Grosse Pointe contains only a handful of truly modernist homes. What we lack in volume we more than make up in quality. Most of the surviving homes are jewels created by noted masters.
What makes this all the more special is that several of these masters chose to create their personal residence here. One excellent example is the Louis and Anita Rossetti House.
Louis Rossetti may not be a house hold name, but his work is some of the most recognizable in Metro Detroit, including Cobo Hall, Jeffersonian Apartments, the Federal Mogul Staff Office Building (Southfield) and the Sisters of Mercy Roman Catholic Novitiate Chapel (Farmington).
It is here, however, in Grosse Pointe Park that Rossetti chose to build his home at 1145 Balfour. With its timeless styling and architectural detailing, the contemporary design stands out as a rare find amongst the Tudor and Colonial Revival-style residences. Despite its vastly different styling, the Rossetti house does not look out of place in the neighborhood and sits comfortably within its surroundings.
The 2,878 Sq ft, 5-level home was built in 1940. Set back from the street, the beautifully manicured landscaping is a perfect accompaniment to the modern design.
On first impressions the house could be described as box-like, the white stucco walls contain only a few bands of glass block, while the casement windows are tucked up close to the eaves. However, looks can be deceiving and if viewed from an angle the house presents several overlapping, projecting walls that make it a far more interesting design.
Terra cotta steps lead to the front door, which is set in a niche behind a stucco half-wall, while an L-shaped extension of the first floor extends outwards from the rear of the home.
At the time of construction the house contained many innovative elements for its time, including a central ventilation system, load bearing cinder block walls and a multi level, open floor plan free of hallways. The design also included a spacious living and dining area, a large family room (25 x 25 sq ft) with a skylight, a kitchen with brushed chrome cabinetry, along with four bedrooms. Louis’s wife, Anita – a well recognized silversmith and artist – created a fresco in the living room of birds in flight, but it is unknown if this still remain today.
Louis Rossetti, was born in Paris in 1895. He served in World War 1 as a captain, receiving the silver medal of valor for his service. After graduating from Rome University he won a scholarship to travel to America in 1924. By 1928 he had established himself as an architect in Detroit and began a partnership with Raymond Giffels. – Giffels & Rosetti.
He designed his new home on Balfour in the late 1930’s, and he and his family moved into the house in 1941. Due to anti-Italian sentiments during World War II, the family was forced to relocate, having only lived there for about five years.
By the 1950’s Giffels & Rosetti had become one of the largest firms in the country, and produced work around the world. Louis was director of architecture and the firm had over 950 employees.
In 1969 Louis’s son, Gino founded a new firm, called Rossetti which still exists today, run by Louis’s grandson, Matt.
Louis Rossetti died in 1983.
The Rossetti house on Balfour is a handsome reminder of the rare modernist architectural gems that can be found around the Grosse Pointes. They are few and far between, but they are a reminder of the diverse styles that exist around the community.
We will be concluding our review of Grosse Pointe’s modern homes with the Alden Dow residences next week.
Written by Katie Doelle
Copyright © 2015 Higbie Maxon Agney
Images of Rossetti’s buildings courtesy of Michigan State Historic Preservation Office, photos by Rob Yallop, http://www.michiganmodern.org/
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).