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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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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Architect George V. Pottle and his residential/theatre-designing associates

There are so many beautiful streets and homes in Grosse Pointe Park; it is difficult to decide where to go next – this week we have chosen to venture down Whittier.

We last visited this street when we profiled house number 740 – the grand Tudor home designed by Richard H. Marr for C. F Bohn in 1933 – you can read the full story of this house by clicking here.

Now is the turn of number 812, a striking brick residence designed by George Valentine. Pottle, for Charles L, Gollarno in 1927. We believe it is possibly Pottle’s only project in the community.

Created in an English architectural style the 4,650 sq ft home features elegant brickwork and fine limestone detailing around the front door and the handsome windows. The chimney is particularly distinctive on the front elevation. The house itself features four bedrooms, multiple natural fireplaces along with a spacious entry hall (23’ x 13’) and a butler’s pantry (12’ x 8’) – as depicted in the floor plan below.

George V. Pottle was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1875. Having studied at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, Pottle, in 1893, returned to Dayton to take up his first drafting position. He subsequently worked in architectural practices in Massachusetts and Virginia, before arriving in Detroit in 1901. He worked as a draftsman in the city until 1905 before setting up his own practice, becoming a respected architect in the city, and a member of the American Institute of architects.

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Architect Alvin E. Harley

Since the beginning of the 20th century the number of architects who have worked in Grosse Pointe has been vast. Many of the talented designers who received commissions here have gained endless acclaim becoming household names, while, often, others slip through the net and don’t receive the accolades and attention they deserve.

One such designer who could be described as fitting into the latter category is Alvin E. Harley.

Born in Canada in 1884, Alvin Harley began his architectural career drafting in the office of Herbert Matthews in London, Ontario, where he would stay for three years. Following his apprenticeship, Harley had a desire to work as an architect in a big city. He headed for America and the booming city of Detroit, where he would eventually become part of the ‘golden generation’ of architects who would forever transform the architectural scene of not only Detroit, but also arguably the United States.

Having arrived in Detroit, Harley was 19 when he joined Albert Kahn’s firm in 1903. He worked for Kahn as an apprentice and draftsman for two years – during the latter part of his career Harley was quoted “The two years I spent with Mr. Kahn were probably my most inspirational”. Source: http://history.harleyellisdevereaux.com

Having left his position with Kahn in 1905, Harley went to work for Detroit’s other leading architect, George D. Mason. Based on research on http://history.harleyellisdevereaux.com Mason believed Harley was too focused on industrial design, and so ‘sent him to special art and architectural classes in order to introduce him to different architectural and design style’s’.

In 1908, after three years of working for Mason’s firm, Harley, along with Norman Swain Atcheson (a co-worker form Masons firm) launched their own firm together – their partnership would last for five years – during an era of severe economic downturn. They created several buildings in Detroit before going on to have successful careers of their own.

From 1913 onwards Alvin E. Harley had his own practice. Having received a commission to design a large home for the then president of the Chalmers Motor Company, Hugh Chalmers, Harley’s residential projects took off and he never looked back. He designed at least eight homes in the elite neighborhood of Palmer Woods, which were quickly followed by several noted commissions in Bloomfield Hills, and Grosse Pointe Park.

By 1920 Harley’s reputation had grown quickly, so much so, that in 1921 he served as the president of the Michigan Society of Architects.

Here is Grosse Pointe, over a period of three years; Harley designed at least seven homes, all of which are located in Grosse Pointe Park. He was a fan of the Tudor approach, which is reflected in several of the homes he created here.

The first, built in 1924, is located at 1328 Berkshire. This classic Tudor design features superb brickwork and exquisite detailing throughout.

1328 Berkshire – Courtesy of Grosse Pointe Historical Society

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – The Old and the New: Sunningdale – Part 2

When you drive up a road in Grosse Pointe, frequently you cant help but stop and look at the houses on display. One day, having been driving around the Pointes, we found ourselves on Sunningdale Drive. Aside from the pristine gardens on display the diversity of the architecture captured our attention.

While it was obvious some homes are much older than others, it also quickly became apparent the newer houses on the street had been designed to respect their ‘elderly’ neighbors.

Assembling a collection of architectural styles is never easy – arguably homes constructed during the past 30 years do not resemble the homes from a by-gone era – namely the 1920’s and 1930’s. However, there are exceptions, which is evident in the modern constructions on this street.

Welcome to part two of our presentation on Sunningdale. Last week we covered the homes completed before 1940, this week we turn our attention to the later creations.

Lets start with number 717. This is the second home on the street by distinguished architect Marcus Burrows. Having completed number 942 in 1926, this 2,960 sq ft clapboard colonial house is a significant departure from Burrows typical brick built English Revival Style residences. It is a particularly striking house with the four dominant porticos on the front elevation and the delicate arches below the roofline. It not only demonstrates Burrows diversity as an architect but the streets evolving architectural style.

717 Sunningdale

Number 87 was completed in 1942 and is a pretty Cape Cod style home. The Cape Cod Style is present throughout the Pointes and became increasing popular during the 1940’s and onwards.

87 Sunningdale

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – The Old and the New: Sunningdale – Part 1

Regular readers to our blog will know over the past few months we have profiled numerous streets around the Pointes – covering their history, many of the wonderful homes, along with the noted architects who worked on these respective roads. We have featured several prestigious roads in the Farms, along with some prominent streets in the Park and the City.

This week we turn our attention to Grosse Pointe Shores, and the old and the new homes we find on the distinguished street of Sunningdale.

Sunningdale, like so many streets in the community, is one without a definitive architectural style, which makes it interesting. There is the collection of homes built prior to 1940, a range of homes that were built around the 1950’s (a period of extensive growth in this area), and the newer homes, built in the 2000’s – reminiscent of homes from a by-gone era.

In Part 1 of our Sunningdale presentation we profile some of the older homes built before 1940.

Lets start with one of the older homes on the street, number 80, built in 1926. This Handsome English Tudor with its distinctive triangular features, and intricate brickwork is around 5,000 sq ft. Over the decades English Tudor homes became a particular popular style on Sunningdale and were continuing to be built well into the 1950’s.

80 Sunningdale

80 Sunningdale

Also built in 1926 is number 942. It was designed by one of the most talented and versatile architects to work in Grosse Pointe Marcus Burrowes. During his career Burrows designed over 1000 buildings in and near Detroit, including residential, public and municipal projects. You can read his full story by clicking here.

942 Sunningdale

In 1920 Burrowes joined forces with Frank Eurich (a graduate from Cornell University) and together they designed over 10 homes in Grosse Pointe. During this era Burrowes was widely known throughout southeast Michigan for his English Revival Style buildings, an approach he also brought to the Grosse Pointe communities, including this home on Sunningdale. This 4,600 sq ft home features a grand living room (30’ x 20’), a large dining room (22’ x 18’) with a bay window, and service stairs. There are four bedrooms (the master has a natural fireplace) along with a large open 3rd floor, which, at the time could have been used as a ballroom – extremely popular during this era.

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