Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – A Home Fit for an Architect

Having profiled the work of architect Leonard B. Willeke, and the highs and lows of his career, we wanted to conclude our research on this superb architect by profiling the two homes he created for himself – 1100 Berkshire and 1142 Bishop.

The year is 1922 and Willeke is in the midst of completing his initial design for the Oscar Webber mansion (to be located at 22 Webber place). Willeke’s career is soaring; having designed many beautiful creations for his clients Willeke turns his attention to creating a new home for himself and his wife Leona at 1100 Berkshire, Grosse Pointe Park.

The couple, along with their three-year-old son, had previously resided in an apartment located on Elmhurst Avenue, before moving, in 1920, to a new home he had designed on Moss Street, Highland Park. A couple of years after moving in Willeke’s career and income was such that he decided to build a larger residence for himself in Grosse Pointe Park. The decision, it is believed, not only made practical sense from a personal point of view, but also business sense – it would put him closer to the lots he had recently purchased on Balfour to create several speculative homes. (Between 1922 and 1929, he created 7 residences on Balfour that included 4 speculative homes).


Residence on Moss Street, Highland Park – Courtesy of Excellence in Architecture and Design by Thomas Brunk


1100 Berkshire
Willeke referred to the design of his new home as ‘Modern English’. The floor plan has a U-shaped configuration, which not only made it compact and convenient but also provided light and excellent air circulation throughout the house. Research from Thomas Brunk’s book ‘Leonard B. Willeke, Excellence in Architecture and Design’ states ‘Willeke designed the home with two main entrances – one at the front and the second at the side, each with direct access to the library’.


1100 Berkshire

The research continues to describe the 2,974 sq ft home as having a mahogany paneled library, which served as Willeke’s consultation room. ‘The first floor features two levels. The lower level contains the vestibule, main hall, library and the living room, while the dining room, breakfast room, kitchen and living porch are raised (by one foot) and are situated along the back of the house’.

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe –Leonard B. Willeke – A Career of Highs and Lows – Part 2: Coming Back

Part two of the Leonard Willeke story, a career of highs and lows, continues with the architect’s career in 1930 – the financial devastation Willeke suffered from the Great Depression, and how he reestablished his career.

The 1930’s
Having experienced the ultimate high, during the 1920’s, of working with clients such as Henry and Edsel B. Ford, Oscar Webber and William A. Petzold, building many prestigious homes in and around the community Willeke’s income in 1930 was only half that of the previous year, and he was virtually without income during the following three years. Source: Heritage Magazine, 1987.

Willeke’s financial plight in 1932 resulted in him leaving the large home at 1100 Berkshire – he had built for his family in 1922 – and moving to a small apartment on Village Lane. Having weathered the worst of the financial storm Willeke, 1934, began to receive some small remodeling jobs, followed by a commission from attorney Henry C. Bogle for a new home – 433 Lakeland.

Despite his dip in fortunes, Willeke had lost none of his architectural flare. The formal brickwork of 433 Lakeland makes for a classic design, while the irregularly cut shingles provide an interesting design element.


433 Lakeland

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe –Leonard B. Willeke – A Career of Highs and Lows – Part 1: Balfour

Leonard B. Willeke – architect, designer, landscape artist, product, and furniture designer. A genius of his time and yet a man who has only received the credit he deserves within the last 30 years.

The majority of the noted and prominent architects who worked in and around Metro Detroit from 1910 onwards have received endless plaudits and recognition. From both their peers, the architectural community and the real estate market in general, as people seek out to purchase the homes these designers created.

However there is one man who managed to slip through the net, and it is only recently that the work and architectural talent of Leonard B. Willeke is being re-discovered.

One of the unsung hero’s of architecture in Grosse Pointe Leonard B. Willeke was one of the most adaptable and prolific architects to work in the community. He was an extremely versatile designer, and one might say, an unrecognized champion in his contribution in providing Grosse Pointe with some exceptional homes.

WillekeWilleke was virtually a one-man band, and while he had a very successful career he also experienced several dramatic change in fortunes. Having experienced the ultimate high of working with clients such as Henry and Edsel B. Ford, Oscar Webber and William A. Petzold, building many prestigious homes in and around the community, Willeke also experience the ultimate low – financial devastation – courtesy of the Depression.

Part 1 of our story on the highs and lows of Leonard Willeke’s career profiles the fabulous homes he created during the 1920’s on one street in particular – Balfour.

The 1920’s were the golden years for Leonard Willeke. Having completed several large projects (residential and commercial) for Henry Ford, Willeke was commissioned by a number of rather prominent clientele to design homes in Grosse Pointe – including the Oscar Webber mansion – located at 22 Webber place – you can read the full story of this home here. And, amongst others, two rather striking homes on Three Mile Drive – you can read about his homes on Three mile by clicking here.

Balfour, in Grosse Pointe Park received a lot of attention from Willeke during the 1920’s. Between 1922 and 1929, he created 7 residences including 4 speculative homes.

The definition of a speculative home is – ‘a residence built without a particular buyer in mind or under contract, but design to appeal to the maximum market possible’.

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Grosse Pointe’s Best Kept Secret – Edgemont Park

Located between Ellair Place and Park Lane in Grosse Pointe Park is a small unassuming dead end street called Edgemont Park. The secluded road is lined with an abundance of trees, so much so that many of the homes are almost hidden from view. At the end of the street is a small lakefront park, it is believed each family has a key, providing residents with a place to call their own. Edgemont Park is quite beautiful.

The road is home to a handful of residences; there are some superb architectural examples on display created by a number of skilled designers.

The houses are somewhat unique to Edgemont Park. The styles range from French Colonial, English Tudor, through to several excellent examples of Italian Renaissance Revival design. Many of the homes were constructed during the 1920’s and were created by some prominent architects, including: Louis Kamper, Hugh T. Keyes, Clair W. Ditchy, and two homes by Marcus Burrowes,

The Homes:

820 Edgemont: designed by Hugh T. Keyes in 1927, this 9,204 sq ft house is a beautiful property on the shore of Lake St Clair. 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.


Courtesy of Grosse Pointe Historical Society


835 Edgemont: A Colonial home designed in 1925. The architect is not known.


Courtesy of Grosse Pointe Historical Society

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – the manor on the lake – 15366 Windmill Pointe Drive

Located on Windmill Pointe Drive house number 15366 was recently awarded a historic plaque by the Grosse Pointe Historical Society. I was honored to be asked to conduct the research of this residence, and give a presentation at the annual awards ceremony.

The Grosse Pointe Historical Society kindly gave Higbie Maxon permission to share the research (edited for this blog post) in order to present the story of this historic home along with some wonderful photo’s of the property – courtesy of Robin Maghielse.

This home is also the venue for the Historical Society’s ‘Moonlight at the Manor’ Gala Party – on June 9th – tickets are available- please click here for details.

The Architect – William Buck Stratton
It is believed William Buck Stratton first appeared in the Detroit City directory in 1889 while he was working as a draughtsman for the prestigious architectural firm of Mason & Rice.

strattonStratton was an innovative designer and has been described as having a vigorous creative imagination. He had a reputation for staying abreast of the latest trends in commercial and residential architecture; thus allowing him to create designs that were ahead of their time. Stratton was a huge advocate of the Art & Crafts movement in Detroit, along with several others prominent architects including Albert Kahn. As part of the dedication to this movement Stratton helped organize the first and second annual exhibitions of arts and crafts held at the Detroit Museum of Art in 1904 and 1905.

His work in Grosse Pointe demonstrates his diverse range and aptitude for switching between architectural styles. Stratton was very good at adapting his style to the desires of his clients.

During his career, he worked with several partners, creating a number of homes in Grosse Pointe that varied extensively in style. During the 1920’s he worked on numerous commissions in the community including 4 Woodland Place (1922), 365 University Place (1923), 15366 Windmill Pointe, 341 Lakeland (1927), and 938 Three Mile (1927 – Stratton’s own home).


365 University Place

341 Lakeland_a

341 Lakeland

938 Three Mile_a

938 Three Mile

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Grosse Pointe Open Houses for this weekend – Sunday, May 29, 2016 from 1-3 p.m.

HMA has an open house this weekend—-Sunday, May 29, 2016 1-3 p.m.:

Jaime Rae Turnbull will be holding open 1245 Three Mile, Grosse Pointe Park

Remarkable classic English Tudor with old world charm and many modern updates located on spectacular deep lot in the heart of GPP. Custom solid mahogany door, trim and original doors and hardware throughout. Large dining room and living room with stunning limestone fireplace and dramatic staircase. Screened in porch off formal library with built-in book cases and hardwood floor. Awesome family home with large bedrooms and updated bathrooms. Third floor living area with bedroom, bathroom, and living room! ***Seller has repaired all items cited in the City of GPP inspection, estate sale completed and the home is vacant and ready for a new family! *** This 4,027 sq. ft. home is listed for $485,000.

1245 Three mile1

For more details visit: http://ow.ly/Iixh300BYkh


We look forward to seeing you!

For a full list of this weekend’s Open House’s visit: http://ow.ly/OfcZr

Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – a home fit for a realtor – 1006 Bedford Road

In 1919 one of Detroit’s most prominent realtors, John H. Tigchon, commissioned a home, fit for a realtor, to be built for his family on Bedford Road, Grosse Pointe Park.

The home was one of only a few homes in Grosse Pointe to be designed by the architectural firm of John C. Stahl and Donald L. Kinsey. Very little is known about Donald Kinsey, however John C. Stahl was recognized as one of the most skilled church and school architects in the state.

John C. StahlStahl, a German American, was born in Detroit, 1874. After graduating from Central High School (Wayne State University) in 1903 he worked in architectural offices during the day and studied building and design at night school. Stahl had a very successful career, he established the firm of Stahl and Kinsey, before going on to design several churches in Detroit. One of his earliest commissions, and possibly the design he is best known for, is the Frederick Linsell House in1904. The Georgian style home, is located in the middle of Wayne State Campus.

He was known to be an admirer of fine woods and incorporated these into many of his homes, including several he created in the Indian Village Historic District between 1912 and 1916. He had a stellar reputation in Detroit as being ‘strictly ethical in every manner as an architect’. Along with being a member of the American Institute of Architects he was also a member of the Detroit Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and was honored by the Michigan Society of Architects’ – elected president for two terms.


Frederick Linsell House – courtesy of www.doblevych.com – Wayne State University, CC BY-SA 3.0, wikimedia.org

In 1919 Stahl and Kinsey were hired by John H. Tigchon to design a new home on Bedford Road.

At the beginning of the 20th century Mr. Tigchon was one of Detroit’s best-known and successful realtors. Based on research from the book, the History of Wayne County and the City of Detroit (Burton, C. M. and M. Agnes Burton), John Tigchon began his real estate career in 1892. ‘One of his holdings was Windmill Land Company, a subdivision in Grosse Pointe Park. Mr. Tigchon owned from Alter Rd. to Three Mile Drive and from Mack Ave. to the river’. It is believed this subdivision was also created and developed by Tigchon.

His real estate career spanned nearly 30 years; in this time his contribution to ‘the cities growth, development and improvement’ during this era put him at the forefront of the business community, working with an array of high-class clientele. During his career John Tigchon was one of the organizers of the Detroit Real Estate Board, and played an active role in the organization, serving as its president in 1907.

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – 1251 Devonshire – A Gracious and Distinctive Home

There are many homes in and around Grosse Pointe that make you want to just stop and look. Some have a distinctive design, while others are strikingly different from the homes that surround them.

While many homes fall into the latter category, it is the former that applies to 1251 Devonshire, a gracious and distinctive home located in Grosse Pointe Park, created by John W. Case.


Case was born in Geneva, 1864, however it isn’t clear when he moved to the United States. After graduating from high school he studied architecture at the University of Michigan, and majored in architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, before heading back to Europe to continue his studies. During his career he worked in New York, Boston, and Baltimore before ultimately winding up in Detroit, where he was primarily based.

From 1905 to 1920 he also served as the Professor or Architecture at the University of Illinois before returning to Utica, Michigan where he lived until his death in 1937.

In an edition of the American Architect and Building News, dated 1897, John W. Case was acknowledged to be part of a group of local architects, members of the ‘Detroit Architectural Sketch Club’ who were asked to give a public lecture on Architectural History, and each prepare a paper. This group also included Albert Kahn, Louis Kamper, H. J. M Grylls and Emil Lorch.

With regards to his work at 1251 Devonshire, Case created the modern colonial home for George W. Yeoman in 1918. The 3,833 sq ft home is featured extensively in a 1919 edition of ‘Michigan Architect and Engineer’, which also featured some wonderful photos of the property (please see below – courtesy of books.google.com).


The Library – courtesy of Michigan Architect and Engineer – books.google.com


Entrance Hall – courtesy of Michigan Architect and Engineer – books.google.com


Dining Room – courtesy of Michigan Architect and Engineer – books.google.com

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – The Leonard B. Willeke Houses of Three Mile Drive

Willeke 2During a distinguished career Leonard Bernard Willeke, the Cincinnati and Detroit based architect, designed close to 30 homes in Grosse Pointe, and many more around Metro Detroit. During the 1920’s, his golden era, Willieke had a stellar reputation for designing outstanding homes for wealthy clients. He created some exquisite mansions in Grosse Pointe Park, including the largest residence of his career, the Oscar Webber mansion in 1925.

Many streets around Grosse Pointe Park have at least two or more of his homes, including Berkshire, Balfour and Three Mile Drive.

The three Willeke homes on Three Mile are arguably some of his finest examples. Two of these homes are located next door to each other on a street that includes the work of several noted architects.

Located at 1010 and 1012 both homes are a wonderful examples of English Tudor design, they were constructed within a year of each other, and built for two leading businessmen, including William A. Petzold, secretary and treasurer of J.L Hudson and Company, and Raymond J. Purdy, president and co-founder of the Ainsworth Manufacturing Company.

1010 Three Mile
It is believed, through his project with Oscar Webber, the VP of J.L Hudson and Company, Willeke became acquainted with William A. Petzold, who commissioned the architect to design a large Tudor residence and garden in 1928.


1010 Three Mile Drive

Petzold was widely known in the business circles of Detroit. He first became associated with Hudson’s in 1881, starting at the company as a clothing merchant, where he quickly climbed the corporate ladder to become secretary and treasurer in 1899 – the same year as he was admitted to the State of Michigan bar. Mr. Petzold married Josephine Thompson (sister of William B. Thompson, the Mayor of Detroit in 1911 and 1912) and together they had five children.

The home Willeke created for the Petzold family is constructed of solid masonry and features traditional timbers associated with the Tudor Style, filled with stucco between each timber. The 3-story home is around 6,100 sq ft, the first floor features a large living room (18’ x 30’), dining room (14’ x 20’), and a sun room (14’ x 20’), along with 5 large bedrooms on the second floor, and a ballroom, complete with stage, and 3 additional bedrooms (for maids) on the third floor.

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – An Estate Fit for ‘a King’ – 740 Whittier

We recently profiled the work of Richard H. Marr, known as the ‘Architect of Midwest Millionaires’, who created upper end homes for some of Detroit’s wealthiest families.

It is believed Marr designed over 14 stunning homes in Palmer Woods, most of which were in the Tudor Style, and over seven residences here in Grosse Pointe. He specialized in designing residential projects and apartments, working primarily in Detroit and the surrounding suburbs. During his career he created many stunning homes, most of which were in the Tudor architectural style.

At its height of popularity in the 1920’s, the Tudor style required skill by the architect to reproduce the typical characteristics in the right proportions in order to create the charm associated with this style.

Given Marr’s skill at Tudor design and for creating something special, 740 Whittier, Grosse Pointe Park, combines superb charm and beauty, along with meticulous attention to detail.


Marr was commissioned by C. F Bohn, who was also known as the ‘aluminum king’, to create a dream home on shores of Lake St. Clair. C. F Bohn was the President of the Bohn Aluminum and Brass Corporation, believed to have been formed in the 1920’s when the C. F. Bohn Foundry Company merged with the General Aluminum and Brass Company.

From research on theoldmotor.com the C. F Bohn Foundry Company was located near the Packard Plant, supplying ‘high quality aluminum and brass specialty castings to Packard along with many other automobile companies in the city. After WWI the company began to grow quickly with plans to build two modern furnaces for melting and refining brass.

Bohn’s new home on Whittier was built in 1933. The 6,842 sq ft residence sits on the shores of Lake St. Clair on a massive 1.7-acre lot. It is believed Richard Marr utilized ideas from Europe and America when he designed this home, integrating many handsome features.


Courtesy of Bing.com

The home has been described as having two fronts, one facing the street and the other the garden and the lake. Constructed from brick and Gothic Indiana Limestone, with a slate roof, the design incorporates the traditional timbers (associated with the Tudor style) on both the front and the rear elevations.


740 Whittier – courtesy of realtor.com

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