Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – 78 Lake Shore, also known as the “Dwyer/Palms House”.
Lets take a look at a prolific and versatile Grosse Pointe architect, Hugh T. Keyes and his work at 78 Lake Shore.
Hugh Tallman Keyes was a noted early 20th century architect. His work centered on creating grand estates for the industrialists of Metropolitan Detroit (clients included Ford, Bugas and Mennen) and he is considered to be one of the most prolific architects of the period.
After studying architecture at Harvard, Keyes came to Detroit and worked in Albert Kahn’s office until the First World War. Keyes subsequently spent 2 years in the navy and after the war opened his own office in Detroit.
Keyes was a versatile designer, and his style ranged from early French Renaissance and Georgian, to the style he is most known for – Regency. During his career he designed many grand properties in around the Detroit area, including at least five in Grosse Pointe.
78 Lake Shore is one of those houses. Constructed in 1928 the house was built for Marie Louise Fleitz Dwyer, the widow of Francis Thomas Dwyer. Marie was the daughter of a Michigan lumber baron and grain merchant, while Francis was the son of a successful iron stove manufacturer. Shortly after their marriage – in 1900 – Francis became founder and president of Standard Foundry and Director of the Peninsular Stove Company. However in 1912 at the age of 43 he died suddenly leaving Marie with their eight-year-old daughter Marion.
Shortly after her husbands death Marie built a mansion – 81 Lake Shore Road – on property belonging to the Fleitz family, and it would become home to Marie, her daughter Marion, her sister and brother-in-law.
On Marion’s twentieth birthday she married Charles Louis Palms Jr. Charles was a member of the Palms family, a high society family from Detroit who had already created a significant architectural legacy in the City – including the Palms Apartments, the Palms House and the Palms Theater.
Marie Louise decided she needed a new home for herself, her daughter and son-in-law. In 1928 she commissioned 78 Lake Shore – just down the road from her existing home. Upon competition, in 1929, Marie Louise moved into the 6500 Square foot mansion. In 1931 her daughter and son-in-law joined her and the house became known as the “Dwyer/Palms House”.
The French Normandy style home is built from limestone. The roof is covered with slates that decrease in size as they reach the peak – a style usually associated with Cotswold homes in England. The top of the roof (which is flat) is made from copper, as are the drainpipes, which still exist today. Both have developed a verdigris patina, which compliments the limestone perfectly.
An intricate stone carving frames the front door (a regular feature of Keyes work), while the original windows were lead framed. The original layout had 5 bedrooms, and five full bathrooms, along with additional servants quarters. The first floor features a unique circular floor plan, curved hallways, a step-down living room, a sweeping staircase and multiple fireplaces.
Along with the impressive layout there are some fascinating details about the home. All the exterior walls and the attic are insulated with cork, while the house was the first in the area wired for telephones (and, until recently, there was a circuit panel in the garage through with all the neighborhood phones were wired). The fireplace mantels were imported from France and were 150 years old when they were installed in 1928.
The impeccable grounds now feature a Koi pond that is made up of material salvaged from a Detroit skyscraper (installed by the current owner), while the garden itself backs onto Lake St Clair, which presents some stunning views. When the water is clear there are remnants visible of the original dock that extended into the lake by at least 100 feet, which expands towards Detroit by a further 100 feet – the photos show the dock and the boathouse on Lake Shore prior to the homes construction.
In 1958 Marie Louise passed away, leaving the house to the Palms and their five children where they would reside until 1962.
78 Lake Shore has only had two owners since the Palms family departed; the current owner has lived in the property since 1975.
In 1987/88 DJ Kennedy completed a major remodel of the home and in 2010 the owner generously allowed the Junior League of Detroit to use the property for their biennial show house.
The house has also been featured in numerous automobile ads, and in addition the home and grounds have been used as a background for at least two movies.
HMA would also like to thank the owner for contacting us to feature the home – we have had great fun learning about the history and amazing details of this stunning property.
We will be profiling another feature property next week.
If you have a home or building you would like us to profile please contact Darby Moran – Darby@higbiemaxon.com – we will try and feature the property.
(For more historical information on Grosse Pointe, visit Grosse Pointe Historical Society).