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.