When it comes to finding the most interesting street in Grosse Pointe there are several that lay claim to the prize. There is the historic district of Beverly Road, the architectural gems on Kenwood and Cloverly with homes designed by some of the most prominent architects to work in Grosse Pointe. The historical homes on Lakeshore, the homes on Windmill Pointe Drive with the interesting stories to tell and then there is Middlesex.
Middlesex, located in Grosse Pointe Park, is certainly a serious contender to the prize. The road has it all, noted families; homes by prominent architects, a house constructed from a rare award winning method, and the setting for a Pulitzer Prize winning novel.
Take a walk down the quiet tree lined suburban road and you will find many of the homes have an interesting story to tell. The road runs from Windmill Pointe Drive, to Essex Avenue in Grosse Pointe Park. Half way up is house number 701, which is where we will begin.
Built in 1951, the house was built for a reputed Mafia enforcer as an alleged ‘party house’ for the mob.*
The 7,481 sqft Georgian Colonial style home originally featured 7 bedrooms, 4 baths, 3 fireplaces along with 3 bars, two game rooms, a wine cellar, spa and card room. Along with a three-car garage, and a driveway with enough space for a half-dozen more cars.
No expense was spared in decorating the home. Italian marble is used extensively in the foyer, and many rooms feature a striking use of tile including a working Pewabic tile fountain. Some of the rooms are wood paneled and there is even a leather-upholstered bar in the basement which contains a large initial ‘C’ above the hearth.
It is reported that all the door frames are steel reinforced; the entrance door is inches thick and contains a peephole sized to accommodate a gun barrel.
It is also suspected there is a ‘secret room’ in the middle of the home and it is thought a tunnel once led from the basement to the house across the street – 702 Middlesex – which was home to ‘the boss’.
Directly across the road from 701, was the home to a reputed Mafia ‘boss’. The Italian style home is 5, 298 sq ft and was built in 1929. The roof is constructed of green tile, and the house features brick piers, wrought iron fencing and inside the home there is extensive use of imported Italian marble.
Just up the road is 741, designed by Modernist master Alden B. Dow. The ‘Robbie Robinson House’ was built in 1941 and is one of only 13 houses to be constructed using Dows rare, and award winning Unit Blocks.
The 2,559 sq ft, home has two floors, including a large living room (36’ x 14’), dining room (12’ x 12’) and 4 bedrooms on the second floor – the design reflected Dow’s philosophy of composed order with the Unit blocks providing strong vertical and horizontal lines.
This Italian style home was built in 1928 and is 5,139 sq ft. The home features stunning details throughout including hand carved moldings, a cathedral like ceiling, walls with hand painted cherubs, while the foyer was said to contain gold leaf wallpaper reportedly installed at a cost of $15,000. It is also rumored the house had an underground tunnel, but this has not be confirmed.
The rear grounds featured a three-foot replica of the leaning tower of Piza, Italian marble statues, a 32 x 62 swimming pool, complete with a bathhouse along with a mini grape vineyard.
Finally we can’t forget the childhood home of Jeffery Eugenides, author of ‘Middlesex’, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2003. It is a Contemporary Style home, designed and built by Edwin L. Salkowski in 1953.
Growing up, Eugenides lived at both 567 and 741 Middlesex, which provided the inspiration for the books lead character Calliope Stephanides unique Grosse Pointe home.
Middlesex – home to some great homes, noted families, interesting stories, unique history, rare designs and a prizewinning author. It certainly has it all, so take a walk down the road and decide if you think it is worthy of the prize for the most interesting street in Grosse Pointe. Or if you can think of another contender we would love to hear from you!
We will be continuing the series with another extraordinary building next week.
Written by Katie Doelle
Copyright © 2015 Higbie Maxon Agney
* The residence has been home to five families, including the current owners who have spend a lot of time restoring the home to its former glory, including rebuilding the front porch columns and the slate and copper roofs, along with making some wonderful additions to the garden.
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).