Leonard B. Willeke – architect, designer, landscape artist, product, and furniture designer. A genius of his time and yet a man who has only received the credit he deserves within the last 30 years.
The majority of the noted and prominent architects who worked in and around Metro Detroit from 1910 onwards have received endless plaudits and recognition. From both their peers, the architectural community and the real estate market in general, as people seek out to purchase the homes these designers created.
However there is one man who managed to slip through the net, and it is only recently that the work and architectural talent of Leonard B. Willeke is being re-discovered.
One of the unsung hero’s of architecture in Grosse Pointe Leonard B. Willeke was one of the most adaptable and prolific architects to work in the community. He was an extremely versatile designer, and one might say, an unrecognized champion in his contribution in providing Grosse Pointe with some exceptional homes.
Willeke was virtually a one-man band, and while he had a very successful career he also experienced several dramatic change in fortunes. Having experienced the ultimate high of working with clients such as Henry and Edsel B. Ford, Oscar Webber and William A. Petzold, building many prestigious homes in and around the community, Willeke also experience the ultimate low – financial devastation – courtesy of the Depression.
Part 1 of our story on the highs and lows of Leonard Willeke’s career profiles the fabulous homes he created during the 1920’s on one street in particular – Balfour.
The 1920’s were the golden years for Leonard Willeke. Having completed several large projects (residential and commercial) for Henry Ford, Willeke was commissioned by a number of rather prominent clientele to design homes in Grosse Pointe – including the Oscar Webber mansion – located at 22 Webber place – you can read the full story of this home here. And, amongst others, two rather striking homes on Three Mile Drive – you can read about his homes on Three mile by clicking here.
Balfour, in Grosse Pointe Park received a lot of attention from Willeke during the 1920’s. Between 1922 and 1929, he created 7 residences including 4 speculative homes.
The definition of a speculative home is – ‘a residence built without a particular buyer in mind or under contract, but design to appeal to the maximum market possible’.