One of Grosse Pointes most historic homes is arguably the Carl E. and Alice Chandler Schmidt House located at 301 Lakeshore. Built in 1904 it is one of the oldest surviving ‘turn of the century’ summer cottages in the community, retaining a view of Lake St. Clair and part of the original grounds.
Carl E. Schmidt was born in Detroit in 1858. His father was Traugott Scmidt, who came to the United States, from Germany, in 1849. His father was a tanner, who exported skins, furs and wool, Carl was secretary of the company up until his fathers death in 1897. Soon after he started his own tannery firm – Carl E. Schmidt & Co.
Schidmt was a prominent figure in the Detroit area, active in politics, serving as a member of the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners, along with sitting on several state boards.
In 1880 Schmidt married Alice M Chandler, the daughter of a prominent businessman in Detroit. The couple had three daughters: Emma, Alice and Ida. The Schmit family lived in Detroit up until their new house on Lakeshore – a Shingle Style home with Tudor influences – was completed. The house was built on a spacious plot (formally a strip farm), stretching from Lakeshore to at least Grosse Pointe Blvd. However, today only the house remains and the plot has been divided.
In 1926, just before Carl Schmidt’s death (in 1934), the Schmidts sold the 7,300 sq ft house to local businessman and realtor Conrad Smith and his wife Ida. Upon the purchase the Smiths made some major changes to the property, some of which were based on functionality while others were aesthetic decisions such as the interior being too dark for Mrs Smith, and subsequently the interior was painted white.
The biggest change was the conversion of the house into a year-round home. As the property had originally been intended to use as a summer cottage the interior was remodeled to make it more suitable for a permanent residence. The outdoor porch on the backside of the house was closed up and made into a room with 9 large windows. Three more rooms were combined to form one large room, while the front porch was completely removed.
The Smiths remained in the house until their deaths. Their Son Raymond C.Smith, an avid horticulturist, pioneer of farming in Michigan, real estate investor and a trust officer at the Detroit Trust Co moved into the property. He became a local philanthropist, establishing the Raymond Smith Foundation that supported many non-profit organizations throughout Detroit. He too, just like his parents, would live in the house until his death in 1995, having been the home longest resident.
The 111 year old home then changed hands for only the second time (the Schmidts to the Smiths, and the Smiths to the new owners) in its history. When the house was sold, the property featured eight bedrooms (the master suite measuring 18’ x 22.5’), a spacious living room – 22.5’ x 44’, dining room – 14’ x 20’, kitchen – 14’ x 16’ and a morning room. The original great hall with the spectacular central staircase – 15’ x 33’ was still the main feature of the home and provides a stunning entrance to the house.
The new owners also remodeled the home but not to the extent of the first remodel when the property originally changed hands in the 1920’s. Some of the changes included – redesigning the kitchen from the ground up (they found several layers of flooring in the kitchen that had been put on top of each other including linoleum and wood), and replacing the flooring in the great room. The plaster was redone in the butler’s pantry; and the original servants quarters were turned into a variety of rooms including two guest bedrooms, an office and a laundry room. A new mudroom was added to the back entrance, and the former servants’ dining room was turned into a breakfast room.
It is not clear who designed the Carl E. and Alice Chandler Schmidt House, but it is a stunning home, and a true grand dame of the few original homes that still exist around the Pointes today.
The Schmidt house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.
We will be continuing the series with another extraordinary building next week.
Written by Katie Doelle
Copyright © 2015 Higbie Maxon Agney
* Images courtesy of the Grosse Pointe Historical Society.
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).