Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Welcome to the World of Richard E. Raseman

Welcome to the world of Richard E. Raseman – by no means a prolific architect in Grosse Pointe but possibly one of Detroit’s earliest acknowledged designers.

Born in Germany in 1855, Richard E. Raseman became a recognized architect in Detroit in 1883. He primarily specialized in industrial design and designed several breweries in Detroit, along with the original Eison Illuminating Company (now demolished and replicated at Greenfield Village).

At the beginning of his career, in 1885, Raseman formed a partnership with fellow German Julius Hess – a well-known architect in Detroit whose style centered on a medieval approach. Their collaboration ended in 1891, and both architects continued to work under their own names (Hess died in 1899).

Noted for his use of heavy stone and Richardson Romanesque inspired approach, Raseman continued to establish a name for himself in the city, having successfully completed, in1895, the superb Beaux Arts inspired design for the Harmonie Club, East Grand Avenue. Raseman, in association with Hess, also created the unique and instantly recognizable Grand Army of the Republic building in 1899 (located at 1942 West Grand River Avenue), the Metropol Building (1898), the Cary Building (1906), and the Hemmeter Building (1911)

GAR Building – Courtesy of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Army_of_the_Republic_Building

In 1914 Raseman arrived in Grosse Pointe for his first residential project in the community – located at 44 Beverly Road. It is an immense 7,100 sq ft home designed in a Spanish architectural style. It was commissioned by William Cornelius Crowley; a director at the Detroit based Crowley-Milner Company – a wholesale dry goods business.

Mr. Crowley resided in the home until his death in 1928. Eddie Rickenbaker – the World War 1 ‘Ace of Aces’, then purchased the house, and lived there for one year. John Dryden, director and president of the Borg-Warner Company, subsequently purchased it.

The image below from a 1916 edition of the Western Architect depicts the home superbly.

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Homes with International Style

International Style is an important architectural movement that began to gain popularity during the 1920’s and 1930’s. The term “International Style” first came into play via a 1932 exhibition organized by American architects Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson – ‘Modern Architecture: International Exhibition’, which declared and labeled the architecture of the early 20th century as the “International Style“. Source: Wikipedia

The International Style began to gather pace in the US at the beginning of the 1930’s. Many US cities on the East Coast began to construct skyscrapers – lead by pioneering architects in this moment such as Philip Johnson – whilst ground breaking residential projects were being created by Frank Lloyd Wright and Eliel Saarinen to name but a few.

Based on research from Wikipedia the most common characteristics of International Style buildings are said to be: rectilinear forms; light, open interior spaces, and taut plane surfaces that have been completely stripped of applied ornamentation and decoration.

Here in Grosse Pointe, during the 1930’s, several international style projects had begun to appear in the community including: 766 Westchester, 888 Pemberton (by Alden Dow), and 641 Oxford, 705 Pemberton (by Lyle Zisler).

766 Westchester

888 Pemberton

641 Oxford

705 Pemberton

Louis Rossetti, in conjunction with Raymond Giffels & Victor Vallet, created several international style homes in the community during this era, including – 10 Provencal, 780 Grand Marais, 1119 Harvard, and his own home located at 1145 Balfour (in 1945).

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Moving With The Times – 41 Provencal

In the late nineteenth century an international movement of decorative and fine arts had begun in Britain. Known as the Arts and Crafts movement it stood for traditional craftsmanship using simple forms whilst harnessing natural materials. The Arts and Crafts movement flourished in Europe and North America between 1880 and 1910, heavily influencing art and architecture.

The first Arts and Crafts Society in the United States was established in Boston in 1897. In 1906 a similar society was formed in Detroit, believed to be the second such organization in the United States. At the time many of the leading architects in Detroit were huge advocates of the movement including William Buck Stratton and Albert Kahn who was one of the original-founding members of the society.

Both Stratton and Kahn were huge exponents of the Arts and Crafts movement in the City, regularly employing key components of the style into their residential projects. As part of the dedication to the societies expansion Stratton helped organize the first and second annual exhibitions of arts and crafts – held at the Detroit Museum of Art in 1904 and 1905. By 1916 the organization became the first Arts and Crafts society in the US to construct its own building. Source: www.detroit1701.org

In 1906 Albert Kahn was commissioned by Lewis H. Jones to design a large mansion in Indian Village – located at 8191 East Jefferson Avenue. Lewis H. Jones was president of the Detroit Copper and Brass Rolling Mills Company, along with being an active official in many other large manufacturing projects and organizations throughout the City.

The design of the home Albert Kahn conceived for Lewis Jones was one of grandeur. It encompassed a classic Tudor Revival style along with keeping the spirit of the Arts and Crafts Movement throughout.

The home at its 8191 East Jefferson Avenue location –  Courtesy of detroityes.com

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Grosse Pointe’s Kit Homes – Part 3

Previously, we presented a brief overview into the history of kit homes in North America, whilst last week we told the story of several “probable” kit homes in Grosse Pointe and offered a brief introduction on how to go about identifying a kit home.

This week, in this final part of our kit home series, we delve a little further into two further “probable” kit homes in the Grosse Pointes. We use the word “probable” because these homes have yet to be authenticated. Given that none of the traditional kit house companies are still in business, and because many of the kit home records were either lost or destroyed it can be extremely difficult to authenticate these homes.

During the height of kit home popularity the price of a kit home varied dramatically. The costs were dependent on the manufacturer, the architectural style and size of the home, the choice of floor plan, plus any upgrades the purchaser wanted to include such as advanced technology – updated pluming and heating systems for instance. Prices, in 1920, were in the vicinity of $1,500 – $3,000 (around $21,000 – $41,000 today), however the land, brick, concrete, and/or masonry were not included in the price, neither was construction. It is believed, based on some excellent research by Andrew & Wendy Mutch, via their blog ‘Kit House Hunters’, the final cost of the home, when completed could escalate to between 2-3 times the list price in the catalogue. So a home listed for $1500 in a catalogue could actually cost $3000 – $4500 when complete.

It is believed ‘much of the profit in the kit home business came from the mortgage financing that accompanied the sale, and not the materials or the house itself’. Source antiquehomestyle.com. It should also be noted, that several kit home companies either went out of business or had to be drastically restructured as a result of the mortgage packages (they had offered to their customers) having a detrimental effect on the company.

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Grosse Pointes Kit Homes – Part 2

Last week we told the story of the authenticated kit homes in Grosse Pointe. We already knew about the existence of a kit home in the community – 849 Notre Dame, and thanks to a superb blog ‘American Kit Homes’ we were alerted to an additional authenticated kit home – 1100 Bishop, along with several “probable” kit homes that exist in the Pointes.

We use the word “probable” because these homes have yet to be authenticated. Given that none of the traditional kit house companies are still in business, and because many of the kit home records were either lost or destroyed it can be extremely difficult to authenticate these homes.

It is these “probable” kit homes we now turn our attention to in parts 2 and 3 of the Kit Home series.

Identifying Kit Homes
The majority of the kit homes found in North America were constructed using large amounts of lumber. ‘Every separate piece of lumber was stamped (using numbers and letters), shipped, and cut to fit its particular place in the house.’ Source: Wikipedia. This eliminated the need for measuring and cutting the wood on site, thus reducing construction time.

The stamped lumber can be used as a potential source of authentication to identify many of the kit homes constructed prior to 1930. ‘It is most easily found in unfinished spaces like a basement or attic, framing members were stamped with a letter and a number. However, prior to 1916 many companies, such as Sears Modern Homes, did not stamp the lumber that was shipped Source: Wikipedia.

Another clue is matching the style of the houses to the product pages in the catalogues issued by the manufacturing companies. It is this method; based on research found on ‘American Kit Homes’, which also includes additional research by Ben Gravel, that allows us to share these potential Sears Modern Homes with you –

Sears Modern Homes
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 Sears Catalogue, through which the homes could be purchased, offered 370 different models in various architectural styles.

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’.

It is believed there are over 400 Sears Kit homes in Michigan, with the majority located in the Southeastern area of the state. Source: Kit House Hunters 

Image courtesy of: www.searshomes.org

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Grosse Pointes Kit Homes – Part 1

We recently explored 849 Notre Dame, believing it to be the only kit home in Grosse Pointe. Turns out it is the only Sears Robuck Kit Home’ in Grosse Pointe, but there are in fact other kit homes in the community.

849 Notre Dame

Thanks to a wonderful blog ‘American Kit Homes’, which also included additional research by Ben Gravel, we were alerted to several more possible kit homes in the community.

We would like to introduce you to these homes. This week we will tell the story of an authenticated kit home – 1100 Bishop, and next week we will explore the “probable” kit homes that exist in the Woods and the City.

Kit homes, also known as mail-order homes or catalogue homes, became popular in the United States and Canada in the first half of the 20th Century. Between 1908 and 1940 over 100,000 kit homes were built in the United States: Source Wikipedia. Several companies, (with many based in Michigan and Illinois, including major competitors – Sears Modern Homes, Aladdin and Sterling Homes), offered houses with an abundance of plans and styles. The designs ranged from simple bungalows to more complex colonials.

The majority of the materials, supplied at a fixed price, were delivered initially by railroad to the local area, and then by truck to the construction site.

A typical house would contain between 10,000 – 30,000 components. Brick, concrete, and/or masonry were not included in the price, neither was construction. Upon delivery the purchaser would then either build the house themselves of hire local contractors to construct the home.

Kit homes were typically advertised in magazines and newspapers, and sold through mail-order catalogues. The purchaser could opt to purchase a standard kit or upgrade the design to include additional options such as extra rooms and advanced technology, such as updated pluming and heating systems. Prices, in 1920, were in the vicinity of $1,500 – $3,000 (around $21,000 – $41,000 today).

Courtesy of: https://www.flickr.com/photos/daily-bungalow/

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Architect D. Allen Wright

It is always fun to come across an architect whose work crosses a broad spectrum of architectural styles and era’s. When one can only wonder how a designer can transition from creating a classically designed French Provincial style home in 1928 to designing a floor plan for an innovative post-war suburban home in 1943.

Welcome to the world of D. Allen Wright, a ‘widely known American architect’ but with very little information available about his career. Despite the lack of details we have been able to piece together a brief insight into the absorbing work of this versatile designer.

We know that Wright, a Detroit based architect, took a break from his architectural career to serve overseas for 17 months with the 107th Engineers, 32nd Division. On his return he took up his old position at the firm of renowned Detroit architect Alvin E. Harley.

We are not sure how long Wright spent working for Alvin Harley, but we certainly know Mr. Harley was an extremely accomplished architect; himself creating several superb homes in Grosse Pointe, including 1005 Three Mile Drive.

D. Allen Wright designed at least 15 houses (that we know of) in Grosse Pointe. Many of these residences are large French inspired homes, however as we investigate his projects further, it soon becomes apparent over a period of about 14 years his architectural style changed significantly.

Wright’s designs between 1926 and 1930 were based on French architectural styles, typically French Normandy and Provencal.

The French Normandy country house was the primary inspiration for the American Norman style. It began to become popular shortly after the First World War when French chateaus were a model of inspiration. Typical traits of this approach include a round stone tower toped by a conical cone-shaped roof, a steeply pitched roof, stone façade, an arched opening to the main entrance, tall narrow chimneys along with an asymmetrical configuration to the home.

The French Provencal style is slightly less imposing, and utterly charming. The key features tend to be symmetry and balance. Many of the exteriors are stone and feature long windows on the first floor, a steeply pitched roof, and tall slender chimney’s. Many of the doors and windows are arched and adorned by shutters.

French style architecture, particularly Provencal, was extremely popular in Grosse Pointe during the 1920’s through to the 1940’s. Wright’s homes provide us with an excellent example of this architectural approach. His homes in the style include –

79 Kenwood – Grosse Pointe Farms – 1926

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Welcome to Three Mile Drive – An Eclectic Mix: Part 2

Having explored several homes on Three Mile drive last week, we continue our journey with the review of eight further homes. The creation of these homes span several generations – from one of the earliest to appear on the street, number 805 (in 1917) to one of the newer homes to be constructed, number 1011 (in 1954).

Despite the obvious age gap, the architects that were responsible were prominent designers in their respective era’s. Given that the change in architectural style altered significantly from the early 20th century through to mid century, it is a testament to the skill of these men that none of these homes look out of place on a street that has such an eclectic mix of homes.

So lets begin with one of the older homes on Three Mile Drive, number 805, designed in 1917 by Charles Kotting. Born in Holland in 1865 Mr. Kotting worked on both commercial buildings and residential projects throughout Metro Detroit. He created several stunning large homes in Grosse Pointe between 1905 and 1930. This classically designed 4,710 sq ft Tudor Revival home has exquisite detailing on the front elevation, and has many superb characteristics associated with this architectural style including the half timbering, brick and white stucco finish, along with the smaller windows on the upper floor. It certainly makes an impressive statement at the beginning of the road.

805 Three Mile Dr.

George D. Mason. An architectural superstar, renowned Detroit historian Clarence M. Burton once wrote, quite simply George DeWitt Mason was “the dean of Detroit architects”. With a career spanning over 50 years George D. Mason created many historic buildings in and around the city, including several homes in Grosse Pointe, 9 of which (that we know of) are still standing. Here on Three Mile Mason created number 1175 for Frank E. Fisher in 1925. This substantial 8,166 sq ft house is designed in the English Cottage style, which was very popular in Grosse Pointe during this era.

Image courtesy of: www.detroit.lib.mi.us/featuredcollection/burton-historical-collection

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Welcome to Three Mile Drive – An Eclectic Mix: Part 1

Continuing with our series of blog posts profiling the homes on a specific street, this week we venture up Three Mile Drive and bring you the first of two blog posts on the eclectic mix of homes featuring everything from ballrooms to bomb shelters.

Arguably one of Grosse Pointes most prominent streets, Three-Mile Drive features a mix of large residences created by some of Detroit’s more accomplished architects. These designer’s contributed to creating a number of homes in Grosse Pointe at a time when the community was firmly establishing itself as one of the more prestigious neighborhoods in South Eastern Michigan.

The houses on Three Mile Drive are a mix of grand, unique and classically designed homes, encompassing Tudor, Spanish Villa, Georgian and Colonial architectural styles. Predominantly many of the homes were built during the 1920’s – a period when many of Detroit’s leading businessmen were selecting to build grand homes in Grosse Pointe.

The homes we are about to review represent a mere handful of special homes on this road. There are many more we would like to review, some of which will be covered in Part 2 of this blog post, while others we will review at a later date.

We begin our review of Three Mile Drive with a look at the work of Robert Calder, and his design of number 823, built in 1955. Calder designed many homes in Grosse Pointe primarily during the 1940’s and 1950’s, including one of the newer homes on Three Mile. This residence is a large 4,609 sq ft brick asymmetrical Colonial Home. In a listing from 1982 the home is believed to have a large 17’ x 27’ sq ft living room, four bedrooms, maids quarters, and a bomb shelter in the basement.

823 Three Mile Dr

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Top Producers of 2016!

Higbie Maxon Agney congratulates the Top Producers of 2016!

Jaime Rae Turnbull, Libby Follis, Dennis Andrus, Michelle Agosta, Darlene D’Amico and Heather Adragna Ulku!