Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Welcome to the World of Isadore M. Lewis

It is always interesting to come across an architect who is less familiar, only to discover he was a prolific and prominent designer.

Welcome to the world of Isadore M. Lewis, a creative and productive architect who had a long and fruitful career spanning at least 40 years. During this time his creativity encompassed several architectural genres across a number of disciplines.

Isadore M. Lewis created an array of commercial, industrial and residential buildings, primarily for Jewish clients. He was born in 1888 in Appleton, Wisconsin. Having graduated from the University Pennsylvania in 1911 with a BS in architecture he moved to Detroit in 1916 to open his own architectural firm. Source: Wikipedia.

As a licensed architect in New York, Washington D.C, and Detroit, his career was fascinating. From the beginning of the 1920’s through to the 1950’s Lewis was heavily involved with designing apartment buildings, primarily in the city of Detroit. One of his earliest projects appears to be the superb Regent Court Apartments, built in 1921. Located at 2535 W.Grand Blvd the apartments are particularly striking, and it could be argued that they were certainly ahead of their time in terms of design and architectural appearance – as the photo below demonstrates.

Courtesy of flickr.com

In the early twenties it also appears Lewis’s work wasn’t restricted to the neighborhoods of Detroit. He was also receiving commissions from outside the state, which included a home, designed in a Neoclassical style, in the City of Niagara Falls, NY in 1920.

Courtesy of Zillow.com

In 1922 Lewis completed the historic Tushiyah United Hebrew School (later known as the Scott Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church) located at 609 East Kirby. Once again the design is impactful, in particular the brick and limestone detailing on the front elevation. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Also in 1922 Lewis completed the Hadley Hall Apartments located at 665 West Warren, where he once again used brick to create an extraordinary building.

Tushiyah United Hebrew School – Courtesy of Curbed Detroit

Hadley Hall Apartments – Courtesy of apartments.com

Here in Grosse Pointe, we believe Isadore M. Lewis created two homes, both are located in Grosse Pointe Park. The first is located at 838 Whittier, built in 1923. It is an elegant Colonial style 2,816 sq ft brick home, which has superb detailing on the front elevation. Frederick A. Balch, the son of a prominent Detroit businessman, George W. Balch commissioned it.

In 1930 Lewis designed another elegant brick home in the Park – 860 Pemberton. The unusual design of the front elevation is quite unique, and the detailing is superb. The brick archways above the front door and several of the windows create a wonderful contrast to the dominant triangular shape on the front of the home, and the sharp angular configurations of the roof.

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Architect George V. Pottle and his residential/theatre-designing associates

There are so many beautiful streets and homes in Grosse Pointe Park; it is difficult to decide where to go next – this week we have chosen to venture down Whittier.

We last visited this street when we profiled house number 740 – the grand Tudor home designed by Richard H. Marr for C. F Bohn in 1933 – you can read the full story of this house by clicking here.

Now is the turn of number 812, a striking brick residence designed by George Valentine. Pottle, for Charles L, Gollarno in 1927. We believe it is possibly Pottle’s only project in the community.

Created in an English architectural style the 4,650 sq ft home features elegant brickwork and fine limestone detailing around the front door and the handsome windows. The chimney is particularly distinctive on the front elevation. The house itself features four bedrooms, multiple natural fireplaces along with a spacious entry hall (23’ x 13’) and a butler’s pantry (12’ x 8’) – as depicted in the floor plan below.

George V. Pottle was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1875. Having studied at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, Pottle, in 1893, returned to Dayton to take up his first drafting position. He subsequently worked in architectural practices in Massachusetts and Virginia, before arriving in Detroit in 1901. He worked as a draftsman in the city until 1905 before setting up his own practice, becoming a respected architect in the city, and a member of the American Institute of architects.

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Architect Alvin E. Harley

Since the beginning of the 20th century the number of architects who have worked in Grosse Pointe has been vast. Many of the talented designers who received commissions here have gained endless acclaim becoming household names, while, often, others slip through the net and don’t receive the accolades and attention they deserve.

One such designer who could be described as fitting into the latter category is Alvin E. Harley.

Born in Canada in 1884, Alvin Harley began his architectural career drafting in the office of Herbert Matthews in London, Ontario, where he would stay for three years. Following his apprenticeship, Harley had a desire to work as an architect in a big city. He headed for America and the booming city of Detroit, where he would eventually become part of the ‘golden generation’ of architects who would forever transform the architectural scene of not only Detroit, but also arguably the United States.

Having arrived in Detroit, Harley was 19 when he joined Albert Kahn’s firm in 1903. He worked for Kahn as an apprentice and draftsman for two years – during the latter part of his career Harley was quoted “The two years I spent with Mr. Kahn were probably my most inspirational”. Source: http://history.harleyellisdevereaux.com

Having left his position with Kahn in 1905, Harley went to work for Detroit’s other leading architect, George D. Mason. Based on research on http://history.harleyellisdevereaux.com Mason believed Harley was too focused on industrial design, and so ‘sent him to special art and architectural classes in order to introduce him to different architectural and design style’s’.

In 1908, after three years of working for Mason’s firm, Harley, along with Norman Swain Atcheson (a co-worker form Masons firm) launched their own firm together – their partnership would last for five years – during an era of severe economic downturn. They created several buildings in Detroit before going on to have successful careers of their own.

From 1913 onwards Alvin E. Harley had his own practice. Having received a commission to design a large home for the then president of the Chalmers Motor Company, Hugh Chalmers, Harley’s residential projects took off and he never looked back. He designed at least eight homes in the elite neighborhood of Palmer Woods, which were quickly followed by several noted commissions in Bloomfield Hills, and Grosse Pointe Park.

By 1920 Harley’s reputation had grown quickly, so much so, that in 1921 he served as the president of the Michigan Society of Architects.

Here is Grosse Pointe, over a period of three years; Harley designed at least seven homes, all of which are located in Grosse Pointe Park. He was a fan of the Tudor approach, which is reflected in several of the homes he created here.

The first, built in 1924, is located at 1328 Berkshire. This classic Tudor design features superb brickwork and exquisite detailing throughout.

1328 Berkshire – Courtesy of Grosse Pointe Historical Society

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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.

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Grosse Pointe’s Kit Homes – Part 3

Previously, we presented a brief overview into the history of kit homes in North America, whilst last week we told the story of several “probable” kit homes in Grosse Pointe and offered a brief introduction on how to go about identifying a kit home.

This week, in this final part of our kit home series, we delve a little further into two further “probable” kit homes in the Grosse Pointes. We use the word “probable” because these homes have yet to be authenticated. 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.

During the height of kit home popularity the price of a kit home varied dramatically. The costs were dependent on the manufacturer, the architectural style and size of the home, the choice of floor plan, plus any upgrades the purchaser wanted to include such as advanced technology – updated pluming and heating systems for instance. Prices, in 1920, were in the vicinity of $1,500 – $3,000 (around $21,000 – $41,000 today), however the land, brick, concrete, and/or masonry were not included in the price, neither was construction. It is believed, based on some excellent research by Andrew & Wendy Mutch, via their blog ‘Kit House Hunters’, the final cost of the home, when completed could escalate to between 2-3 times the list price in the catalogue. So a home listed for $1500 in a catalogue could actually cost $3000 – $4500 when complete.

It is believed ‘much of the profit in the kit home business came from the mortgage financing that accompanied the sale, and not the materials or the house itself’. Source antiquehomestyle.com. It should also be noted, that several kit home companies either went out of business or had to be drastically restructured as a result of the mortgage packages (they had offered to their customers) having a detrimental effect on the company.

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Grosse Pointes Kit Homes – Part 1

We recently explored 849 Notre Dame, believing it to be the only kit home in Grosse Pointe. Turns out it is the only Sears Robuck Kit Home’ in Grosse Pointe, but there are in fact other kit homes in the community.

849 Notre Dame

Thanks to a wonderful blog ‘American Kit Homes’, which also included additional research by Ben Gravel, we were alerted to several more possible kit homes in the community.

We would like to introduce you to these homes. This week we will tell the story of an authenticated kit home – 1100 Bishop, and next week we will explore the “probable” kit homes that exist in the Woods and the City.

Kit homes, also known as mail-order homes or catalogue homes, became popular in the United States and Canada in the first half of the 20th Century. Between 1908 and 1940 over 100,000 kit homes were built in the United States: Source Wikipedia. Several companies, (with many based in Michigan and Illinois, including major competitors – Sears Modern Homes, Aladdin and Sterling Homes), offered houses with an abundance of plans and styles. The designs ranged from simple bungalows to more complex colonials.

The majority of the materials, supplied at a fixed price, were delivered initially by railroad to the local area, and then by truck to the construction site.

A typical house would contain between 10,000 – 30,000 components. Brick, concrete, and/or masonry were not included in the price, neither was construction. Upon delivery the purchaser would then either build the house themselves of hire local contractors to construct the home.

Kit homes were typically advertised in magazines and newspapers, and sold through mail-order catalogues. The purchaser could opt to purchase a standard kit or upgrade the design to include additional options such as extra rooms and advanced technology, such as updated pluming and heating systems. Prices, in 1920, were in the vicinity of $1,500 – $3,000 (around $21,000 – $41,000 today).

Courtesy of: https://www.flickr.com/photos/daily-bungalow/

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Welcome to Three Mile Drive – An Eclectic Mix: Part 2

Having explored several homes on Three Mile drive last week, we continue our journey with the review of eight further homes. The creation of these homes span several generations – from one of the earliest to appear on the street, number 805 (in 1917) to one of the newer homes to be constructed, number 1011 (in 1954).

Despite the obvious age gap, the architects that were responsible were prominent designers in their respective era’s. Given that the change in architectural style altered significantly from the early 20th century through to mid century, it is a testament to the skill of these men that none of these homes look out of place on a street that has such an eclectic mix of homes.

So lets begin with one of the older homes on Three Mile Drive, number 805, designed in 1917 by Charles Kotting. Born in Holland in 1865 Mr. Kotting worked on both commercial buildings and residential projects throughout Metro Detroit. He created several stunning large homes in Grosse Pointe between 1905 and 1930. This classically designed 4,710 sq ft Tudor Revival home has exquisite detailing on the front elevation, and has many superb characteristics associated with this architectural style including the half timbering, brick and white stucco finish, along with the smaller windows on the upper floor. It certainly makes an impressive statement at the beginning of the road.

805 Three Mile Dr.

George D. Mason. An architectural superstar, renowned Detroit historian Clarence M. Burton once wrote, quite simply George DeWitt Mason was “the dean of Detroit architects”. With a career spanning over 50 years George D. Mason created many historic buildings in and around the city, including several homes in Grosse Pointe, 9 of which (that we know of) are still standing. Here on Three Mile Mason created number 1175 for Frank E. Fisher in 1925. This substantial 8,166 sq ft house is designed in the English Cottage style, which was very popular in Grosse Pointe during this era.

Image courtesy of: www.detroit.lib.mi.us/featuredcollection/burton-historical-collection

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Welcome to Three Mile Drive – An Eclectic Mix: Part 1

Continuing with our series of blog posts profiling the homes on a specific street, this week we venture up Three Mile Drive and bring you the first of two blog posts on the eclectic mix of homes featuring everything from ballrooms to bomb shelters.

Arguably one of Grosse Pointes most prominent streets, Three-Mile Drive features a mix of large residences created by some of Detroit’s more accomplished architects. These designer’s contributed to creating a number of homes in Grosse Pointe at a time when the community was firmly establishing itself as one of the more prestigious neighborhoods in South Eastern Michigan.

The houses on Three Mile Drive are a mix of grand, unique and classically designed homes, encompassing Tudor, Spanish Villa, Georgian and Colonial architectural styles. Predominantly many of the homes were built during the 1920’s – a period when many of Detroit’s leading businessmen were selecting to build grand homes in Grosse Pointe.

The homes we are about to review represent a mere handful of special homes on this road. There are many more we would like to review, some of which will be covered in Part 2 of this blog post, while others we will review at a later date.

We begin our review of Three Mile Drive with a look at the work of Robert Calder, and his design of number 823, built in 1955. Calder designed many homes in Grosse Pointe primarily during the 1940’s and 1950’s, including one of the newer homes on Three Mile. This residence is a large 4,609 sq ft brick asymmetrical Colonial Home. In a listing from 1982 the home is believed to have a large 17’ x 27’ sq ft living room, four bedrooms, maids quarters, and a bomb shelter in the basement.

823 Three Mile Dr

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Top Producers of 2016!

Higbie Maxon Agney congratulates the Top Producers of 2016!

Jaime Rae Turnbull, Libby Follis, Dennis Andrus, Michelle Agosta, Darlene D’Amico and Heather Adragna Ulku!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – An Elegant Tudor Home – 1005 Three-Mile Drive

Having covered many of the superb Tudor homes in the community designed by some of the leading architects who were adept at creating the charm associated with this style – William B. Stratton and Richard H. Marr for example, we turn our attention to 1005 Three Mile Drive, designed by Alvin Earnest. Harley.

Located on one of Grosse Pointes most prominent streets Three-Mile Drive, this elegant home was built for Edward Evans in 1925.

At the time of completion the 4,800 sq ft residence was located on a 50,000 sq ft ‘park like’ lot. The rather impressive exterior is a combination of stone, brick and wood – common traits of the Tudor style.

On entering the property through the solid oak front door, the foyer features an ornate tile ceiling and stone floor with Pewabic tile inserts. Many of the ceilings on the first floor – reception hall, living room and the library – display sculptured bas-relief designs; the floors are solid oak plank, while the walls are textured plaster.

The grand main reception hall is 25’ x 16’ sq ft, the substantial living room is 26’ x 17’ sq ft and includes to bay windows at either end – another classic feature of the Tudor style.

Also on the first floor is a superb 16’ x 10’ sun porch, with a stone floor and Pewbic tile inserts, said to mirror the style of the inserts used in the foyer. The large kitchen (17’ x 13’) is fitted with black walnut cabinets. When the house was built a butler’s pantry (14’ x 7’) connected the kitchen to the dining room, this has since been converted to a sewing room/kitchen-office area. The image below shows the floor plan of the first floor.

Floor Plan – First Floor

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