under the exclusive representation of our client, Principal Associates.

Built in 1892 by renowned Detroit architect Louis Kamper, the 21,000 sq. ft. mansion was originally constructed to be the private residence of railroad tycoon Col. Frank J. Hecker. The home was modeled after the Château de Chenonceau in France’s Loire Valley, a famous castle designed by King Henri II’s mistress.

In 1947, the mansion was purchased by Paul Smiley to house his business, Smiley Brothers Music Co. The current owners, the law firm of Charfoos & Christensen, P.C., acquired the landmark in 1991 and undertook a major renovation.

While the opportunity to own a newly-restored piece of Detroit’s history is itself compelling, prior to Principal’s representation, the property sat idly on the market for many months.

This past October, Principal approached Moncur to design custom signage that would swiftly pique the interest of potential buyers for the building on the corner of Woodward Avenue and Ferry Street.

Our creative team was presented with strict design guidelines from both the current owners and the real estate brokers. The law firm was adamant that any real estate signage should expertly complement the Renaissance-style mansion. Among other criteria, the realtors were interested in a fresh approach to the signage, and felt that a successful sale would come from reaching a culturally diverse prospective audience.

The results: Moncur designed an impressive six-foot-tall custom sign, whose outline precisely mirrors the silhouette of the mansion itself. We also kept the language simple, displaying the text not only in English, but French, Arabic and Chinese as well.

“We’re having a blast marketing this trophy property and we wanted a sign that was as unique and interesting as the Smiley mansion itself,” said Levi Smith, principal of Principal Associates.

“Moncur’s design was as effective as it was innovative and eye-catching. The response was immediate and overwhelming. The initial online news article appeared within hours of the sign’s installation and caught the attention of several potential buyers from China, England and Australia in town for the Detroit International Auto Show.

“Within days, the sign had become part of the 120 year history of the Mansion and the proposed sale went viral with press in several Detroit media outlets, including Curbed Detroit, as well as the Huffington Post and Daily Mail of London.”

It’s always refreshing to work with clients — like Principal — who are willing to try something bold and new. An agency can only be as daring as the client allows, and for this project all signs are pointing to success.

(Photo credit: Curbed Detroit)