Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – The Lost Ford Estates – Designed by Albert H. Spahr

This week lets continue with our exploration of the lost estates of Lakeshore. So many of these wonderful homes have been lost over time with many of the properties being subdivided and sold for new projects.

Last week we featured 415 Lakeshore, the former home of Lieutenant Colonel J. Brooks Nichols, demolished in the late 1950’s. Now lets turn our attention to the work of Pittsburgh based architect Albert H. Spahr and the three homes, all of which are now gone, he created for the Ford siblings Mrs. Hetty Ford Speck, Mr. Emory L. Ford, and Mrs. Stellar Ford Schlotman.

The siblings, along with a third sister, Mrs. Nell Ford Torrey, were the grandchildren of John B. Ford, an American industrialist and founder of the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company.

The Ford siblings all resided in imposing estates on Lakeshore, within a stones throw of each other (485 Lakeshore, 500 Lakeshore; 575 Lakeshore and 585 Lakeshore).

Interestingly three of the four siblings used the same architect for their homes, a Pittsburgh based designer by the name of Albert H. Spahr. He was commissioned to work on the homes of Mrs. Joesph B. Schlotman (500 Lakeshore), Elmer D. Speck (585 Lakeshore) along with the home for Emory L. Ford (485 Lakeshore).

Mr. Spahr, born in 1873 Dillsburg, PA, began work in the office of Harry W. Jones of Minneapolis in 1889. After spending five years with the firm Mr. Spahr left to study architecture (for two years) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston. Upon graduating, in 1896, he spent the summer in England and France before returning to Boston, where he would work as a draftsman for two further years. In 1901 he moved to Pittsburgh, and formed a partnership with C. D MacClure. Together, the firm became one of the more successful firms in Pittsburgh, working on public and private projects. Mr. MacClure died in 1912 and so Albert H. Spahr continued to work on his own.

His first project in Grosse Pointe for the Ford Siblings was for Mrs. Hetty Ford Speck. This beautiful half-timbered Tudor inspired mansion, named ‘Fairholme’, (located at 585 Lakeshore) was completed in 1914. Images are courtesy of Detroityes.com (originally from 1916 Issue of The Architectural Record).

It was demolished in 1959.

His second commission came from Mrs. Stellar Ford Schlotman. Located at 500 Lakeshore ‘Stonehurst’ has been described as an ‘early English Renaissance Castle’. Stella Ford, and her new husband Joseph Scholtman, commissioned the property in 1914, and it was competed in 1917.

The imposing stone mansion cost an estimated $2m to build (around $39m today); it sat on a 30-acre estate. The 40-room house was immense and no expense was spared in creating a luxurious place for the family.

Image courtesy of: Grosse Pointe Historical Society.

Image Courtesy of: https://digitalcollections.detroitpubliclibrary.org/

On entering the property through heavy wrought iron doors the family would ascend up a twin flight of marble steps into the great hall with its carved oak panels, ornate ceilings and grand staircase. Just off the great hall was the atrium. It was constructed of marble and stone, and contained a bronze nymph fountain. At the east side of the atrium was a formal dining room, a breakfast room, and on the opposite side was a paneled library, a sun porch and a music room. The walls of the music room were constructed from oak paneling; the wood had been removed from a stately home in England, shipped and reassembled at Stonehurst at a reputed cost of $100,000.

The house was filled with beautiful decorative details including a hand crafted tapestry (measuring 5’ x 7’ depicting the gardens of Stonehurst that took Mrs. Scholtman 4 years to complete) paintings and oriental rugs. All five master bedrooms on the second floor included baths and fireplaces, and there was a sitting room for Mrs. Scholtman off the master suite. The lower floor contained a large ballroom, while the maids quarters occupied the third level. The formal gardens featured terrace and a pond, and further back was the greenhouse complex, a seven-car garage along with houses for the head gardener and chauffeur. Source and photos courtesy of: Grosse Pointe Historical Society.

It was demolished in 1974.

 

Spahr’s third commission from the Ford family came from Emory L. Ford. Built in 1916 the immense Early English renaissance style home, located at 485 Lakeshore, was set on a magnificent estate. Very little is known about the property, but it is said the home, along with Spahr’s other creations for the Ford family, were some of the grandest properties on the lake.

It was demolished in 1964.

Image courtesy of: The Village of Grosse Pointe Shores – Arthur M. Woodford (originally from the  Manning Brothers Historic Photograph Collection).

Spahr’s only other project in Grosse Pointe was 2 Clairview – completed in 1915.

The homes Albert H. Spahr created for the Ford family were some of the grandest properties on the lake – prime examples of the opulence that graced Grosse Pointe during the early 20th century.

We will be continuing with our story of Grosse Pointe’s lost Lakeshore estates next week.

 

Written by Katie Doelle
Copyright © 2018 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).