Welcome to the Detroit Towers – 8162 E Jefferson Ave, Detroit

Probably one of the most elegant and sought after residential buildings in the community is the Detroit Towers.

Constructed in 1925, the distinctive eighteen-story red brick and cast stone tower, overlooks the Detroit River – offering some of the best views in the city.

Built in the Roaring Twenties for luxurious living (at an estimated cost of $1.6 million – around $22m today) the 18-story building contains thirty-four large units, two per floor. Each unit contains 9 rooms including servant’s quarters, and is around 2,400-2,800 sq ft.

Chicago architect Walter W. Aschlager designed the structure. He had a stellar reputation, and was nationally known for his design of hotels, skyscrapers and motion picture palaces. Having established an office in Detroit at the beginning of the 1920’s Aschlager was arguably at the peak of his career when he designed the residence.

Given its prominence and luxurious apartments the new Tower on the river attracted many prominent and wealthy figures from the community, including –

  • Benjamin Gotfredson (Unit 5-B) – president of American Automobile Trimming Company of Detroit. He lived in the Towers for five years from 1925 until 1930.
  • Charles E. Sorensen (Unit 6-A) – vice president and general manager of the Ford Motor Car Company. He lived in the Towers from 1926 until 1945.
  • James Scripps Booth (Unit 15-A) – is the eldest son of George Gough Booth, the director and president of the Detroit News. In 1913, working alongside his uncle William E. Scripps, together they formed the Scripps-Booth Cyclecar Company, which subsequently became a division of Chevrolet in 1916. Booth continued to design automobiles until the mid 1930s, also serving as a trustee for the Cranbrook Foundation and the Detroit Institute of Arts.
  • Howard Crane (Unit 12-B) – a prominent architect throughout Metro Detroit, Crane is arguably the nation’s most accomplished theater designer; he designed over 50 in Detroit alone. He lived in the Towers from 1925 until 1934.

The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. Very little has changed since its construction, and the Towers remain an extremely desirable address.

Unit 6-B is now for sale – the next owner of this superb apartment will have the opportunity to live in one of the most sought after residences in the City of Detroit. Please click here for full details, or to schedule a tour please call Higbie Maxon Agney: 313 886 3400

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 – Welcome to 781 Lake Shore

In amongst the many historic homes on Lake Shore there are a few mid century modern residences.

During the 1950’s/1960’s – a period when the popularity of mid century modern architecture was arguably at its peak – Lake Shore welcomed several new homes in this distinctive architectural style. We recently covered 906 Lake Shore – built in 1954 this home was one of the earlier mid century modern homes to be constructed in the area, and it is a superb example of this design approach. You can read the full story by clicking here.

Ten years later, in 1964, a new addition to the modern collection was completed – 874 Lake Shore. William Hawkins Ferry, a key figure in bringing modernist art and architecture to the attention of people in Detroit and the U.S, 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. You can read the full story by clicking here.

That same year another contemporary home was added to the collection – 781 Lake Shore. This unique 3,090 sq ft home displays all the key features that make this style so distinctive – an understated look, melding clean lines, gentle organic curves, along with the coming together of numerous, and sometimes contrasting materials.

781 Lake Shore, unlike its mid century modern neighbors, is slightly different in its approach. Where as the previous two homes were quite box like in their appearance the predominantly rectangular front elevation of this residence is broken up with a dominant triangular section to create a rather individual architectural statement to the entrance.

Based on our records from 1980 we can introduce you to many stunning interior features that are part of this one of a kind quad-level home. It was custom designed and built for the original owner. The entrance hall features a white Italian marble floor and a cathedral ceiling. Possibly one of the most unique additions to this home is the sunken fishpond with Hawaiian volcanic rock and cascading waterfall that is also present in the area.

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Welcome to 225 Touraine, a Cottage or a Castle?

Welcome to 225 Touraine – a charming gem, nestled in the midst of Grosse Pointe Farms. From the outside it has all the characteristics of an utterly charming little cottage, but on closer inspection this home expands to a large 4,214 sq ft residence, which begs the question…it is a cottage or a castle?

There are a limited number of homes in the Grosse Pointe communities that provide an illusion of size on this scale. Most homes over 4,000 sq ft present us with an instant impression of a large grand home. However, 225 Touraine doesn’t fit the mould – the quaint little country cottage exterior it is quite delightful, whilst the splendid interior is equally appealing.

Oscar C. Gottesleben & Walter A. Bernardi originally built the house for Industrialist D. H. Locke in 1927. We understand the home has remained in the family through four generations.

When we drove past 225 Touraine we were instantly captivated by its beauty and understated presence. The front elevation gives little away. The large-scale chimney with its intricate brickwork might be a dominating presence, but once you enter the limestone-framed front door, with its intricate woodcarving, there is so much more to explore.

The great room features a stunning slate floor, oak paneling, a large stone framed natural fireplace along with the main focal point of the room – a superb 96 pain window. Many of the doorways are set within large archways, which makes for a dramatic view down the long hallways that form many focal points to this home.

Courtesy of realcomp.com

Courtesy of realcomp.com

Courtesy of realcomp.com

Courtesy of realcomp.com

The modern kitchen still showcases the original working Chrysler/Koppin refrigerator – a multi paneled appliance, which was a popular addition to houses of this era.

Courtesy of realcomp.com

The impressive garden is extremely pretty. According to research by the Grosse Pointe Historical Society all four generations have contributed to its design and development. The landscaping includes a rock garden, a massive white oak, English style borders and a plunge pool. The home was included in a ‘Points of Interest’ tour in 2012.

Courtesy of realcomp.com

Courtesy of realcomp.com

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – The Many Faces of Albert Kahn

Several of the architects who created residential work in Grosse Pointe also worked in commercial, industrial and municipal architecture. Albert Kahn was not only capable of working in all these different disciplines, but he was indeed world renowned for some of his innovations.

There are numerous other architects who were as equally diverse, however what makes Kahn almost unique in the world is that he had a separate design language for each type of building – he created modern/ground breaking industrial designs, was open to following the latest trends for his commercial projects, and developed very traditional residences. In a limited group of architects who possessed these skills this makes him quite remarkable.

Kahn’s early career was dominated by residential projects. He then ventured into commercial buildings, added factories to his repertoire, whilst continuing to work on many grand homes throughout Metro Detroit, albeit in a more limited capacity.

In 1894, whilst working as a draftsman for Mason and Rice, Kahn was part of the team who were asked to create the new offices for Hiram Walker and Sons in Windsor, Ontario. One year later, in 1895, at the age of 26, he founded the architectural firm of Albert Kahn Associates. In 1901 he had completed his first industrial project – the Boyer Machine Company in Detroit is the first industrial building attributed to Kahn. Source: The Legacy of Albert Kahn by W. Hawkins Ferry.

In 1903 Kahn was hired to build a new automotive plant for the Packard Motor Company. A contemporary magazine at the time praised Kahn’s design as a new style of factory, bright, clean and cheerful.

The first nine buildings of the plant were of conventional mill construction. Kahn, realized the system could be a fire hazard, and so for the design of building number 10 (in 1905) he switched to the system of reinforced concrete that his brother had perfected – the first of its kind in Detroit. ‘The “Kahn” system soon became established and popular throughout the country’. Source: The Legacy of Albert Kahn by W. Hawkins Ferry.

Packard Plant’s building number 10 during expansion circa 1911 – courtesy of Wikipedia.

Over the next few years Kahn threw himself into industrial design, creating numerous factories for the ever-expanding automobile companies – including the Ford Motor Company Highland Park Plant. This left him with a limited about of time for residential projects which he reserved for a few select clients.

By 1910, his work fell into several defined styles – his industrial work was innovative and groundbreaking, his commercial work was commanding attention for its ‘simplicity and excellence’, while his residential projects were grand traditional masterpieces.

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Welcome to Lakeland – Part 3 (1928 – 1955)

Welcome to part three of our Lakeland exploration in Grosse Pointe City. Over the past couple of weeks we have investigated some fabulous homes. Part one explored several residences completed between 1909 and 1924, while part two presented numerous houses constructed between 1924 and 1927.

Lakeland has a wonderfully diverse selection of architectural styles that have evolved during a period of significant growth in the Grosse Pointes. We are fortunate enough to be able to see the transition that is so clearly evident on this street – from the grand 12,000 sq ft Georgian home created for John M. Dwyer in 1909, to the exquisite French provincial residence completed in 1927, through to the modern colonial home completed in 1955.

We begin our final review of Lakeland with number 340, completed in 1928. Crombie and Stanton, who had completed number 355 Lakeland the previous year, designed it for Arthur B. McGraw.

Built on a large 1.14-Acre lot the stunning English manor house is a brick construction, with slate roof, and 3 stunning interlocking brick chimneys on the front elevation. The front of the 3-storey home features a magnificent bay window, and a wonderfully detailed front entrance with five rows of brick set within a step formation leading to the front door. The large windows result in huge amounts of light flooding each room, thus emphasizing the magnificent architectural detailing that includes a dragon holding a compass in its talons on the textured ceiling in the living room.

In 1933 two bedrooms and a bathroom for the maids were added to the first floor, along with a bedroom suite on the second floor.

340 Lakeland – Courtesy of Grosse Pointe Historical Society

340 Lakeland

Completed in 1929 is number 315. This magnificent 7,274 sq ft Tudor residence was designed by one of Detroit’s most significant architects George D. Mason. As renowned Detroit historian Clarence M. Burton once wrote, quite simple George DeWitt Mason was “the dean of Detroit architects”.

315 Lakeland

315 Lakeland

 

With a career spanning over 50 years Mason created many historic buildings in and around the city, along with several superb homes in Grosse Pointe. Over a period of 21 years he designed 10 homes in the community – grand structures, very distinctive style, with individual personalities. You can read his full story in by clicking here – part 1; part 2; and part 3.

Also finished in 1929 is house number 521 – a 3,179 sq ft Colonial residence. Hilary Micou, who constructed an enormous amount of homes in the Grosse Pointes, built it. Many of his properties span several decades – from the late 1920’s through to the late 1950’s. This is quite possibly one of his earliest projects in the community.

521 Lakeland

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Welcome to Lakeland – Part 2 (1924 – 1927)

Last week we introduced you to the distinguished street of Lakeland (Part 1), and its array of architecturally significant homes created between 1909 and 1924 by a range of talented designers.

This week we continue our exploration as we reveal some of the homes constructed between 1924 and 1927. There are some wonderful works of art, compiling a rich collection of differing architectural approaches.

Lets start with number 411, completed in 1924, by the noted firm of Maul and Lentz. It is a striking 4,882 sq ft brick home with exquisite limestone detailing on the front elevation. The interior features high ceilings, a marble floored foyer, a beautiful wood paneled library along with seven spacious bedrooms. The home was built for Dr. Thaddeus Walker (1870-1939), who was a prominent physician in Detroit.

411 Lakeland – Courtesy of Grosse Pointe Historical Society

411 Lakeland

Walter Maul and Walter Lentz also designed 1007 Bishop Road, Grosse Pointe Park – one of the largest lots on the street. Maul and Lentz, the previous partners of – Walter MacFarlane, both graduated from University of Michigan. Together they designed many historic homes in Indian Village, and the affluent suburbs of Metro Detroit during this era.

John W Case designed number 455 in the same year, 1924. It is 4,494 sq ft and created in a Spanish architectural style with a white stucco exterior and terracotta tiles on the roof – popular in Grosse Pointe during this era.

455 Lakeland – Courtesy of Grosse Pointe Historical Society

Also completed in 1924, is number 430, a splendid 2,848 sq ft brick residence designed by Lancelot Sukert. This architect was a key advocate of the arts and crafts movement in the city during this era. One of Sukert’s more noted projects was the Scarab Club. Completed in 1928 it is an artist’s club, gallery and studio in Detroit’s Cultural Center. It was designated a Michigan State Historic Site in 1974 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Source: Wikipedia.

430 Lakeland

Completed in 1925, number 440 is a Tudor style home designed by Murphy and Burns.

440 Lakeland – Courtesy of Grosse Pointe Historical Society

The Detroit based firm were also responsible for the Graphic Arts Building in 1928. Located at 41-47 Burroughs, the 50,000 sq ft, four-story Italian Romanesque style building (the façade is faced with cream-colored terra cotta) was created to house individuals and businesses associated with the graphic arts.

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Welcome to Lakeland (1909 – 1924)

Over the past couple of weeks we have presented you with the history of the golf course at the Country Club of Detroit, along with a superb mid century modern home located at 906 Lake Shore.

This week, in the first of a three part series, we return to profiling one of the distinguished streets in the community, and its array of architecturally significant homes – welcome to Lakeland, in Grosse Pointe City.

The homes on Lakeland span a multitude of decades – from the beginning of the 20th century through to the 1950’s and beyond. As you can imagine the architectural styles vary a great deal, which provides us with an exciting collection of designs to explore. A talented range of designers who have worked on a substantial number of residences across the Grosse Pointe communities during their respective careers created the homes.

Lets start with possibly the oldest, and largest house on the street number 372. The house was built for John M. Dwyer in 1909. At just under 12,000 Square feet, it is one of the largest residences in Grosse Pointe, and one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in the community. It was designed by Boston architect George Hunt Ingraham who worked in Detroit for a limited number of years from 1907 – 1910 (we believe).

372 Lakeland – courtesy of google.com

372 Lakeland – courtesy of Grosse Pointe Historical Society

The estate, surrounded by a lush formal garden, originally sat across what is now Lakeland Avenue. When the property was constructed a brick wall swept around the entire block from Jefferson to Maumee, and the property was encased by a stunning garden, including a tennis court on the side yard lawn.

372 Lakeland – courtesy of Grosse Pointe Historical Society

At some point in the history of the home, and it is not clear when, the land was sub divided and bisected by Lakeland Avenue. The gigantic Georgian Mansion was moved approximately 100’ and rotated 90 degrees to face Lakeland Avenue, where it still stands.

The house itself became 372 Lakeland, the carriage house now has the address of 17330 Maumee, while the guesthouse became 382 Lakeland. The original wall and iron gates that were part of the original estate still remain and are located on the piece of land at the corner of Lakeland and Maumee.

House number 266 is one of the fabulous Albert Kahn homes that can be found in the community. Built in 1912, the 5,474 sq ft home was constructed for Benjamin F. Tobin, president of Continental Motors. Tobin was one of the many auto executives who chose to locate to the thriving new community in the suburbs during the early 1900’s. The English Tudor style home features 18-rooms, and was recently awarded a bronze historic plaque by the Grosse Pointe Historical Society for its architectural significance to the community.

266 Lakeland – courtesy of Grosse Pointe Historical Society

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – 906 Lake Shore

Many houses on Lake Shore are somewhat of an enigma, grand homes, hidden by a shield of trees and located away from the road – it takes a vivid imagination to envision what they are like.

There is a wonderful blend of the old and the new – the grand mansions built at the beginning of the 20th century, and the mid century modern homes that present us with a glimpse into a unique architectural style that remains popular in Grosse Pointe.

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 the modern home created by William Kessler – located at 874 Lakeshore.

It is the modern style that we focus on today as we introduce you to 906 Lake Shore.

Built in 1954, this 3,692 sq ft house is located on the shores of Lake St. Clair. During a period when the popularity of mid century modern architecture was arguably at its peak, the design displays the key features that make this style so distinctive – an understated look, melding clean lines, gentle organic curves, the coming together of numerous, and sometimes contrasting materials.

The pure white clay brick of 906 Lake Shore enhances the unique appearance of this house. According to our files, this was the first house in Grosse Pointe to use this material, with each brick being hand chipped on all exposed surfaces.

The front curved terrace, expanded stair area and entrance planting area are all faced in brick and topped with Indiana limestone.

The interior of the house features high ceilings and incorporates several unusual finishes. The majority of the wood throughout the house is natural-finished mahogany, selected to give a tropical effect. Mahogany wood paneling is present on the living room and living terrace ceiling, along the hallways and in the study area.

The 12 Shoji doors and 5 windows were imported from Japan. The floor to ceiling windows on the rear elevation measure 11’ x 6’, weigh 800 lbs, and provide a magnificent abundance of natural light – always an integral component to this architectural style.

Floor to ceiling windows on the rear elevation – courtesy of Realtor.com

As is the case with so many mid century modern homes, the house is filled with many planned built-in storage areas – magazine shelves and storage drawers in the reception area, a hobby storage cabinet in the living room, built in music area, cabinets for shoes and clothes in the bedrooms, while the kitchen features an array of multi purpose cabinets and storage options to ensure clean lines and a minimalist feel can be maintained.

Intricate wooden detailing is present throughout – cane paneling in the living room, woven wood tapestry in the guest room, and custom made natural walnut wood shutters in the housekeeper’s room.

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – 18 Holes of History – the Golf Course at the Country Club of Detroit

One of the most popular venues in the Grosse Pointe communities is arguably the golf course at the Country Club of Detroit. Set on 212 acres the club is steeped in history, as are the lush greens and fairways of this prominent course.

Over the years it has been home to a number of prestigious national amateur championships, including the U.S Amateur championship, last played at the course in 1954, won by Arnold Palmer.

The original course first opened in 1927, having been designed by British golf architects Harry Colt and Charles Hugh Alison. Together, during the 1920’s, they designed a number of famous courses throughout the United States. One of their most respected designs is the Milwaukee Country Club in 1929, a course ranked by Golf Digest, in 2007, as one of the Top 50 golf courses in America. They were also responsible for the design of the course located at the Century Club (1927) in Purchase, New York, the course at Plum Hollow Country Club in Southfield, Michigan (1921), and, in conjunction with George Crump, the prestigious Pine Valley Golf Club, (1918), which was ranked the #1 Golf Course in the United States in April 2017. Source: Wikipedia.

Harry Colt was born in 1869. According to research on Wikipedia, during his career he designed over 300 courses (115 on his own) in North America, South America, Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa.

Harry Colt – Courtesy of bathgolfclub.org.uk

Based on research from bathgolfclub.org.uk – at the beginning of the 20th century golf courses had traditionally featured straight lines and sharp angles. Colt softened these lines, introduced curves and created visual challenges to tease and intrigue the golfer. You can read the full story of Harry Colt by clicking here.

Charles Hugh Alison was born in 1883. A renowned British golf course architect, Alison spent a large part of his career working with Harry Colt. Prior to World War 1 Alison had created a couple of courses in the US, but was required to return to England to serve in the army. After the war had ended he left England and returned to America where he would become a respected course designer. During his nine years in the US he designed more than 20 new courses, and redesigning several others, before heading to Japan (in 1930) to continue his work, where he became extremely influential in course design. You can read the full story of Charles Hugh Allison by clicking here.

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