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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Lothrop, an elegant street

Last week we explored the superb lost estate of 15440 Windmill Pointe, the former home to real estate mogul Herbert V. Book, and later Charles Helin, the fishing lure entrepreneur.

This week we head to Grosse Pointe Farms, and to one of the communities most elegant streets – Lothrop. Running from Grosse Pointe Blvd the street meanders through Grosse Pointe Farms, ending at the top of Moran Rd, close to Mack Avenue.

We will be focusing on several homes on the first block, built within a period of 20 years – between 1928 and 1948. Despite being constructed across three different decades each of these homes has a wonderful individual elegance to them.

Lets start with number 99, created by distinguished architect Charles A. Platt. He was a self-trained architect, and is considered one of America’s more influential landscape designers. Allen F. Edwards commissioned 99 Lothrop, and it was Edwards second project with Platt. It is reported the project cost roughly $2m (roughly $29m today) when the project was completed in 1928.

99 Lothrop

It is a stately manor home, in the colonial style, constructed of brick with a slate roof. The 8,000-sqft residence features a large living room (21ft x 36ft), dining room (21ft x 19ft), kitchen (12ft x 21ft) and a library (19ft x 17ft) on the first floor. There are 9 bedrooms in total, 7 on the second floor (which included 2 bedrooms for the maids) and 2 further bedrooms on the third floor. Platt brought in renowned landscape designer Ellen Shipman – known for her formal gardens and lush planting style – to create the garden. Shipman was a familiar face in Grosse Pointe having previously worked on the gardens at Rose Terrace (in 1926), and ‘Lake Terrace’ – the John S Newberry House (in 1911).

Prior to his work at Lothrop, Charles Platt had created several prestigious homes in the community, including: –17315 East Jefferson (for Mrs. Arthur McGraw House, 1927), 241 Lake Shore (for Henry Stephen’s, 1913) and 32 Lake Shore (Alger House, now the Grosse Pointe War memorial in 1910).

Number 75 is a 4,714 sq ft home built in 1937 by the partnership of Derrick and Gamber. Robert O. Derrick was one of Grosse Pointes most well known and prolific architects with over 25 buildings to his name across the Grosse Pointe communities. Having previously held the position of Vice President at the Detroit firm of Brown, Derrick and Preston, he embarked on several solo projects before teaming up with Branson V. Gamber.

75 Lothrop

Born in 1893 Gamber was educated at the Drexel Institute of Art and Science in Philadelphia. It is unclear when he relocated to Detroit, but it is believed he joined the firm of Robert O. Derrick in the early 1930’s. Together they received several prestigious commissions across the Detroit Metropolitan area. Arguably their most noted project came from Henry Ford I, who hired the duo to create an exact copy of Independence Hall (in Philadelphia) at Greenfield Village, in Dearborn. Source: A History of Detroit’s Palmer Park, by Gregory C. Piazza. A further project of note was the art deco inspired Theodore Levin U.S. Courthouse (231 W. Lafayette Blvd, opened in 1934). You can read the full story about Robert O. Derrick by clicking here.

Theodore Levin U.S. Courthouse – courtesy of historicdetroit.org

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Architect Charles A. Platt

Charles A. Platt, renowned artist, landscape gardener, landscape designer and architect. He designed several buildings in the Detroit area, including at least 5 in Grosse Pointe. While he may not have been the most prolific architect in the community, his work here proved to be of huge significance.

Charles A. PlattPlatt was born in New York City in 1861. He trained as a landscape painter, and as an etcher before attending the National Academy of Design and Art Students League in New York, followed by further training at the Académie Julian in Paris.

In 1885 he exhibited his paintings and etchings at the official art exhibition of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris, gaining him wide acclaim. Over the next five years he made hundreds of etchings of architecture and landscapes, receiving a bronze medal at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1900.

On his return to North America Platt turned his attention to architectural projects, predominantly on the east coast of the United States. With his array of artistic skills Platt was able to employ his talents across all aspects of his work and quickly became known for integrating stunning villas with beautiful gardens. Most of his residential works were in the Italian renaissance style.

In 1907 Platt was commissioned to design a home in Indian Village for Allen F. Edwards, located at 776 Seminole Avenue. It would begin a long association with Edwards, Platt designed a second home for him in Grosse Pointe – located at 99 Lothrop – several Years later.

However, before we get to 99 Lothrop we have several stops to make along the way to explore Platt’s other projects in Grosse Pointe.

Alger House (32 Lake Shore) – 1910

In 1910 Platt received a commission to design a year round residence for the Alger Family. Platt’s growing reputation for creating large country estates, integrating the house within its setting and gardens was particular important to the success of this design. Alger’s new home resembled an Italian Renaissance Villa, set on 4.5 acres, the property fast became one the finest country estates on Lake Shore Drive, built on one of the highest priced plots along the lake.

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The house has two stories on the street side, and three stories facing the lake. The main section of the house is rectangular with symmetrical front and rear facades, with a low-pitched tile roof. Iron balconies and a set of French doors open out to a magnificent view of the lake, while the front facade boasts an exquisite doorway framed with stone and iron. The natural variation in ground levels proved to be the perfect canvas to create stunning landscape features that would accompany the house almost perfectly.

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Alger resided in the house until his death in 1930. Between 1936 and 1948, the house was used by the Detroit Institute of Arts as a branch museum. In 1949 the Alger family donated the estate to the Grosse Pointe War Memorial to serve as a perpetual memorial to the 3,500 Grosse Pointers who served and the 126 who died in World War II.

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