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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – The Grosse Pointe Projects of Alexander Girard

Last week we covered the exceptional home, 232 Lothrop, created by the extremely talented artist Alexander Girard.

Described as one of the most important, prolific and influential textile designers of the twentieth century, Girard was also extremely skilled as an architect, interior, product, and graphic designer.

Alexander Girard (early 1950’s) – Courtesy of Vitra Design Museum

This week we focus on Girard’s other architectural projects in Grosse Pointe. Aside from designing the modern contemporary home located at 232 Lothrop (1951), Girard also created two further homes on Lothrop – number 222 (1948) and 234 (1949), along with 55 Vendome in 1951. All of his projects were created in his signature contemporary modern style, which was particularly prominent throughout the United States during this era.

Having re located in 1937, with his family, from New York to Detroit, Girard began the next phase of his career. In 1938 Girard designed the Junior League of Detroit’s Little Shop in Grosse Pointe. Shortly after, in partnership with H. Beard Adams, he opened his first store, located at 16906 Kercheval. The firm of Girard and Adam’s specialized in interior architecture, design and decoration.

Courtesy of – Alexander Girard, A Designer’s Universe.

In 1945 Girard utilized the former space he had held with Adams to open his own studio and store, to sell products, and stage small exhibitions of painting, sculpture and jewelry. In 1947 Girard relocated his shop to 379 Fisher Road. The new location provided Girard with a building to not only sell products, but also incorporate an office, and a space to showcase his irrepressible talent – offering, “complete architectural and design services for home, office and industrial fields”. Source: Alexander Girard, A Designer’s Universe.

379 Fisher – Courtesy of Alexander Girard, A Designer’s Universe.

379 Fisher Floor Plan – Courtesy of Alexander Girard, A Designer’s Universe.

Girard worked with many wealthy and celebrity clients in Metro Detroit, decorating and designing the interiors of their homes. This included several projects in Grosse Pointe:

222 Lothrop. Completed in 1948, this was Girard’s own home. It was located on a large lot close to the Pine Woods, a heavily wooded area in Grosse Pointe Farms. Based on research from the Vitra Design Museum we understand Girard created his new residence out of two old houses. Constructed from California redwood, the home featured innovative lighting solutions, plywood furniture designed by Girard as well as first samples of wall displays that would become a constant feature of his interiors. Source: Vitra Design Museum

As the floor plan below demonstrates the first floor was an open configuration, dominated by a large central living area – a typical feature of homes designed using this architectural approach. At some point in the homes history the house was raised – the floor plan and the photo below are from 1969.

The image below presents a superb representation of the interior of this home. Source: Atlas of Interiors

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – 232 Lothrop – An Exceptional Home

This is the story of an exceptional home in Grosse Pointe Farms. Some of you might remember this work of art, while for others this will be an introduction to a modern contemporary masterpiece.

232 Lothrop was built in 1951, but was razed several years ago. This one of a kind home was commissioned by Dr. George Rieveschl, a research chemist, and was the product of two masters of modern architecture. Alexander Girard designed the original home, while William Kessler extensively remodeled the property in 1959 (at a reported cost of $250,000 – around $2million today).

Situated on a secluded wooded ridge of over one and a half acres the residence was located on the highest point of land in Grosse Pointe Farms on a magnificent pine shaded site. Each room had its own view of the woods and gardens, filled with over 360 trees – the majority were towering pines and hemlocks.

Front of the home

As with many contemporary residences, the design of the home was based on clean lines, and a substantial amount filing every room. In the case of 232 Lothrop, this was achieved via the large 12’ ft high Thermopane window walls, patios, and the five skylights that were located throughout the property.

Rear of the home

Atrium looking west

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – The Hidden Homes on Lake Shore – Part 2

Last week we introduced you to some of the hidden homes on the lake in Grosse Pointe Shores. Many of these homes, constructed between 1900 and 1918, are concealed from the road, and their elegance remains hidden. The construction of these homes spans many years, and we would like to continue with our exploration with the introduction of several more superb properties constructed between 1923 and 1934.

Grosse Pointe Shores has undergone a number of transitions over the years, in terms of growth, population, and being recognized as a community in its own right. By the 1920’s Grosse Pointe Shores was establishing itself as a haven for some of Detroit’s wealthiest families. The area had witnessed the construction of numerous grand homes, with many having been designed by nationally renowned architects, including the Ford Estate by Albert Kahn. Located on the site known as Gaukler Pointe (where the Milk River flowers into Lake St. Clair.) the Ford Estate was completed in 1927, and was the pinnacle of exquisite design and fine landscaping.

The 1920’s was the era of large lots and grand residences in the Grosse Pointe communities, none more so than in Grosse Pointe Shores, reflected in the following estates:

725 Lake Shore: Situated on a 12-acre estate – completed in 1934 – designed by Robert O’Derrick in association with Ralph Adams Cram.
This magnificent estate built for Standish Backus was as grand as they come. Aside from being a prime example of a Tudor mansion, this property was also noted for its exquisite gardens, designed by nationally recognized landscape designer Fletcher Steele.

725 Lake Shore – Courtesy of Grosse Pointe Historical Society

No expense was spared in creating the 40-room residence; the house was finished with beautiful wood paneling, fine mantels and friezes. The home also featured an 8-car garage with electric doors, a telephone system to connect all the rooms, and a walk-in vault to protect the families silver service. The house was demolished in 1966. You can read the full story about this home by clicking here.

735 Lake Shore: Size unknown – completed in 1930 – designed by Albert Kahn.
In 1930, Alvan Macauley, president of Packard, commissioned Kahn to create a grand home on Lake Shore. Kahn incorporated many traits of the traditional English Cotswold style, and combined it with the recognized traits of the distinctive Tudor manor homes, which were now extremely popular around Grosse Pointe. The house was demolished in 1973. You can read the full story about this home by clicking here.

735 Lake Shore

735 Lake Shore – 1st floor

735 Lake Shore – 2nd floor

890 Lake Shore: 5,215 sq ft – completed in 1934 – built by Hilary Micou.
Micou was a prolific builder of homes in Grosse Pointe with over 30 homes to his name. Many of his properties span several decades – from the late 1920’s through to the late 1950’s, and embrace numerous architectural styles.

890 Lake Shore

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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – The Hidden Homes on Lake Shore

Over the past couple of weeks we have focused on the grand Lake Shore estates’, exploring the home of Mrs. Henry Stephens, and the five superb buildings constructed in Grosse Pointe Shores by legendary architect Albert Kahn.

This week we stay in Grosse Pointe Shores to bring you some of the hidden homes on the Lake.

As you drive along Jefferson and approach the Ford house you will have noticed the long driveways, and possibly caught a glimpse of the superb homes that line this part of the lake. The construction of these homes spans many years, yet many of these homes remain a mystery, concealed by the beautiful landscaped gardens that hide their full glory.

The smallest of the Grosse Pointe communities, Grosse Pointe Shores has developed rapidly throughout its history. Arthur M. Woodford, in the book, The Village of Grosse Pointe Shores, explains the residents of the community, in 1911 under the leadership of Detroit Businessman George Osius, voted to establish a more manageable form of local government, the Village of Grosse Pointe Shores.

Grosse Pointe Shores in 1915 – courtesy of the Library of Congress

It is this particular era we focus on, as we highlight several magnificent homes that were constructed on the lake between 1900 and 1918. All of these homes still exist today, enjoying a secluded existence along the lake. Lets begin with number 844.

844 Lake Shore: 3,150 sq ft – completed in 1909 – designed by John C. Stahl

844 Lake Shore

John C. Stahl designed this house, one of only a few residences in Grosse Pointe by this architect. Stahl, a German American, was born in Detroit, 1874. After graduating from Central High School (Wayne State University) in 1903 he worked in architectural offices during the day and studied building and design at night school. Stahl had a very successful career, he established the firm of Stahl and Kinsey, and designed several churches in Detroit – during his career he was acknowledged as one of the most skilled church and school architects in the state. He was also known to be an admirer of fine woods and incorporated exquisite detailing into many of his homes, including several he created in the Indian Village Historic District between 1912 and 1916.

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