Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – The Old and the New: Sunningdale – Part 2

When you drive up a road in Grosse Pointe, frequently you cant help but stop and look at the houses on display. One day, having been driving around the Pointes, we found ourselves on Sunningdale Drive. Aside from the pristine gardens on display the diversity of the architecture captured our attention.

While it was obvious some homes are much older than others, it also quickly became apparent the newer houses on the street had been designed to respect their ‘elderly’ neighbors.

Assembling a collection of architectural styles is never easy – arguably homes constructed during the past 30 years do not resemble the homes from a by-gone era – namely the 1920’s and 1930’s. However, there are exceptions, which is evident in the modern constructions on this street.

Welcome to part two of our presentation on Sunningdale. Last week we covered the homes completed before 1940, this week we turn our attention to the later creations.

Lets start with number 717. This is the second home on the street by distinguished architect Marcus Burrows. Having completed number 942 in 1926, this 2,960 sq ft clapboard colonial house is a significant departure from Burrows typical brick built English Revival Style residences. It is a particularly striking house with the four dominant porticos on the front elevation and the delicate arches below the roofline. It not only demonstrates Burrows diversity as an architect but the streets evolving architectural style.

717 Sunningdale

Number 87 was completed in 1942 and is a pretty Cape Cod style home. The Cape Cod Style is present throughout the Pointes and became increasing popular during the 1940’s and onwards.

87 Sunningdale

Read more

Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – The Old and the New: Sunningdale – Part 1

Regular readers to our blog will know over the past few months we have profiled numerous streets around the Pointes – covering their history, many of the wonderful homes, along with the noted architects who worked on these respective roads. We have featured several prestigious roads in the Farms, along with some prominent streets in the Park and the City.

This week we turn our attention to Grosse Pointe Shores, and the old and the new homes we find on the distinguished street of Sunningdale.

Sunningdale, like so many streets in the community, is one without a definitive architectural style, which makes it interesting. There is the collection of homes built prior to 1940, a range of homes that were built around the 1950’s (a period of extensive growth in this area), and the newer homes, built in the 2000’s – reminiscent of homes from a by-gone era.

In Part 1 of our Sunningdale presentation we profile some of the older homes built before 1940.

Lets start with one of the older homes on the street, number 80, built in 1926. This Handsome English Tudor with its distinctive triangular features, and intricate brickwork is around 5,000 sq ft. Over the decades English Tudor homes became a particular popular style on Sunningdale and were continuing to be built well into the 1950’s.

80 Sunningdale

80 Sunningdale

Also built in 1926 is number 942. It was designed by one of the most talented and versatile architects to work in Grosse Pointe Marcus Burrowes. During his career Burrows designed over 1000 buildings in and near Detroit, including residential, public and municipal projects. You can read his full story by clicking here.

942 Sunningdale

In 1920 Burrowes joined forces with Frank Eurich (a graduate from Cornell University) and together they designed over 10 homes in Grosse Pointe. During this era Burrowes was widely known throughout southeast Michigan for his English Revival Style buildings, an approach he also brought to the Grosse Pointe communities, including this home on Sunningdale. This 4,600 sq ft home features a grand living room (30’ x 20’), a large dining room (22’ x 18’) with a bay window, and service stairs. There are four bedrooms (the master has a natural fireplace) along with a large open 3rd floor, which, at the time could have been used as a ballroom – extremely popular during this era.

Read more

Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Architect D. Allen Wright – Part 2

It is quite common for us to research an architect, write a blog post and then discover additional homes that he created. Many of the architects who worked in Grosse Pointe created so many homes, it can be challenging to find out everything about them in one go, and so it is always a delight to find new projects we didn’t cover the first time around.

This week we revisit the work of D. Allen Wright, and present six new projects – you can read our first blog post about this talented designer by clicking here.

D. Allen Wright designed over 20 buildings (that we know of) in Grosse Pointe. Between 1926 and 1930 many of projects were large French inspired homes, typically French Normandy and Provencal architectural styles. French style architecture, particularly Provencal, was extremely popular in Grosse Pointe during the 1920’s through to the 1940’s. Wright’s homes provide us with an excellent example of this architectural approach.

Post 1930 Wright’s style began to evolve considerably. Many of his designs displayed characteristics of modern architecture that was gaining popularity throughout Europe and America – thanks to the growing popularity of the Bauhaus in Germany.

The following six Wright homes primarily fall within the French inspired phase of his career, and include three separate sets of terraced houses/condo’s on Rivard.

Two sets of these terraces were completed in 1926. The first set, located halfway up the first block of Rivard, clearly displays recognizable Tudor characteristics – the brick exterior incorporates a distinctive timbered section. The units vary considerably in size. Number 335 is around 3,000 sq ft, while unit 339 is closer to 1,791 sq ft.

339 Rivard

The second set of terraces, also completed in 1926, revert back to Wrights typical French style that he so heavily favored during this era. Located on the corner of Rivard and Charles they incorporate number 424, a pretty 2,700 sq ft home, featuring 5 bedrooms. This is now classed as a separate residence, but at the time was a key central feature of this construction.

Terraces on the corner of Rivard and Charles – including number 424

Street view of the terraces – courtesy of Google.com

Number 424 – present day

706 Balfour is a classic center entrance brick colonial completed in 1927. The 3,400 sq ft residence features fine architectural detail, and a unique octagonal dining room – sadly we do not have photos of this room.

706 Balfour

Read more

Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – the Detroit News Plan Book Homes of Grosse Pointe

Last year we ran a series of blog posts on the kit homes of Grosse Pointe. Several of these homes were authenticated, while others were identified as ‘probable kit homes’ due to the lack of supporting evidence.

Given that none of the traditional kit house companies are still in business, and because many of the kit home records were either lost or destroyed it can be extremely difficult to authenticate these homes.

This week we can add another chapter to our kit home story – the Detroit News Plan Book Homes – of which there are at least four (that we know of) found in Grosse Pointe. Thanks to research on the wonderful blog ‘American Kit Homes’ we are able to present the story of these four residences.

From information found of the blog we understand that ‘for many years, newspapers and other news publications sold home plans, some through their own publication, and others via a homebuilders catalogue’.

During the early 1920’s, the Detroit News sold home plans. The plans sold through this publication, other similar publications, along with the Home Builders catalogue, allowed people to purchase home plans in order to build their own home.

During the 1920’s the ‘build your own home’ market was arguably in its hey day with many companies competing in this sector – from the various publications selling home plans through to the major kit home manufacturers who had the substantial share of the market.

Many of the homes available in the home build sector bore similarities to homes sold by competing firms. The design were, after all, influenced by the architectural trends of the era, and many clients were looking to purchase homes of similar style, size and price. This particular home plan sold by the Detroit News was no exception, bearing similarities (internal and external) with several kit homes from the leading manufacturers – Sears BarringtonSears BrookwoodAladdin NewcastleAladdin Sovereign, or Wardway Maywood.’ Source: American Kit Homes.

Read more

Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Rivard – Part 2

Regular readers to our blog will know we recently began to explore the street of Rivard – a prominent street in Grosse Pointe whose name is associated with one of the earliest French farming families to settle in the community – The Rivard’s.

Rivard is a particularly interesting road, given the clear transition in architectural styles – from the earlier clapboard colonial homes constructed around 1918 through to the English Tudor and brick homes built after 1922.

If you travel up the street from Jefferson, it is clear the homes on the first block are very different – in terms of design – than the homes that exist beyond the second block to Mack. However, the quality of the homes does not diminish, given the caliber of the architects who were commissioned to work on this street.

Having covered some of the homes constructed from 1918 – 1922, this week we turn our attention to a range of homes built between 1924 and 1928, which, as you will see, display a broad range of design styles.

Built in 1924, number 649 was designed by architect John Senese. The 2,598 sq ft home is a symmetrical Dutch Colonial home and features clapboard on the exterior of the second floor. Traditionally, clapboards in North America were made of split oak, pine or spruce.

Very little is known about John Senese, but he did a nice job with the design of this home during an era when the Dutch Colonial style was becoming increasingly popular in Grosse Pointe.

649 Rivard

Barton Wood designed a classic English Tudor, number 699, in 1926. Having grown up and studied architecture and engineering at Stanford University, Barton Dixon Wood transferred to the University of Michigan to conclude his studies, before partnering with Samuel F. Abraham to form the firm of Abraham & wood. He lived at 695 Rivard (built in 1930), however it is not clear if and when he moved into this home or whether he designed it. Barton Wood also designed 845 Edgemont Park in 1928.

699 Rivard

695 Rivard

Read more

Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Rivard – Part 1

As with so many of the streets in Grosse Pointe, there is a rich, and checkered past. Many of the streets we have come to take for granted date back hundreds of years, and represent far more than just a street name.

Some of the older road names in Grosse Pointe are Rivard, Renaud, Vernier, Grand Marais, Provencal and Beaufait (to name but a few), which, you may have noticed, have a distinctly French theme to them.

During the eighteenth century the French occupied much of the farmland that was so important to the Grosse Pointe area. During this era it is believed the area was heavily wooded and swampy, however it proved to be a great area for farming. Many of the early farms generally had around 300 feet of water frontage, ran one – two miles inland, and were owned by some very familiar names (as mentioned above), that we now recognize.

One of the earliest French farmers to settle in the Grosse Pointe region was the Rivard Family. Having taken ownership of a ribbon farm in 1762 the Rivard’s were a prominent family in the community.

Shortly after moving to the area Jean Baptiste Rivard married a young woman of German descent and together they had 13 children. After the death of Jean Baptiste in 1805, two of his sons (Charles and Francois) managed the land, which was ultimately sold by Farncois’s son around 1852. According to research in the book Tonnanour – ‘The sale of the land coincided with the end of the French ribbon farm system. During this period, Wayne County began to divide into sections and the township of Grosse Pointe became independent in 1848’.

Today the Rivard name remains very prominent in the community and the street is home to many grand residences. Over the next couple of weeks we will be presenting some of these homes, starting with the earliest – constructed between 1918 and 1922.

Number 482 was completed in 1918, having been designed by the prominent firm of Stratton and Snyder. The 3,200 sq ft home is designed in a colonial architectural style with a clapboard exterior, and steeply pitched roof.

William Buck Stratton and Dalton J. V Snyder worked together between 1918-1925, and created several homes in Grosse Pointe including: 4 Woodland Place, 365 University Place, 341 Lakeland and 15366 Windmill Pointe.

482 Rivard

482 Rivard

Read more

Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Welcome to 1051 Berkshire

Welcome to one of the most individual homes in Grosse Pointe – 1051 Berkshire. Not only does the house have a very individualistic design it was also one of the few residences created by the Detroit based firm of Donaldson & Meier.

Donaldson & Meier were well known for their church work in Detroit and southeastern Michigan. John M. Donaldson and Henry J. Meier founded the firm in 1880. Donaldson was born in Scotland in 1854 and immigrated to Detroit with his family as a child. He had a wide and varied architectural education – after graduating from school he returned to Europe to study at the Art Academy in Munich, Germany and at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

John Donaldson – Courtesy of Wikipedia

Henry Meier – Courtesy of Wikipedia

Much of their early work together centered on designing churches, employing the Richardson Romanesque style in many of their designs. However, as architectural styles evolved so did their approach, which is certainly reflected in the Art Deco David Stott Building Donaldson completed in 1929.

David Stott Building – Courtesy of Wikipedia

In 1917 Henry J. Meier passed. Donaldson continued to run the firm, creating many unique buildings. This includes the rare residential project located at 1051 Berkshire.

Based on research at the Grosse Pointe Historical Society we understand the home was designed to resemble a château that French born Victor R. Heftler had admired on a visit to France.

Known as the “Coin de France” Heftler commissioned the home for his family in 1929. The 4,159 sq ft 3 story house is designed with a French Normandy architectural approach, which is evident in its central turret, slate roof and stucco and stone façade.

Read more

Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Provencal, The Modern Marvels

This week we conclude our exploration of the homes on Provencal. Over the series we have learned just what a unique, private and special street this is, and still there is so much more to learn.

The homes on Provencal evoke a classic feel – grand designs created in classic architectural styles by some of Detroit’s leading architects. The majority of the homes we have featured thus far were completed prior to 1941 – completed during the golden years of the architectural transformation that Grosse Pointe Farms witnessed during the 1920’s.

However, post 1950 the development of Provencal has not stood still. Several of the grand homes that had been built in the 1920’s were demolished to make way for newer homes, while leading architects and contractors quickly snapped up the available lots to build modern homes for their clientele.

We use the word ‘modern’ in a loose sense. Just because a home was designed in 1950, does it need to resemble a typical home found in that era?

Where Provencal is concerned many of the latter homes, which were added to the community were designed with a sense of tradition. The respective architects have done themselves, their clients and their designs justice in terms of accommodating their new builds with the established style(s) of the existing homes.

It is the ‘modern’ homes that we turn our attention to. Lets start with a project by Milton L. Grigg, the man who brought a little bit of Thomas Jefferson to Grosse Pointe in the shape of 320 Provencal – built in 1956.

320 Provencal – Courtesy of Grosse Pointe Historical Society

Custom designed and built by Grigg, best known for his work in the field of historic preservation, it is an authentic reproduction of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, the primary plantation near Charlottesville Virginia built in 1772. Based on research found at the Grosse Pointe Historical Society, the two-story house is 4,513 sq ft, with 4 bedrooms, a maid’s room and a bathhouse. The entrance to the home boasts a magnificent portico with four columns, believed to be a two thirds sized copy of the north portico found at Monticello. It is reported the front doors are mahogany, containing 480 pieces. You can read the full story of this home by clicking here.

Read more

Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Provencal, The Private Street

Provencal Road in Grosse Pointe Farms is in every sense of the word ‘private’. A private street, with private homes, and with so little information available the history of many of the houses remains private.

Over the past few weeks we have gathered as much information as we could possibly find on this unique street. We know one home was moved from Indian Village to its current location on the first block of Provencal, and then there is the large Tudor residence reminiscent of an English Country Estate. We have found five homes created by English architect Raymond Carey, the four homes created by prominent local architect Robert O. Derrick, along with the three houses by distinguished designer Hugh T. Keyes.

This week we explore six homes on this private street that were designed by a selection of prominent architects’ between 1926 and 1941. The majority of the residences were created by noted Detroit based artists, while one home was the work of a nationally recognized designer John Russell Pope – one of only two of his projects found in the community.

Lets start with 44 Provencal. Commissioned by William C. Rooney in 1926, the 3,636 sq ft traditional Colonial brick house was created by J. Ivan Dise and Clair William Ditchy – one of three collaborative projects in Grosse Pointe by the Detroit based architects.

44 Provencal

Built in 1927 330 Provencal was designed by Henry F. Stanton – a diverse designer, faculty member of University of Michigan and master of exquisite brickwork.

330 Provencal

The large 8,625 sq ft brick property displays many of the typical characteristics often found in Stanton’s work – detailed brickwork, massive brick chimneys, an elaborate front entrance – in this instance carved limestone scrolls – along with a steep slate roof. (You can view more of his Grosse Pointe projects by clicking here).

Limestone scrolls – Courtesy of realtor.com

The interior features extensive woodwork, including a wood paneled library, heavy beams and paneling above the fireplace in the living room, along with a superb main staircase and large main hall framed with wide, carved oak trim and arches.

Extensive Woodwork – Courtesy of realtor.com

The home also features an abundance of decorative plaster trim, six fireplaces (four on the first floor, and two on the second), along with a 1,300 sq ft carriage house over the three-car garage.

Read more

Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – The Hugh T. Keyes Homes on Provencal

Regular readers of our blog will know that we have recently been focusing our attention on the superb homes on Provencal. So far we have profiled – Number 41, Number 234 the residences designed by Raymond Carey and the homes created by Robert O. Derrick.

This week we continue with our exploration with a review of the work by another prolific Grosse Pointe architect – Hugh T. Keyes.

Hugh T. Keyes – Courtesy of Wikepedia

A noted early 20th century architect, Keyes was a prolific designer of fine homes in the Grosse Pointes and was arguably one of the most diverse architects to ply his trade in the community.

His work centered on creating grand estates for the industrialists of Metropolitan Detroit (clients included Ford, Hudson-Tannahill, Bugas and Mennen) and he is considered to be one of the most versatile architects of the period.

Born in Trenton, MI in 1888, Keyes studied architecture at Harvard University and worked under architect C. Howard Crane. After graduating he quickly became an associate of Albert Kahn working on Kahn’s “signature project” the Detroit Athletic Club.

He was also a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and served in the Navy during World War 1. He then spent time in Europe, traveling in England, France, Italy and Switzerland gathering inspiration for his work.

After serving with the Navy during World War 1, Keyes returned to Michigan. He briefly worked at Smith, Hinchman & Grylls, before opening his own Detroit office in 1921. His style was wonderfully diverse and ranged from Tudor Revival (highly popular in the early 20th Century metropolitan area) to rustic Swiss chalets.

Throughout out his career Keyes built many significant houses in Grosse Pointe with the majority located in the Farms, including three homes on Provencal:

  • 34 Provencal – 1912 – 8,162 sq ft
  • 260 Provencal – 1927
  • 344 Provencal – 1929 – 8,496 sq ft

Read more