Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – The Lost Estate of 15440 Windmill Pointe

Having recently covered the many lost estates on Lakeshore, this week we turn our attention to Windmill Pointe and to another grand estate that has been lost over time.

Welcome to 15440 Windmill Pointe, designed by Louis Kamper for Herbert V. Book in 1921. This grand French Châteaux was a spectacular residence on the shores of Lake St. Clair located on a lot that was approximately two acres. 

The architect, Louis Kamper, could be described as one of the most impactful designers to have ever graced Detroit. His style, influence and work were on par with Albert Kahn, and George D Mason in terms of the architectural legacy that many of his projects have left on the city, and the United States.

Born in Bavaria, Germany in 1861 Kamper emigrated to the U.S. with his family in 1880. Having arrived in Detroit in 1888 he quickly established himself on the architectural scene, joining the firm of Scott & Scott, becoming partner within a year.

Louis Kamper – courtesy of Wikipedia

His list of wealthy clientele grew quickly and he soon established a relationship with several prominent families within Metro Detroit – including the Book family, becoming their chief architect. During this era he received many commissions from the family, two of his most recognizable projects are the Book Building (1917) – an Italian Renaissance-style building, and the striking Book Tower (1926). Another key project was transforming Washington Boulevard into the most opulent, and successful retail destination in Detroit. By 1923 Herbert Vivian Brook, and his brothers James Burgess, and Frank Palms, had already cornered much of the real estate on the blvd. The brothers then set upon creating their very own hotel, hiring Kamper to design what would become the most extravagant hotel in the city. When it was completed, in 1923, the 33-story Book-Cadillac Hotel was the tallest hotel in the world at the time. Source: Historic Detroit.org

Book Tower. Courtesy of Historicdetroit.org. Originally from the Detroit Free Press Archives.

The Book-Cadillac Hotel in the 1920s. Courtesy of historicdetroit.org. Originally from The Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library.

During the early stages of his career Kamper, had travelled extensively in Europe studying the architectural monuments of the past. This level of research clearly had an influence on much of his work, including the Neo-Renaissance Book-Cadillac hotel, which incorporated a variety of architectural elements from Europe, and the grand home he created for Herbert Brook at 15440 Windmill Pointe.

15440 Windmill Pointe was reportedly built at a cost of around $650,000 (around $9.5m today), with Book paying an additional $50,000 for the land (around $700,000 today). Source: The Grosse Pointe News, 1978.

15440 Windmill Pointe

15440 Windmill Pointe

The 6,000 sq ft home was constructed of limestone, featuring a steep roof of block slate and many dominant elements. It was an imposing home. The first floor contained an impressive living room, gracious dining room, a library, individual powder rooms, a bar room, vault, and an activities room. The entrance and stair hall were marble, while the living room extended across the entire east wing of the house overlooking the 200 ft wide frontage, which included the terraced lawn, gardens, and the lake.

Front Elevation

Rear Elevation

Entrance

The second floor featured seven large bedrooms, six full bathrooms, four dressing rooms, and a large sitting room. The third consisted of five servants’ bedrooms, two full bathrooms, and storage.

Second Floor Plan

The estate also included a stone carriage house containing a four car heated garage with an upper apartment that included a living room, kitchen, bath and three bedrooms. Also on the grounds were a workman’s shed, large greenhouse, a fishpond, concrete boat well, and an electric boat or seaplane hoist.

Concrete boat well

Electric boat or seaplane hoist

We were unable to locate an interior photo’s of the home, but the exterior shots certainly provide evidence of how grand this estate truly was.

Charles P. Helin, owner of the Helin Tackle Company, purchased the home in 1945. In the late 1930’s Helin invented the ‘Flatish’ fishing lure, and became a multi-millionaire by 1942. While travelling in China it is reported vandals broke into the home and fire had broken out. Aside from destroying the home Helin loved it also took the largest private butterfly collection in the world with it. Based on an article from the Grosse Pointe News it is reported Helin never returned to Grosse Pointe after the loss of his home, and reportedly died heartbroken shortly after the fire. It was demolished in 1978.

Despite the loss of this Kamper masterpiece several other Kamper residential projects in Grosse Pointe still exist today, including: 1 Rathbone Place, 251 Lincoln, 16761 East Jefferson, 836 Edgemont Park, 1008 Buckingham, and 175 Merriweather Road.

 

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).