Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Architect Charles Noble

It is always fun to profile an architect who not only created large, beautifully detailed structures, but could also turn his hand to designing elegant residences on a vastly smaller scale. For many architects who worked in Detroit during the first 30 years of the twentieth century many of them were capable of adapting to this variation in scale – including Albert Kahn, Louis Kamper and George D. Mason to name but a few.

This week we profile the work of Charles Nobel – born 1890, died in 1955. This versatile architect was very productive in the city of Detroit during the 1920’s, creating several iconic buildings.

Possibly his most famous creation was the Lee Plaza Hotel on West Grand Boulevard. Having received the commission from by Ralph T. Lee – referred to by the Detroit Free Press in 1940 as “Detroit’s most spectacular real estate operator during the 1920s” – he made more than $1 million in 10 years’ (around $15m today): Source historicdetroit.org

Lee Plaza Hotel – Courtesy of detroityes.com

Nobel began working on the Lee Plaza Hotel in 1927. It was a stunning Art Deco inspired 17-story masterpiece. Its steeply sloped roof of red Spanish tile made a dramatic impact on the Detroit skyline. It featured an abundance of beautiful decorative elements inside and out, including Italian marble in the lobby, ornamental ceilings and elaborate plasterwork.

At the time it was one of Detroit’s most elaborate apartment hotels. When the Lee Plaza Hotel opened it contained 220 luxury class apartments ranging from one to four rooms. It cost $2.5 million to build – around $35 million today: Source historicdetroit.org.

In 1931 Charles Nobel created another Iconic Art Deco building – the Kean Apartments. 16 stories high with four apartments per floor, it was one of the last of the large residential apartments built on Jefferson for many years. Nobel’s attention to detail on the buildings exterior was superb, and the intricate details second to none, as displayed by the photo below.

The Kean Apartments – Courtesy of Wikipedia

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – The Dodge Mansion and The Houses on Harbor Hill

Once upon a time, many years ago there was a very successful auto baron by the name of John Dodge. The Dodge family moved to Detroit in 1886, where the two young brothers John and Horace took jobs at a boiler maker plant.

In 1900 John and Horace set up their own machine shop in Detroit. During their first year in business together the brothers’ were making parts for the automobile industry. Success came very quickly. Having won a contract to build transmissions for the Olds Motor Vehicle company in 1902 they were then contracted to build engines for Henry Ford, a deal that also included a share position in the new Ford Motor Company.

By 1910 they had built a plant in Hamtramck, and John was vice president at Ford. In 1913 John left Ford and joined forces again with his brother to form ‘Dodge Brother’s’, where they developed their own line of automobiles. By October 1917 they had produced their first commercial car.

Having become extremely rich very quickly the Dodge brothers were known to live rather extravagantly. In 1906 John commissioned a large home in Arden Park (off Woodward), which was designed by Smith, Hinchman and Grylls. In 1907, shortly after marrying his third wife Matilda, he purchased 320 wooded acres near Rochester, Michigan – the first of nine farms he would buy in the area.

John Dodge – courtesy of Wikipedia

In 1918, in order to be closer to his brother Horrace, John Francis Dodge purchased a large plot of land on Lake Shore, Grosse Pointe Farms. He once again hired the prestigious firm of Smith, Hinchman and Grylls to design what was intended to be the largest home in the Detroit area – 110 rooms, and 24 baths. According to research from the book Tonnancour he added a three-acre peninsula to the property (jutting out into Lake St Clair), in order to dock his new 104-foot power cruiser.

After attending an auto show with his brother in New York, 1920 John tragically died of pneumonia. Matilda was understandably devastated and apparently could not decide whether she wanted to finish the vast stone house on Lake Shore. In 1925, after remarrying, Matilda and her new husband moved to the Rochester property that John had purchased in 1907. Research from the Grosse Pointe Historical Society states the new Rochester home ‘incorporated many details (windows, stonework etc) from the unfinished home on Lake Shore’. This left the home as an empty shell, with the local children having great fun playing in an around it for many years. It was finally dismantled in 1940.

Dodge Mansion – Courtesy of Tonnancour by Arthur Woodford

Shortly after the demolition, the land was sold and the plot subdivided into what is now known as Harbor Hill. During the early 1950’s this area was developed with around 20 homes.

Harbor Hill – Courtesy of Bing.com

The majority of the homes were built between 1950 – 1954 in a variety of architectural styles that included colonial, early American, English, and ranch. Noted architects including John L. Pottle and Omer C. Bouschor designed several homes.

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – 849 Notre Dame – Grosse Pointe’s Rarest Home?

There are many homes in Grosse Pointe that are unique, special and individualistic, but there is potentially only one house in the community that can claim to be a one of a kind home with nothing else like it.

Welcome to 849 Notre Dame. Built in 1926, 849 Notre Dame is quite possible the only Sears Robuck Kit House in Grosse Pointe.


Sears Catalogue Homes (sold under the Sears Modern Homes name) were introduced in 1908 and sold through the company’s’ mail order catalogue until 1942. The kit houses (as they were known after 1916) offered many Americans the chance to afford their own home that they could select and assemble themselves.

Because Sear’s mail-order catalogs were sent to millions of homes, large numbers of potential homeowners were able to open a catalog, see numerous house designs, and visualize their very own ‘Modern Home’.


Courtesy of – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sears_Catalog_Home

The Sears Catalogue, through which the homes could be purchased, offered 370 different models in various architectural styles. Based on research from Wikipedia the kits were shipped by railroad boxcar, and then trucked to the homes location. Many of the kits arrived with approximately 25 tons of materials, with over 30,000 parts. Most of the Sears homeowners would either construct the home themselves or they could hire a contractor to put it all together. The base price of the house did not include plumbing, electrical fixtures or heating systems, however, these could be purchased for an additional cost, thereby allowing families to have a custom built home with many state of the art conveniences.

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – The Work of Lyle Zisler

We have previously covered the extraordinary work by a young, skilled, but lesser known architect by the name of Lyle F. Zisler. Mr. Zisler was an incredibly talented designer of Art Moderne homes. In 1937 he created two ‘stand out’ residences in this style in Grosse Pointe – located at 641 Oxford and 705 Pemberton.

However, like many of these highly skilled, yet lesser-known designers who created homes in the Grosse Pointe Communities, he was adept at devising homes in numerous architectural styles.


Lyle Zisler – courtesy of detroityes.com

There is very little known about Zisler, however we do know he was born in 1910, and died in 1958. He was the architectural editor in 1929 for Michigan Technic (a publication produced by the University of Michigan) and he wrote several papers for the publication.

Mr. Zisler was based in Detroit; he was self-employed and became a member of the American Institute of Architects in 1938.

Having completed the two art moderne homes in 1937, one of which was a residence for himself and his family, Zisler was commissioned to design a further nine homes in Grosse Pointe (that we know of). These homes crossed a range of architectural styles, demonstrating that there was more to this young designer aside from his art deco approach.

From 1937 through to 1940 he created five homes on Oxford (Grosse Pointe Woods), one home in Grosse Pointe Farms, and five in Grosse Pointe Park.

From the homes below we can see the broad spectrum of his creations.

641 South Oxford – Zisler’s own Art Moderne home

The two-story home is 2,099 sq ft, constructed of light-colored sandstone and glass blocks. The design was extremely innovative for its time, featuring a two-story glass block window on the front elevation, and floor to ceiling windows at the back of the house.


641 South Oxford

705 Pemberton – Art Moderne

This house is two-story, constructed of brick with a painted masonry exterior. It also features the large glass blocks, as featured on the house on South Oxford, and at 2,090 sq ft it is almost identical in size to Zisler’s house on Oxford.


705 Pemberton

1024 Audubon – we believe the original home on this plot was built in 1937. A new home (designer unknown) was built in 1951.

734 Middlesex

1061 South Oxford – Central entrance colonial


1061 South Oxford

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – The Modern Colonial Work of Omer C. Bouschor – Part 2

Last week we covered the Tudor work of Omer C. Bouschor. During his career, this Detroit based architect created well over 29 homes in the community – more than many other architects.

The architectural style(s) that influenced Omer C. Bouschor’s homes in Grosse Pointe could be described as be defined by two very distinctive approaches. From the residences we have presented there is a distinct shift from his Tudor Revival homes of the 1930’s, through to the modern colonial homes he created between 1935 and 1954.

This week we explore the 15 modern colonial homes he created across the Grosse Pointe communities. Given that Bouschor’s 14 Tudor inspired homes (during the 1930’s) are clearly the work of a man who was adept at one particular architectural style, it is incredible to think he could so seamlessly transition into designing handsome colonial homes.

Having worked primarily in Grosse Pointe Park during the 1930’s Bouschor, in the 1940’s, began to work in the Farms and the Shores. From the list below you will see just how many superb homes he created during this period.

113 Merriweather

This is one of the earlier homes to display a change in style to his modern colonial approach. Constructed from brick, with a clapboard front on the second floor, this 3,500 sq ft home is poles apart from the Tudor homes he was predominantly creating during the 1930’s, and was possibly his first project in Grosse Pointe Farms.


113 Merriweather

15127 Windmill Pointe Drive


15127 Windmill Pointe Drive – Courtesy of Realtor.com

759 Berkshire


759 Berkshire

1117 Bishop


1117 Bishop – Courtesy of Realtor.com

505 Middlesex

103 Vendome


103 Vendome

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – The Tudor Work of Omer C. Bouschor – Part 1

As is the case with so many prolific architects who created homes in Grosse Pointe, it can be difficult to find information about them professionally and/or personally. This is no reflection on their skills as a designer, but attributed to the number of highly skilled architects who have worked in this area. We are spoilt for choice and it will no doubt take many more years to uncover the many projects that these lesser known, yet highly talented designers created.

This week we present an architect who certainly fits into this category – Omer C. Bouschor. During his career, this Detroit based architect created well over 29 homes in the community – more than many other architects.

Given the number of exquisite homes he has created we felt it was important to showcase this talent, depth and wide-ranging ability to evolve his style based on the architectural trends of the particular era.

What we do know is Omer C. Bouschor’s career (in Grosse Pointe) almost seems to have been divided into two halves – his work pre 1940 and post 1940. There was a distinct shift in his style – from – his Tudor Revival homes of the 1930’s, through to the modern colonial homes he created between 1935 and 1954.

Part 1 of our posts on the homes of Omer C. Bouschor begins with the 14 Tudor Revival inspired homes he created in Grosse Pointe between 1934 and 1941. The majority of these homes are located in Grosse Pointe Park, and it is clear from the design of these homes that Bouschor, at this point in his career, was largely influenced by this approach.

At its height of popularity in the 1920’s, the Tudor Revival style required skill by the architect to reproduce the typical characteristics in the right proportions to create the charm associated with this style. Bouschor was incredibly skilled in designing homes in the Tudor style, and it becomes fairly easy to recognize his superb work, as the following photos will highlight.

752 Barrington

Possibly one of his earliest homes in the Pointes and probably his smallest, this 1,262 sq ft brick residence is charming.


752 Barrington


946 Balfour

This is one of his earlier characteristic Tudor homes to incorporate the distinctive timbered section on the second floor. The 4,850 sq ft house features magnificent detailing inside and out. The interior includes gumwood paneling in the library, a large living room (28’ x 17’ sq ft) with a bay window and a large natural fireplace, along with a beautiful stained glass window on the second floor visible on the front elevation below.


946 Balfour

828 Berkshire


828 Berkshire

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Gardeners World – Landscape Architects: Jens Jensen and Fletcher Steele

Last week we covered the extraordinary work of nationally renowned landscape architect Ellen Biddle Shipman, and her work here in Grosse Pointe.

This week we continue our review of the prominent landscape architects who have worked in the community by profiling two internationally acclaimed designers – Jens Jensen and Fletcher Steele.

While Ellen Biddle Shipman created over 60 gardens in Grosse Pointe – more than any other community in the United States – Jens Jensen and Fletcher Steele designed one garden each respectively. Commissioned by two leading business figures in Detroit, their contribution was to create a beautiful garden that reflected the design of the exquisite home(s).


Jens Jensen: The Edsel and Eleanor Ford House – 1929

Having designed the garden for Henry Ford’s estate in Dearborn, Edsel had gotten to know Jensen and admired his work immensely.

Edsel Ford hired Jensen to work on four residential projects. The first, in 1922, was Edsel and Eleanor’s summer estate ‘Skylands’ in Bay Harbor, which was followed by another of their Michigan residences, ‘Haven Hill’. In 1927 Edsel commissioned Jensen to design the gardens at his new estate in Grosse Pointe Shores. It was Jensen’s largest private commission, and arguably his most ambitious and most challenging project.


View towards the house – courtesy of www.daads.org

Having created a master plan, Jensen’s design at Gaukler Point needed to factor in the mass of water, and the shoreline, whilst accommodating a great meadow – stretching from the house toward the sunset. The great meadow would form the centerpiece to his design.

Based on research from Wikipedia, we know Jensen ‘employed his traditional ‘long view’ giving visitors a glimpse of the residence down the long meadow after passing the entry gates, then only brief partial views along the long drive, and only at the end revealing the entire house and another view back up the long meadow’.

The total area of the Ford Estate (at the time) was 65-acres. Aside from creating the great meadow, Jensen also created a bird-sanctuary (increasing the shoreline to more than 3,000 feet), a lagoon, and a naturalistic swimming pool surrounded by plants from the Michigan woods – source: fordhouse.org The following photo’s are by Carol Betsch (1998) and are courtesy of the Library of American Landscape History (http://lalh.org/)


View to the meadow – Courtesy of lalh.org


View to bird island – Courtesy of lalh.org


View east to lake St. Clair – Courtesy of lalh.org


The rose garden – Courtesy of lalh.org

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Gardeners World – Landscape Architect Ellen Biddle Shipman

As you know Grosse Pointe has a phenomenal array of architecture. Aside from having an abundant collection of residential and commercial structures from some of the nations leading architects, Grosse Pointe was also a hotbed for some of America’s leading landscape architects.

This week we focus on a landscape architect who helped transform the community in a monumental way. In terms of prominence this designer was considered a pioneer in her field during the first half of the 20th century.

Welcome to the work of Grosse Pointe’s most prolific landscape architect Ellen Biddle Shipman.


Courtesy of: http://www.nytimes.com/

Ellen Biddle Shipman was an American landscape architect known for her formal gardens and lush planting style. Throughout her career, she created over 650 gardens, including 60 in Grosse Pointe – more than any other community in the United States.

Born in Philadelphia, 1869, Shipman spent her early childhood in Texas, before moving with her family back to the east coast where she would attend a boarding school in Baltimore. By 1910, having recently divorced, Shipman had begun to establish herself nationally as a talented garden designer. She was living in New Hampshire, close to the Cornish Art Colony, and had recently met architect, and fellow artist Charles A. Platt.

From the 1920’s through to the 1940’s Shipman ran an all-female office in New York, specializing in residential design. During the 1920’s Shipman’s natural skill as a designer and determination allowed her to break into the largely male occupation, while her work was receiving national recognition.


Ellen Shipman in Grosse Pointe
We believe Shipman’s first project in Grosse Pointe was in 1911 – the design of a formal garden at Lake Terrace – the estate owned by John S Newberry. She created a formal garden that often provided a wonderful setting for outdoor weddings, and parties for Newberry’s friends and family. The photo’s below shows some of the stunning floral displays at Lake Terrace (courtesy of the Library of Congress).


Image courtesy of: https://www.loc.gov/


Image courtesy of: https://www.loc.gov/


Image courtesy of: https://www.loc.gov/


Image courtesy of: https://www.loc.gov/

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – An Exploration – Part 4: Bedford Road

Continuing with our review of individual streets in Grosse Pointe, we proceed in our exploration of Grosse Pointe Park and the intriguing street of Bedford.

Many of the houses in the Park were built prior to World War II, created for high-flying executives looking to relocate their families to Grosse Pointe. By the 1940’s the Park had an abundance of architecturally significant homes, located on many prestigious streets, including: Bishop, Kensington, Yorkshire, Edgemont Park, Three Mile Drive, Berkshire, Balfour, Middlesex, Westchester and Bedford (to name but a few).

Bedford has many interesting houses for us to profile including a number of homes created by several noted designers including: John C. Stahl, J. Ivan Dise, Robert Calder, Walter Mast, and William Kuni.

While these designers might not be household names, these architects made a difference to the architectural scene in Metro Detroit. They worked diligently throughout the area, creating houses that left a mark on the communities they touched.

John C. Stahl designed two homes on Bedford – 1006 and 729. Stahl (in collaboration with Donald L. Kinsey) designed 1006 Bedford in 1919 for one of Detroit’s most prominent realtors, John H. Tigchon and his family. 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.


1006 Bedford

This Colonial style 4,000 sq ft home is constructed from brick with a slate roof. It has a classic oversized entrance associated with this architectural style, which is flanked by a row of two columns either side of the door, supporting a roof above the entrance. At the time of completion the house was featured in an edition of Michigan Architect and Engineer as depicted by the black and white image below. You can read the full story of this home by clicking here.


1006 Bedford – Courtesy of Michigan Architect and Engineer

House number 729 was completed in 1938. It is a 4,205 sq ft English Tudor style brick home that features a cathedral ceiling in the great room, along with beautiful natural woodwork throughout. At some point the home was expanded. We believe the expansion, in part, featured an update to the second floor – the master bedroom was altered to be equivalent in size to the living room (18’ x 24’sq ft) and a large master bath (11’ x 14’ sq ft) was also added.


729 Bedford

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Grosse Pointe Open Houses for this weekend – Sunday, October 23, 2016 from 2-4 p.m.

HMA has an open house this weekend — Sunday, October 23, 2016 2-4 p.m.:

Liana Schissel will be holding open 1100 Devonshire, Grosse Pointe Park

Spectacular Move-In ready 4000+ sq. ft Colonial on a large corner lot with an oversized attached garage.  Come and enjoy the expansive center entryway, large dining room, and stunning details throughout this show stopper home.  Tastefully remodeled kitchen (2014) with large butcher block island, newer appliances and a beautiful butler’s pantry complete with secret storage drawers and a gardener’s sink. Refinished hardwood floors and completely new interior paint (2014).  Three fireplaces – Living Room, Master Bedroom and Library. The master bedroom has a large walk-in closet and ensuite bathroom. Beautiful lushly landscaped English garden with a lovely private outdoor patio.  The finished basement has a rec room with laundry, bonus back room, 2 walk in closets for storage as well a half bath.



For more detail visit:  http://ow.ly/cK1x305mNrh


We look forward to seeing you!


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