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.
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.