Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – The Work of Harold Beckett and William Akitt

Having recently focused on the modernist work of Alexander Girard we turn our attention to the more traditional styling’s from the firm of Harold C. Beckett and William R. Akitt.

The firm of Beckitt and Akitt practiced in Detroit from 1920 until 1934. The firm primarily specialized in designing large residences in Michigan, including Metro Detroit, and at least six homes in Grosse Pointe.

Harold Beckett was born in Hamilton, Ontario in 1890. Having moved to Toronto in 1910 he worked as an assistant at the architectural firm of Wickson and Gregg. In 1912 Beckett moved to New York City to study architecture at Columbia University, graduating in 1915. After serving in Europe with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces during WW1 Beckett relocated to Windsor, Ontario. From there he commuted daily to Detroit, and established a firm, in 1920, with local Detroit based architect William Akitt. Together they designed many wonderful Tudor Revival inspired projects. This included the grand H. F Harper mansion in Lansing, 1929. The 35-room home is Lansing’s biggest mansion. Around the same time, they completed a superb residence in Jackson, MI for C. M. Day, along with completing a substantial parish house, which was added to the Iroquois Avenue Christ Lutheran Church, located at 2411 Iroquois Avenue Detroit. It is believed the cost to design and build the parish house cost close to $100,000 (around $1.4 million today).

Harper Mansion – Image courtesy of – lansingcitypulse.com

Day Mansion – Image courtesy of Pinterest

Between 1939-42 Beckett had his own practice in Detroit. He then briefly joined Detroit’s largest architectural firm of that era – Smith, Hinchman and Grylls, before returning to Windsor, Ontario to establish his own practice until his retirement in 1962.

The firms’ work in Grosse Pointe centered on the late 1920’s. They created some wonderful residences, in a myriad of architectural styles, across several of the Grosse Pointe communities. The architectural style of the homes they designed here – Mediterranean, Colonial and English Tudor – were extremely popular throughout Grosse Pointe during this era, and their work fitted seamlessly into the quickly expanding communities.

Between 1926 and 1931 they completed the following residences:

1005 Whittier – constructed in 1926. This distinctive 8,271 sq ft Mediterranean inspired home is one of the larger homes Beckett and Akitt created in the Grosse Pointe communities. The Stucco exterior features a stone trim, and a striking green tile roof.

1005 Whittier

711 Balfour – constructed in 1926. This 3,980 sq ft residence is a classically style brick Tudor inspired home.

711 Balfour

803 Lakepointe – constructed in 1926. This house is wonderful example of a brick constructed Colonial home from this era.

803 Lakepointe

851 Pemberton – constructed in 1927. This is a handsome 3, 400 sq ft English Tudor located in Grosse Pointe Park. This was an extremely popular architectural approach in the community during this era, and was a style Beckett and Akitt favored during their collaboration.

851 Pemberton

930 Lake Shore – constructed in 1928. This 7,130 sq ft is a superb English manor homes. It is situated in a picturesque location, on the shores of Lake St Clair.

930 Lake Shore

97 Vendome – constructed in 1931. This is the last of the homes constructed by the firm of Beckett and Akitt in Grosse Pointe. Constructed on the prestigious street of Vendome this 4, 241 sq ft residence is a superb English Tudor. The interior features pegged oak floors, three natural fireplaces, oak paneling, beamed wood ceilings in the living room, and Pewabic tile in two of the bathrooms.

97 Vendome

The firm of Beckitt and Akitt may have only been around for a limited time, but their varied portfolio of work has left a lasting impression.

 

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).