Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – A lasting impression – architectural firm Smith, Hinchman & Grylls

Commercial, Cultural, Educational, Industrial, Residential – Smith, Hinchman and Grylls offered a wonderfully diverse portfolio, designing many iconic buildings in Detroit along with creating several prominent buildings in Grosse Pointe.

224 Vendome

224 Vendome

We recently profiled one of their grandest residential projects in the community 15530 Windmill Pointe, Grosse Pointe Park – you can read the full story here – while touching briefly on the firm’s history, and acknowledging the group’s extraordinary talent at adjusting stylistically to the preference of the client.

According to research from Michiganmodern.org Smith, Hinchman and Grylls is one of the oldest architectural firms in America. Sheldon Smith, a self-taught architect, started the company in 1853 in Ohio, having gained experience with his brother, an architect on the east coast. In 1855 he moved the company to Detroit.

In 1861, Smith’s son Mortimer, a formally trained architect, became a partner in the firm, but sadly it would not lengthy collaboration, Smith Snr. passed in 1869. After his fathers death, Mortimer began to expand the office and it is reported the office became a popular place for up-and coming architects to train and gain experience. One such novice was George D. Mason, who would go on to become one of Metro’s Detroit’s most outstanding and influential architects.

The firm grew quickly, gaining a stellar reputation in creating large commercial and civic structures throughout the area. In 1896 two graduates of the University of Michigan College of Engineering – Theodore H. Hinchman, and Henry G. Field – joined the firm, utilizing their engineering talents to design many large-scale projects such as the Hiram Walker & Sons distillery in 1904.

In 1906 Henry G. Field left the firm and H.J Maxwell Grylls joined the company as a partner, there was no looking back. The firm of Smith, Hinchman and Grylls surged forward completing a multitude of projects, which continue to this day in the form of SmithGroupJJR. The company now ranks as the United States’ 7th largest architectural and engineering firm (Building Design & Construction, July 2015) and employs 800.

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Grosse Pointes Grandest Home? – 15530 Windmill Pointe Drive

Take a walk down Windmill Pointe, Grosse Pointe Park, and it can feel like you have entered an architectural exhibition, with so many classical works on display it is hard to know where to look first.

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A prime example is the house located at 15530 Windmill Pointe – possibly Grosse Pointes grandest home? It is certainly a contender for the prize, but already faces stiff competition from its next-door neighbors 15520 Windmill Pointe – the superb home created by Alpheus W. Chittenden for John B. Ford arrived in Grosse Pointe in 1928 – you can read the full story here. And then there is 15500 Windmill Pointe, built in 1927 by Benjamin and Straight for Colonel Jesse G. Vincent this is also a contender for Grosse Pointe’s most distinctive home – click here to see why.

Renowned architectural firm Smith, Hinchman & Grylls designed 15530 Windmill Pointe in 1929 for Hal H. Smith, a partner in a leading Detroit law firm, Beaumont, Smith and Harris. As a member of the Detroit Museum of Art Founders Society, Mr. Smith was a patron of the arts, and played a pivotal role in the promotion and appreciation of art in Detroit.

Prior to working on the house at Windmill Pointe Smith, Hinchman & Grylls (SHG) already had a stellar reputation in Detroit for designing large commercial and civic projects, creating iconic buildings such as –

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Despite their work on these larger scale projects the firm of SHG were just as skilled in residential projects. According to research on Michiganmodern.org early on in the firms history, the Smith firm (as it was known prior to 1906) was adept at ‘adjusting stylistically to the preference of the client, taking inspiration and copying from architecture books to design various Classical Revival style structures’. By 1906 the firm had taken on two new partners and was subsequently renamed Smith, Hinchman & Grylls. By the end of World War I the firm had over 270 staff, and Michiganmodern.org states ‘during the 1920’s the firm stayed true to its design roots, producing classically inspired architecture throughout Metro Detroit’.*

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – The French Normandy Architectural Styling’s of Wallace Frost

Having previously delved into the homes Wallace Frost created in Grosse Pointe, we decided to take it one step further and focus on two of his most unique homes in the community – 242 Lewiston and16632 East Jefferson. Built in 1926 these homes were each constructed on nearly an acre of land, feature lovely stonework, are complimentary of their surroundings, and built for privacy.

From what we know about Wallace Frost it is clear he was a huge fan of French Normandy architecture, which became popular in America just after the First World War. The influence is clear on several of his projects, and his work inside and out on these homes is exquisite.

242 Lewiston
Located in Grosse Pointe Farms, between Ridge and Charlevoix, this home is a beautiful hidden gem. Built in 1926, this 4,500 sq ft home is unique to the site in that it is situated on a significant slope, and designed accordingly. Wallace Frost clearly had a great deal of fun designing this home, creating many private patios and entrances that blend into the landscape, so much so, it is barely visible from the road. A Detroit based Realtor in 1967 described the lot as a ‘rolling country-style terrain landscaped for privacy’.

242 Lewiston

242 Lewiston

The 3-story residence is in a French Country style. French Country was often derived from a combination of French Normandy and French provincial architecture. This home is constructed from a distinctive blend of brick veneer, cut fieldstone and concrete; the original roof was wood shingle. The hand hewn beams and individually cut stones Frost incorporated into the design, provide some superb detailing to the exterior.

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Welcome to Bishop Road – Pure Style – Part 2.

We recently told the story of the first block of Bishop Road; it’s early development, and the history of house numbers 1014 and 1015.

With many of the homes reading like a who’s who of talented architects who designed them, and wealthy families who commissioned them, we continue the story with house numbers 1007 and 1008.

The Homes

1007 Bishop Road
Designed in 1923 by architects Maul and Lentz, the house is located on one of the largest lots on Bishop Road (if not Grosse Pointe Park) and was built for Michael J. Murphy, chairman of the Murphy Chair Company in Detroit.

1007

The English Tudor Manor is set on 1½ acres. At 9,000 sq ft it is one of the largest homes on the block. This impressive home is three stories tall, the first floor includes an expansive living room (21’ x 32’ sq ft), a large dining room (12’ x 29’ sq ft) a huge kitchen (15’ x 22’ sq ft), a library (14’ x 22’ sq ft) and a games room (13’ x 20’ sq ft). Each of these rooms also features a fireplace; there are eight in total in the home. The second floor features 5 family bedrooms, each with its own bathroom and a further 4 smaller bedrooms located in the servants’ wing. There is an additional maids room located on the 3rd floor. The house is particularly unique in that an elevator was installed at the time of the build to assist Eliza, Murphy’s wife who was sick, avoid having to climb the stairs – it is located in the black marble foyer.

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Welcome to Bishop Road – Pure Style – Part 1.

The first block of Bishop Road (between Jefferson and Maumee) reads like a who’s who of prominent families and architects from the 1920’s. This block has such prominence this will be a two part series.

Built for high-flying executives looking to relocate their families to Grosse Pointe, the requirement(s) for grand homes close to Lake St. Clair began to attract many noted architects. While some of these architects were Detroit based, others came from further afield and were of national prominence. They may not have designed many homes in Grosse Pointe, but what they did contribute is a rare and treasured find.

Bishop Road was originally created from the division of two early ribbon farms. The even numbered homes were part of the Simon Poupard Farm that also includes Yorkshire Road, while the odd numbered homes were located on land that was part of the Joeseph Socier Farm.

According to the Grosse Pointe historical Society, it is believed the name of the road comes from the location of a summer home (on Bishop) for the Roman Catholic bishop for the Archdiocese of Detroit, Casper Henry Borgess. It is also noted in research by Bruce L. Sanders that during the Second World War, residents on the first couple of blocks on Bishop would use the vacant lot of 1030 Bishop as a “victory garden”.

Development

Prior to the depression Grosse Pointe prospered. Detroit was one of the most affluent cities in North America and with it came some very wealthy families.

Bishop along with several other roads in Grosse Pointe Park – Yorkshire and Kensington – to name but a few, were undergoing a dramatic transformation. The late 1910’s and the 1920’s were bringing affluence, prominent families, noted architects and the construction of many large homes to the area, with several featuring in a magazine of this period ‘Michigan Architect and Engineer’.

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1015 Bishop – courtesy of the Grosse Pointe Historical Society

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Classic Colonial Beauty –1014 Bishop Road.

Take a walk up Bishop Road in Grosse Pointe Park. It is a collection of architectural styles, a myriad of classic designs and a compilation of some of the finest homes in the Park, created by Detroit’s leading architects in the early 20th century.

Bishop

The road runs from Lake St. Clair, crosses over E Jefferson Avenue, St Paul, Charlevoix and comes to an end at Mack Avenue. The 1910’s and 1920’s brought the first wave of homes to Bishop, Kensington and Yorkshire and with them a collection of top-notch designers, including J. Ivan Dise, George W. Graves, Don L. Kinsey and Leonard B. Willeke.

In the first block, from Jefferson, is house number 1014, the first house to be built on Bishop. It was designed by the architectural partnership of Alpheus Chittenden and Charles Kotting, a Detroit based firm that was founded in 1903. During their 13 years together Chittenden and Kotting worked predominantly in Detroit’s elite neighborhoods’ such as Indian Village and Grosse Pointe, designing the Detroit Boat Club on Belle Isle.

Boat Club, Belle Isle - Courtesy of the Detroit Publishing Co.

Boat Club, Belle Isle – Courtesy of the Detroit Publishing Co.

Their work here in Grosse Pointe included many stunning homes including 15520 Windmill Pointe, two additional homes on Bishop, and two large residences on McKinley Place – 35 and 43 – to name but a few.

15520 Windmill Pointe

15520 Windmill Pointe

35 McKinley Place

35 McKinley Place

43 McKinley Place

43 McKinley Place

Their work at 1014 Bishop began in 1914, when Harry C. Walker, president of the Walker & Co, an Outdoor Advertising Company based in Detroit, commissioned the duo to design a home for his family on Bishop.

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Grosse Pointe Open Houses for Sunday, June, 7, 2015 2-4 p.m.

HMA has two open houses this weekend- Sunday, June, 7, 2015, 2-4 p.m.

Michelle Agosta will be holding open 1035 Yorkshire, Grosse Pointe Park

Beautiful 4 bedroom, 3 1/2 bath, 3 car garage colonial in Grosse Pointe Park on a great street.  Home has large rooms for entertaining with an open floor plan feeling.  Kitchen is newer with granite counters and breakfast bar.  Large master bedroom suite and walk in closet.  House is situated on a large lot that provides privacy and plenty of space for outdoor play. Plenty of grass plus a very large deck.  This home is move in ready and just waiting for its next owners! This 3,200 sq. ft. home is listed for $479,000.

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For more detail visit: http://ow.ly/NV8h6

 

 

Drew Wrosch will be holding open 1485 Fairholme, Grosse Pointe Woods

Beautiful well maintained and updated Cape Cod style home on a quite family friendly street.  NEW kitchen with bamboo flooring and maple cabinets. NEW roof. Replacement windows. 3 fireplaces. Spacious master suite w/walk-in closet, fireplace, full bath. Central A/C AND attic fan. NEWER furnace. Fabulous enclosed walk-through breezeway w/fireplace. Large basement w/wet bar. Grosse Pointe schools and steps away from Sweeney Park! This 1,813 sq. ft. home is listed for $225,000.

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For more detail visit: http://ow.ly/NV9i7

 

We look forward to seeing you!

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

 

Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – 745 Balfour – a house full of stories

Nestled in the middle of Balfour, is house number 745, and like many homes in Grosse Pointe it has an interesting tale to tell. For behind the attractive, understated exterior is the interior of one of Metro Detroit’s most outstanding homes, and a house full of stories.

745_OldThe Beginning:

Ivan Dise  Clair DitchyThe story begins with its construction in 1927. 745 Balfour was one of the three collaborative projects in Grosse Pointe between Detroit architects J. Ivan Dise and Clair William Ditchy*. Both men, early on in their careers, had worked in the office of Albert Kahn for several years, leaving to form their own partnership that would last from 1921 to 1926.

Having completed the homes at 1003 Buckingham and 986 Lochmoor (in 1924) Dise and Ditchy started work on 745 Balfour in 1925. It was a home they would not complete, accomplished architect Leonard Willeke finished the project in 1927 for the first owner of the home Harry J. Stoops.**

The 4,245 sqft Colonial Style residence is constructed of pressed face brick over solid masonry and includes an attached two-car garage along with a separate two-story carriage house with basement.

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The carriage house was built with living quarters on the second floor (for staff), a garage area on the first floor and workrooms in the basement. It comes complete with a utility elevator that runs from the basement to the second floor.

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Welcome to Middlesex, the most interesting street in Grosse Pointe?

When it comes to finding the most interesting street in Grosse Pointe there are several that lay claim to the prize. There is the historic district of Beverly Road, the architectural gems on Kenwood and Cloverly with homes designed by some of the most prominent architects to work in Grosse Pointe. The historical homes on Lakeshore, the homes on Windmill Pointe Drive with the interesting stories to tell and then there is Middlesex.

Middlesex, located in Grosse Pointe Park, is certainly a serious contender to the prize. The road has it all, noted families; homes by prominent architects, a house constructed from a rare award winning method, and the setting for a Pulitzer Prize winning novel.

Take a walk down the quiet tree lined suburban road and you will find many of the homes have an interesting story to tell. The road runs from Windmill Pointe Drive, to Essex Avenue in Grosse Pointe Park. Half way up is house number 701, which is where we will begin.

701 Middlesex:

Built in 1951, the house was built for a reputed Mafia enforcer as an alleged ‘party house’ for the mob.*

The 7,481 sqft Georgian Colonial style home originally featured 7 bedrooms, 4 baths, 3 fireplaces along with 3 bars, two game rooms, a wine cellar, spa and card room. Along with a three-car garage, and a driveway with enough space for a half-dozen more cars.

701 Middlesex.

No expense was spared in decorating the home. Italian marble is used extensively in the foyer, and many rooms feature a striking use of tile including a working Pewabic tile fountain. Some of the rooms are wood paneled and there is even a leather-upholstered bar in the basement which contains a large initial ‘C’ above the hearth.

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It is reported that all the door frames are steel reinforced; the entrance door is inches thick and contains a peephole sized to accommodate a gun barrel.

It is also suspected there is a ‘secret room’ in the middle of the home and it is thought a tunnel once led from the basement to the house across the street – 702 Middlesex – which was home to ‘the boss’.

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Architect – Alden B. Dow.

We couldn’t cover the modern homes of Grosse Pointe without featuring the work of Michigan’s most prominent modernist architect Alden B. Dow. He designed more than 70 residences, along with dozens of churches, schools, civic centers, and commercial buildings.

His home in Midland made the 2014 list of “The Top 25 Best Historic Homes in America” (In Traditional Home Magazine), and Grosse Pointe is lucky enough to have three prime examples of his work. He was a prolific designer throughout the state and his contribution to modern homes of that era is second to none.

alden_dow_1960sAlden Dow was born in 1904 in Midland, Michigan, son of Herbert Henry Dow, the chemical industrialist and founder of the Dow Chemical Company. After graduating from high school, Alden Dow was expected to join his father’s company and studied engineering at the University of Michigan. After three years, he decided on a different path and transferred to Columbia University in New York City to study architecture.

After graduating (in 1931), and having spent a year and a half with architectural firm Frantz and Spence in Saginaw, Dow and his wife relocated to Spring Green, Wisconsin to become an apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright in the Taliesin Studio.

Having completed his apprenticeship Dow returned to Midland, Michigan (in 1934) and opened his own architectural practice, specializing (like Wright) in the principles of organic architecture.

Dow described his organic design philosophy as:

“Gardens never end and buildings never begin”

Between 1934 and 1941 Dow designed his own home and studio in Midland on a 23-acre property. The house was constructed using of Dow’s patented “Unit Blocks” which were molded masonry units designed to allow strong vertical and horizontal lines, thereby eliminating the zigzag joints in standard cinder blocks which he said were disturbing to the eye*.

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