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Historical Art of Grosse Pointe – 50th Anniversary of the Higbie Maxon Agney logo

We hope you had a wonderful Independence Day!

This week we wanted to tell the story of a historical piece of art and celebrate its 50th anniversary – our very own distinctive Higbie Maxon Agney logo.

Originally commissioned by Mr. Higbie, the initial logo was created in 1967 by the prestigious design team of Walter Buhl Ford and Harley Earl, owners’ of Ford and Earl Associates.

Over the course of its history it has undergone several iterations to the original design in order to reflect the changes to the companies name – as depicted by the three images below.

Harley Earl was an industrial designer, and a pioneer in changing the way cars were designed in the US. As the originator of sculpted clay models as a design technique in the auto industry, he was also instrumental in creating the wraparound windshield, the hardtop sedan, factory two-tone paint, and tail fins: Source Wikipedia.

Harley Earl – Courtesy of Wikipedia

Earl was major influence in modernizing the auto industry, its culture, and is remembered as the first styling chief in the United States. In December 1999, he was ranked, by the Detroit Fee Press, as the third most significant Michigan artist of the 20th century, behind Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder. Source Wikipedia.

In 1945, Earl, while continuing in his role as head of GM styling, set up his own consulting firm, specializing in design, packaging and exhibits.

Walter Buhl Ford II, an influential patron of the Arts at the DIA, and the College for Creative Studies, was a descendent of Detroit’s banking Ford family. In 1943 he married Josephine Clay Ford, the granddaughter of Henry Ford. He graduated with a degree in architecture from Yale University and worked under Harley Earl at General Motors. In 1948 Ford established his own company, focusing on space planning, industrial design and interior design.

In 1964 Harley J. Earl, and Walter Buhl Ford merged their respective companies to create Ford and Earl Associates.

We are very proud of the history and heritage of our wonderful logo, and feel very honored that two such prestigious designers created such a distinctive emblem for our company that was established 88 years ago.

 

Written by Katie Doelle
Copyright © 2017 Higbie Maxon Agney & Katie Doelle

 

If you have a home, building or street you would like us to profile please contact Darby Moran – Darby@higbiemaxon.com – we will try and feature the property.

(For more historical information on Grosse Pointe, visit Grosse Pointe Historical Society).

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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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Architect D. Allen Wright – Part 2

It is quite common for us to research an architect, write a blog post and then discover additional homes that he created. Many of the architects who worked in Grosse Pointe created so many homes, it can be challenging to find out everything about them in one go, and so it is always a delight to find new projects we didn’t cover the first time around.

This week we revisit the work of D. Allen Wright, and present six new projects – you can read our first blog post about this talented designer by clicking here.

D. Allen Wright designed over 20 buildings (that we know of) in Grosse Pointe. Between 1926 and 1930 many of projects were large French inspired homes, typically French Normandy and Provencal architectural styles. 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.

Post 1930 Wright’s style began to evolve considerably. Many of his designs displayed characteristics of modern architecture that was gaining popularity throughout Europe and America – thanks to the growing popularity of the Bauhaus in Germany.

The following six Wright homes primarily fall within the French inspired phase of his career, and include three separate sets of terraced houses/condo’s on Rivard.

Two sets of these terraces were completed in 1926. The first set, located halfway up the first block of Rivard, clearly displays recognizable Tudor characteristics – the brick exterior incorporates a distinctive timbered section. The units vary considerably in size. Number 335 is around 3,000 sq ft, while unit 339 is closer to 1,791 sq ft.

339 Rivard

The second set of terraces, also completed in 1926, revert back to Wrights typical French style that he so heavily favored during this era. Located on the corner of Rivard and Charles they incorporate number 424, a pretty 2,700 sq ft home, featuring 5 bedrooms. This is now classed as a separate residence, but at the time was a key central feature of this construction.

Terraces on the corner of Rivard and Charles – including number 424

Street view of the terraces – courtesy of Google.com

Number 424 – present day

706 Balfour is a classic center entrance brick colonial completed in 1927. The 3,400 sq ft residence features fine architectural detail, and a unique octagonal dining room – sadly we do not have photos of this room.

706 Balfour

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – the Detroit News Plan Book Homes of Grosse Pointe

Last year we ran a series of blog posts on the kit homes of Grosse Pointe. Several of these homes were authenticated, while others were identified as ‘probable kit homes’ due to the lack of supporting evidence.

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.

This week we can add another chapter to our kit home story – the Detroit News Plan Book Homes – of which there are at least four (that we know of) found in Grosse Pointe. Thanks to research on the wonderful blog ‘American Kit Homes’ we are able to present the story of these four residences.

From information found of the blog we understand that ‘for many years, newspapers and other news publications sold home plans, some through their own publication, and others via a homebuilders catalogue’.

During the early 1920’s, the Detroit News sold home plans. The plans sold through this publication, other similar publications, along with the Home Builders catalogue, allowed people to purchase home plans in order to build their own home.

During the 1920’s the ‘build your own home’ market was arguably in its hey day with many companies competing in this sector – from the various publications selling home plans through to the major kit home manufacturers who had the substantial share of the market.

Many of the homes available in the home build sector bore similarities to homes sold by competing firms. The design were, after all, influenced by the architectural trends of the era, and many clients were looking to purchase homes of similar style, size and price. This particular home plan sold by the Detroit News was no exception, bearing similarities (internal and external) with several kit homes from the leading manufacturers – Sears BarringtonSears BrookwoodAladdin NewcastleAladdin Sovereign, or Wardway Maywood.’ Source: American Kit Homes.

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Rivard – Part 2

Regular readers to our blog will know we recently began to explore the street of Rivard – a prominent street in Grosse Pointe whose name is associated with one of the earliest French farming families to settle in the community – The Rivard’s.

Rivard is a particularly interesting road, given the clear transition in architectural styles – from the earlier clapboard colonial homes constructed around 1918 through to the English Tudor and brick homes built after 1922.

If you travel up the street from Jefferson, it is clear the homes on the first block are very different – in terms of design – than the homes that exist beyond the second block to Mack. However, the quality of the homes does not diminish, given the caliber of the architects who were commissioned to work on this street.

Having covered some of the homes constructed from 1918 – 1922, this week we turn our attention to a range of homes built between 1924 and 1928, which, as you will see, display a broad range of design styles.

Built in 1924, number 649 was designed by architect John Senese. The 2,598 sq ft home is a symmetrical Dutch Colonial home and features clapboard on the exterior of the second floor. Traditionally, clapboards in North America were made of split oak, pine or spruce.

Very little is known about John Senese, but he did a nice job with the design of this home during an era when the Dutch Colonial style was becoming increasingly popular in Grosse Pointe.

649 Rivard

Barton Wood designed a classic English Tudor, number 699, in 1926. Having grown up and studied architecture and engineering at Stanford University, Barton Dixon Wood transferred to the University of Michigan to conclude his studies, before partnering with Samuel F. Abraham to form the firm of Abraham & wood. He lived at 695 Rivard (built in 1930), however it is not clear if and when he moved into this home or whether he designed it. Barton Wood also designed 845 Edgemont Park in 1928.

699 Rivard

695 Rivard

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Rivard – Part 1

As with so many of the streets in Grosse Pointe, there is a rich, and checkered past. Many of the streets we have come to take for granted date back hundreds of years, and represent far more than just a street name.

Some of the older road names in Grosse Pointe are Rivard, Renaud, Vernier, Grand Marais, Provencal and Beaufait (to name but a few), which, you may have noticed, have a distinctly French theme to them.

During the eighteenth century the French occupied much of the farmland that was so important to the Grosse Pointe area. During this era it is believed the area was heavily wooded and swampy, however it proved to be a great area for farming. Many of the early farms generally had around 300 feet of water frontage, ran one – two miles inland, and were owned by some very familiar names (as mentioned above), that we now recognize.

One of the earliest French farmers to settle in the Grosse Pointe region was the Rivard Family. Having taken ownership of a ribbon farm in 1762 the Rivard’s were a prominent family in the community.

Shortly after moving to the area Jean Baptiste Rivard married a young woman of German descent and together they had 13 children. After the death of Jean Baptiste in 1805, two of his sons (Charles and Francois) managed the land, which was ultimately sold by Farncois’s son around 1852. According to research in the book Tonnanour – ‘The sale of the land coincided with the end of the French ribbon farm system. During this period, Wayne County began to divide into sections and the township of Grosse Pointe became independent in 1848’.

Today the Rivard name remains very prominent in the community and the street is home to many grand residences. Over the next couple of weeks we will be presenting some of these homes, starting with the earliest – constructed between 1918 and 1922.

Number 482 was completed in 1918, having been designed by the prominent firm of Stratton and Snyder. The 3,200 sq ft home is designed in a colonial architectural style with a clapboard exterior, and steeply pitched roof.

William Buck Stratton and Dalton J. V Snyder worked together between 1918-1925, and created several homes in Grosse Pointe including: 4 Woodland Place, 365 University Place, 341 Lakeland and 15366 Windmill Pointe.

482 Rivard

482 Rivard

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Welcome to 1051 Berkshire

Welcome to one of the most individual homes in Grosse Pointe – 1051 Berkshire. Not only does the house have a very individualistic design it was also one of the few residences created by the Detroit based firm of Donaldson & Meier.

Donaldson & Meier were well known for their church work in Detroit and southeastern Michigan. John M. Donaldson and Henry J. Meier founded the firm in 1880. Donaldson was born in Scotland in 1854 and immigrated to Detroit with his family as a child. He had a wide and varied architectural education – after graduating from school he returned to Europe to study at the Art Academy in Munich, Germany and at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

John Donaldson – Courtesy of Wikipedia

Henry Meier – Courtesy of Wikipedia

Much of their early work together centered on designing churches, employing the Richardson Romanesque style in many of their designs. However, as architectural styles evolved so did their approach, which is certainly reflected in the Art Deco David Stott Building Donaldson completed in 1929.

David Stott Building – Courtesy of Wikipedia

In 1917 Henry J. Meier passed. Donaldson continued to run the firm, creating many unique buildings. This includes the rare residential project located at 1051 Berkshire.

Based on research at the Grosse Pointe Historical Society we understand the home was designed to resemble a château that French born Victor R. Heftler had admired on a visit to France.

Known as the “Coin de France” Heftler commissioned the home for his family in 1929. The 4,159 sq ft 3 story house is designed with a French Normandy architectural approach, which is evident in its central turret, slate roof and stucco and stone façade.

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