Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Welcome to 781 Lake Shore

In amongst the many historic homes on Lake Shore there are a few mid century modern residences.

During the 1950’s/1960’s – a period when the popularity of mid century modern architecture was arguably at its peak – Lake Shore welcomed several new homes in this distinctive architectural style. We recently covered 906 Lake Shore – built in 1954 this home was one of the earlier mid century modern homes to be constructed in the area, and it is a superb example of this design approach. You can read the full story by clicking here.

Ten years later, in 1964, a new addition to the modern collection was completed – 874 Lake Shore. William Hawkins Ferry, a key figure in bringing modernist art and architecture to the attention of people in Detroit and the U.S, commissioned fellow Modernist architect William Kessler to build an international style villa, to reflect his love of modernism. It was a unique collaboration between two very influential men. You can read the full story by clicking here.

That same year another contemporary home was added to the collection – 781 Lake Shore. This unique 3,090 sq ft home displays all the key features that make this style so distinctive – an understated look, melding clean lines, gentle organic curves, along with the coming together of numerous, and sometimes contrasting materials.

781 Lake Shore, unlike its mid century modern neighbors, is slightly different in its approach. Where as the previous two homes were quite box like in their appearance the predominantly rectangular front elevation of this residence is broken up with a dominant triangular section to create a rather individual architectural statement to the entrance.

Based on our records from 1980 we can introduce you to many stunning interior features that are part of this one of a kind quad-level home. It was custom designed and built for the original owner. The entrance hall features a white Italian marble floor and a cathedral ceiling. Possibly one of the most unique additions to this home is the sunken fishpond with Hawaiian volcanic rock and cascading waterfall that is also present in the area.

A teak parquet floor leads you through to the walnut paneled library (it also features a teak parquet floor), and the dining room, which contains custom designed stained glass windows. The 20’ x 13’ sq ft living room is also home to a cathedral ceiling, built-in walnut window seats along with an observation deck that is accessible through sliding glass doors.

The house also includes a cocktail/games room, complete with see thru natural fireplace, glass window walls, a wet bar, and a staircase to the lower level which houses the family room, a billiards area and a wine cellar.

There are three bedrooms on the upper levels. The master bedroom (23’ x 16’ sq ft) features glass doors to an observation deck, while a freestanding natural fireplace and a folding door wall is present in another of the bedrooms.

The house was constructed with several pieces of state-of-the-art technology – a full house intercom system, along with a control center for a multi-speaker stereophonic system. This is housed in the library and played through the speakers’ located in the living rooms cathedral ceiling.

As with so many mid-century modern homes the emphasis, aside from the clean lines and organic curves, is on filing the property with huge amounts of natural light. The large sliding glass doors (in the living room and master bedroom) certainly help achieve this goal as do the installation of multiple skylights throughout the home.

In 1966 the house was featured in Better Homes Magazine.

781 Lake Shore is an extremely distinctive home, a one of a kind design located within a community which contains tens of thousands of homes. It is unfortunate we are unable to locate the name of the original owner or the architect who created this residence. If anyone has any additional information or photos of the interior we would love to hear from you.


Written by Katie Doelle
Copyright © 2017 Higbie Maxon Agney & Katie Doelle


If you have a home, building or street 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).