Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – The Albert Kahn Projects in Grosse Pointe Shores

Last week we profiled the magnificent Mrs. Henry Stephens Estate – formerly located at 241 Lake Shore. Completed in 1913 by nationally recognized architect Charles Platt, it was one of the grand homes that helped transform the face of Lake Shore – from seasonal summer cottages to magnificent properties for some of Detroit’s wealthiest families.

We continue with the ‘grand homes on Lake Shore’ theme this week with an exploration of five superb buildings constructed in Grosse Pointe Shores by legendary architect Albert Kahn.

Kahn’s first project in Grosse Pointe Shores was in 1910 at 880 Lake Shore – the Italian Renaissance inspired 8,403 sq ft residence for C. Goodloe Edgar, president of Edgar Sugar House, dealers in sugar and molasses. W. Hawkins Ferry, in The Buildings of Detroit, highlights the Italian Renaissance influences in the home to that of Charles Platt’s design for Alger House, (now the Grosse Pointe War Memorial) also completed in 1910.

According to W. Hawkins Ferry ‘Albert Kahn was a great admirer of the work of Charles Platt, and it is believed Kahn recommended Platt to the Alger family as the architect to create their Italian Inspired residence on the lake’. So it would come as no surprise if Platt’s work proved to be a source of inspiration for Kahn’s own project at 880 Lake Shore.

It is a striking home. As the photo below demonstrates the rear elevation is filled with an abundance of windows, archways and terraces, providing a perfect view of the lake – with just a hint of the Grosse Pointe War Memorial about it. The Italian Renaissance style was a popular architectural approach in the community during this era.

C. Goodloe Edgar Home – Courtesy of the The Legacy of Albert Kahn, by Albert Kahn

C. Goodloe Edgar Home – Courtesy of the book – The Village of Grosse Pointe Shores, By Arthur M. Woodford and Albert Kahn Associates

Kahn, also in 1910, completed the striking home for Howard E. Coffin. Born in 1873 Mr. Coffin was an automobile engineer and industrialist. Along with Roy Chapin, he was one of the founders of the Hudson Car Company, and designed many of the company’s early models. He was also known, in automotive circles, as the ‘Father of Standardization’, a result of his initiative to standardize material and design specifications, and for arranging automobile manufacturers to share their patents. Source Wikipedia.

Coffin was a millionaire by the age of 30. The house he commissioned Kahn to design for him on Lake Shore is superb testament to Kahn’s skill in creating a myriad of architectural styles. Given the home he created for C. Goodloe Edgar (that same year), was in an Italian Renaissance style approach, the home he designed for Coffin was one of his more traditional residential masterpieces.

Howard E. Coffin Home – Courtesy of the book – The Village of Grosse Pointe Shores, By Arthur M. Woodford and Albert Kahn Associates

In 1915 Kahn was hired by Grosse Pointe Shores to design the new Village Hall. Hawkins Ferry describes it as a ‘highly original brick building, but on a smaller almost domestic scale’. Constructed from brick, the front elevation is dominated by four large arched windows surrounded by delicate and intricate brickwork. The new municipal building provided space for the council, offices, and a multipurpose community room, along with desks for the police and fire departments.

Grosse Pointe Shores Village Hall (795 Lake Shore) – Courtesy of the book – The Village of Grosse Pointe Shores, By Arthur M. Woodford

In 1927 Kahn completed what is arguably his most stunning project in Grosse Pointe Shores – the Ford Estate for Edsel and Elanor Ford. Edsel Ford was a huge fan of the traditional English Cotswold style, and wanted Kahn to create a residence that would closely resemble the style of homes found in that particular area of England. Together they embarked on a trip to the Cotswold’s to further study this architectural approach.

Construction on Ford’s new home began in 1926. The 20,000 Sq Ft house was built in one year, an incredible accomplishment given the size and nature of the construction. The exterior walls are made of sandstone, the roof is slate with the stone shingles decreasing in size as they reached the peak (a typical look to a Cotswold home) while moss and ivy was grown on the properties exterior. Craftsman from England came over to ensure that elements of the building (the roof in particular) were constructed in an authentic Cotswold manner.

The Ford Estate

In 1930, Alvan Macauley, president of Packard, commissioned Kahn to create a grand home on Lake Shore. Kahn applied some of the Cotswold styling’s he had incorporated in the Ford Mansion and combined it with the recognized traits of the distinctive Tudor manor homes, which were now extremely popular around Grosse Pointe.

Alvan Macauley Home – Courtesy of the book – The Village of Grosse Pointe Shores, By Arthur M. Woodford and Albert Kahn Associates

Alvan Macauley Home – Courtesy of the The Legacy of Albert Kahn, by Albert Kahn

It is believed the Macauley’s were particularly fond of the Tudor and Cotswold styles. Prior to the completion of their new residence they had spent several weeks in Worcestershire, England, studying the local architecture, along with purchasing some fine English Antiques. Source: The Buildings of Detroit’ by W. Hawkins Ferry

Alvan Macauley Home – Courtesy of the book – The Village of Grosse Pointe Shores, By Arthur M. Woodford and Albert Kahn Associates

Albert Kahn’s design for the Macauley mansion was more secluded, and less grandiose than the Ford Estate. The exterior of the home was constructed from stone – the work was completed under the careful supervision of a foreman from the Cotswold region of England. The interior also employed the same meticulous attention to detail. The Hayden Company of New York completed the detailed woodcarving, which was a dominant feature in many rooms on the first floor. The paneling in the grand 45’ x 25’ sq ft living room, which occupies an entire wing, combines a medieval linenfold motif with later Renaissance ornament’ – source: Buildings of Detroit, by W. Hawkins Ferry.  The Alvan Macauley Mansion was demolished in 1975.

Alvan Macauley Home – Courtesy of the book – The Village of Grosse Pointe Shores, By Arthur M. Woodford, Albert Kahn Collection, and Bentley Historical Society

Alvan Macauley Home – Courtesy of the book – The Village of Grosse Pointe Shores, By Arthur M. Woodford, Albert Kahn Collection, and Bentley Historical Society

Alvan Macauley Home – Courtesy of the The Legacy of Albert Kahn, by Albert Kahn

Alvan Macauley Home – Courtesy of the The Legacy of Albert Kahn, by Albert Kahn

Grosse Pointe Shores may be the smallest of the five Grosse Pointe communities but its natural beauty provided Kahn with a wonderful landscape to produce some truly magnificent creations.

 

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).