Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – An Exploration – Part 1: Roslyn Road

One of the more intriguing things about living in Grosse Pointe is the array of architectural styles that are visible on every street in the community. There are the older homes, and the more modern residences, homes created by some of the states leading architects, properties with architectural significance, and the homes that may not have been created by a noted designer, but are utterly charming.

Having recently previewed the houses on several prominent roads in Grosse Pointe Farms (most recently Kenwood Road) our thoughts turned to exploring some of the other roads that are part of the five cities. Many of the roads in the community have a superb collection of homes featuring some real gems that we may barely notice. We might not know much about their history, or the architect who created them, but many of these homes are unique and are certainly worth talking about.

Over the next couple of weeks we will be profiling several roads throughout Grosse Pointe, and highlighting some interesting finds. We start our exploration with the first block of Roslyn Road (from Lake Shore to Morningside Drive) in Grosse Pointe Shores.

Many of the homes on this block were created from 1940 onwards. However, in amongst them are several older residences – built between 1920 and 1930 – that are not only attractive but have some delightful details.

Lets start with house number 21 – this 4,400 sq ft Colonial was built in 1922 making it one of the older properties on the block. The design features an excellent example of a rounded gable over the main window above the porch, providing the house with a neat formal appearance.


21 Roslyn Road


21 Roslyn Road

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Grosse Pointe Open Houses for this weekend – Sunday, August 7, 2016 2-4 p.m.

HMA has an open house this weekend—Sunday, August 7,  2016 2-4 p.m.:

Melissa Dagher Singh will be holding open 19937 E.Williams Court, Grosse Pointe Woods

Spacious semi-Ranch located on a quiet cul-de-sac! Family room overlooks beautifully landscaped backyard! First floor bedroom! Two full baths! Solarium with hot tub and sauna! Paver lined walkways! This 2,320 sq. ft. home is listed for $269,900.

19937 E. William


For more detail visit: http://ow.ly/pTvi302YkB6


We look forward to seeing you!


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


Higbie Maxon Agney Open Houses for this weekend

HMA has two open houses this weekend—- Saturday, July 16, 2016 1-3 p.m. and Sunday, July 17, 2016 2-4 p.m.:

Darlene D’Amico will be holding open 19019 Wicklow Drive, Macomb Township

Saturday, July  16, 2016 from 1-3 p.m.

Exceptional brick colonial located in desirable Brook Run subdivision. Four bedrooms, Enormous First floor master with vaulted ceilings, bay window and walk in closet. Oversized Master Bath with jetted tub and extra-large shower. Living Room with dramatic two story foyer, fireplace and views of stairway balcony. First Floor library with wainscoting and large windows. Eat in gourmet kitchen with two bay windows and granite counter tops, island, stainless steel appliances, and extra cabinets. Three additional oversized bedrooms. Beautiful patio and awesome three car garage. This 2,800 sq. ft. home is listed for $339,000.


For more detail please visit: http://ow.ly/2Q9e3027Mgp


Melissa Dagher Singh will be holding open 76 Vernier, Grosse Pointe Shores

Sunday, July 17, 2016 from 2-4 p.m.

Charming Farm house with warp around porch, attached garage with work room. Beautiful grounds surround the house and patio with gazebo roof. Close walking distance to Lake Shore and the lake front community park. This house shows very well, move in condition and very well maintained. House received Grosse Pointe Shores Centennial designation in 2015. This 1,722 sq. ft. home is listed for $285,000.

76 Vernier

For more detail visit: http://ow.ly/fjjj301BQoQ



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 – The Lost Tudor Mansions of Grosse Pointe – Part 2: the Alvan Macauley Mansion

Following on from the story of the Standish Backus Estate located at 725 Lake Shore, we continue with the ‘Lost Tudor Mansions of Grosse Pointe’ and move onto 735 Lake Shore – the Alvan Macauley Mansion – demolished in 1975.

As one of the architectural masterpieces that were constructed on the shores of Lake St. Clair during the golden era of stately mansions, Albert Kahn designed this spectacular home for Alvan Macauley and his family in 1930.

Maccauley Mansion_1 2

Macauley Mansion – Courtesy of www.atdetroit.net/forum/messages/6790/91689.html?1156530865

Prior to the construction of the Backus Mansion (1934) and Rose Terrace (in 1934) the Macauley mansion was one of the ‘stand out’ estates on Lake Shore Drive. Similar in both construction and appearance to the Ford Estate, which had been completed two years earlier in 1929, Kahn applied the same Cotswold traits he had incorporated for Ford into the Macauley’s new home and combined it with the recognized styling’s of the large Tudor manor homes which were now familiar around Grosse Pointe.

The house
It is believed, from research in ‘Buildings of Detroit’ by W. Hawkins Ferry, the Macauley’s were particularly fond of the Tudor and Cotswold styles. Prior to the building of their new residence they had spent several weeks in Worcestershire, England, studying the local architecture, along with purchasing some fine English Antiques.


Albert Kahn’s design for the Macauley mansion was less grandiose than the Ford Estate and more secluded. The exterior of the home was constructed from stone, with the work being completed under the careful supervision of a foreman from the Cotswold region of England. The interior, also employed the same meticulous attention to detail with the Hayden Company of New York completing the skilled woodcarving. The paneling in the grand 45’ x 25’ sq ft living room, which occupies an entire wing, ‘combines a medieval linenfold motif with later Renaissance ornament’ – source: Buildings of Detroit, by W. Hawkins Ferry. Research on www.atdetroit.net states that when the home was demolished the dining room was painstakingly removed and relocated to the Charley’s Crab restaurant in Troy (now owned by private dining company – Lakes) – see both images below.

Macauley Mansion_living room

Living room – Courtesy of www.atdetroit.net/forum/messages/6790/91689.html?1156530865


Living Room – Courtesy of www.lakestroy.com/about/

The 22’ x 22’ sq ft square dining room was sublime and constructed in the George I style. As the floor plan(s) below shows, the second floor featured 5 large bedrooms along with 4 smaller bedrooms (possible for servants) and a large 25’ x 18’ sitting room.



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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – The Lost Tudor Mansions of Grosse Pointe – Part 1: the Standish Backus Estate

After the conclusion of World War 1 the number of mansions in Grosse Pointe grew exponentially. The construction of grand homes for wealthy occupants was visible throughout the community, non more so than on Lake Shore.

Wealthy Detroiter’s were choosing to utilize their prosperity and fortunes by commissioning the architectural crème de la crème to create a one of a kind grandiose mansions for their families.

Arguably some of the most famous homes constructed during this era were the Harley Higbie House (1926), the Roy D. Chapin home (1927), Rose Terrace (1934), the Alvan Macauley Home (1930), the Edsel B. Ford Estate (1929) and the Standish Backus Mansion (1934).


Mrs. Backus

While the majority of these homes have now gone, they are not forgotten. We have already covered several of these homes, and now its time to turn our attention to one of the lost Tudor Mansions – 725 Lakeshore – also known as the Standish Backus Mansion.

The Standish Backus residence was one of Grosse Pointe’s grandest homes. Commissioned by Standish Backus in 1934, Mr. Backus was a lawyer, engineer, general Counsel for General Motors (in 1911) and became President of the Burroughs Adding Machine Company in 1920. The home was situated on a 12-acre estate – once the property of Dudley Woodbridge, son of Michigan’s second governor.

This large estate was as grand as they come. Aside from being a prime example of a Tudor mansion, this property was also noted for its exquisite gardens. Research from the book Tonnancour describes the home accordingly – ‘to enter the Backus estate is to transport oneself back to sixteenth century England’.


Standish Backus Mansion – 725 Lakeshore – courtesy of GP Historical Society


The House

Ralph Adams Cram – courtesy of wikipedia.org

Ralph Adams Cram (a friend of Standish Backus) designed the house in association with local architect Robert O. Derrick. Cram has been described as a ‘prolific and influential American architect of collegiate and ecclesiastical buildings’. Born in New Hampshire in 1863, Cram spent most of his career in Boston. Early on in his career he partnered with Charles Wentworth, before being joined by Bertram Goodhue in 1892. They focused primarily on church commissions, working throughout the United States, Cram was best known for his Gothic Revival Style. Prior to designing the mansion for Mr. Backus it is believed Cram’s only other commission in the area was the Cathedral of St. Paul, Detroit, 1908.

Cram’s residential work, including the Backus home, was primarily in the Tudor style, and heavily influence by Gothic origins. The stone façade, prominent chimneys, mullioned Tudor windows and grand carved entrance are classic traits of an English Country Manor home. Based on research from the book ‘Fletcher Steele, Landscape Architect’ (By Robin S. Karson) Backus was a huge fan of early English architecture, and it was his desire the house was designed in this style. No expense was spared in creating the 40-room residence; the house was finished with beautiful wood paneling, fine mantels and friezes. The home also featured an 8-car garage with electric doors, a telephone system to connect all the rooms, and a walk-in vault to protect the families silver service.

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2015 Annual Report – Grosse Pointe Real Estate

Higbie Maxon Agney is pleased to offer our 2015 Grosse Pointe Real Estate Annual Report – Within this report you will find information on average sale prices, sales volume, real estate trends, and much more.

HMA_report2015 was an extraordinary year for real estate in the community. The last twelve months recorded over $277million in residential sales alone; the largest number of homes sold in the past 5 years – 870; and the year culminated with the highest average price since 2011 – $318,803 – an increase of 48% over the last five years. The past year was also the best year in a decade for million dollar sales– 20 luxury homes sold at $1 million or greater.

Please click on the image to the left to access the full report.

Our goal is to give you an accurate and complete picture of the 2015 Grosse Pointe housing market. All of the graphs were produced internally for Higbie Maxon Agney using MiRealsource and Realcomp II, LTD multiple listing services.

Higbie Maxon Agney is the only brokerage in Grosse Pointe that tracks every single home sale in both multiple listing systems and seeks out and removes inconsistencies in the raw data. We are confident these are the best statistics currently available on the Grosse Pointe housing market, and we hope that you will find the contents of this report readable and useful!

We cannot predict what will happen in 2016 however, we can use this information to help our clients make informed and educated real estate decisions in the coming year.

We look forward to assisting you with any real estate needs you may have in the coming year.



Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Albert Kahn’s Hidden Gem – 1017 Lake Shore

When we think of Albert Kahn’s work in Grosse Pointe we naturally gravitate towards his large-scale projects, such as the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House, 257 Ridge Road, the Grosse Pointe Shores Municipal Building and 880 Lake Shore (to name but a few).

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However, when you reach the corner of Lake Shore, by the Ford House, heading towards St. Clair Shores, have you ever turned your head to the left and wondered who designed the quaint English Cottage hidden amongst the trees?


Designed by Albert Kahn 1017 Lake Shore is arguably one of his least talked about homes and is probably the most modest Kahn building in the Grosse Pointes. But size isn’t everything, and this secluded cottage has just as many intriguing details as one of Kahn’s larger mansions, and probably more charm.

Originally part of the Edsel B. and Eleanor Ford estate, the English Cotswold cottage was built in 1930, after the completion of the main estate in 1929.

The House is located on a large lot (200’ x 250’) and when it was first built it is believed it was surrounded by at least 57 large trees, some of which still remain. The house itself is 2,150 sq ft and is constructed of brick with a tile roof. Like many of his projects the house has beautiful brickwork, highlighted by the striking chimney at the side of the house.




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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.



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.



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


Welcome to 591 Lakeshore, Grosse Pointe Shores

Probably one of Grosse Pointes (if not Metro Detroit’s) most individual homes 591 Lakeshore is a remarkable house. If you look at the property from the outside, you only see a tiny bit of the story. For behind the copper outlined windows, which have helped earn the house it’s nickname of the ‘Darth Vader Home’, is an extraordinary contemporary interior.

Grosse Pointe is filled with some of the most beautiful Colonial Revival, Tudor and Georgian homes in the United States. Most Grosse Pointers would not suspect that inside 591 Lakeshore is one of the most beautiful and sumptuous interiors in the Pointes. The 8,539 sqft house is perfect for entertaining at any level, from an intimate gathering to a grand event.

Built in 1978 the house has magnificent views of Lake St. Clair and the slideshow below offers a glimpse of what 591 Lakeshore is all about.

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Please click here to view the full listing and over 90 photo’s of this extraordinary home.

Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – the William Hawkins Ferry House, 874 Lake Shore.

This article includes research from Brian Vosburg, and his excellent architectural blog: grossepointemodernism.blogspot.com

The houses of Grosse Pointe offer a wonderfully rich and varied style of architecture. Over the years there have been many changes in architectural style around the communities, but when William Kessler designed the house for William Hawkins Ferry, it was a considerable departure from the style of homes Grosse Pointers had become accustomed to.

874 Lakeshore_6

Coutesy of Joseph Messana

The Pointes feature a number of modern buildings, which are the work of many artists who lead the way in popularizing modern design, including: the Grosse Pointe Central Library (Marcel Breuer); 203 Cloverly (The Saarinen’s); the 3 residences by Alden Dow, along with Kessler’s own home located on Cadieux, Grosse Pointe Park.

The architect

kesslerWilliam Kessler was born in 1924 in Pennsylvania. After serving in World War 2, Kessler studied architecture at the Chicago institute of Design, graduating with a BA in 1948. He then attended Harvard University, where he studied and taught with Walter Gropius. After graduating he came to live in Grosse Pointe, working for Minoru Yamasaki.

By 1955 Kessler had established a firm with fellow architect Philip Meathe to form Meathe, Kessler and Associates. He designed his own home in the Pointes, the renowned William and Margot Kessler House (in 1959), where he would reside until his death in 2002.


The artist

Hawkins Ferry

Courtesy of reuther.wayne.edu/images and http://grossepointemodernism.blogspot.com/

William Hawkins Ferry is recognized as a key figure in bringing modernist art and architecture to the attention of people in Detroit and the U.S. He attended Cranbrook School for Boys, learning from Modernist Maestro’s Eliel Saarinen and George Gough Booth. He continued his education at Harvard Design School, the same school Kessler would later attend, where he studied under legendary Bauhaus Founder Walter Gropius, and Marcel Breuer.

In 1964 Mr. Ferry commissioned fellow Modernist architect William Kessler to build an international style villa, to reflect his love of modernism. It was a unique collaboration between two very influential men.


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