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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – The Work of Roland C. Gies

Having presented the superb Georgian Cottage Hospital Nurses Residence in Grosse Pointe Farms we now focus on the work of noted Detroit architect Roland C. Gies, which includes another significant building in Grosse Pointe – Bon Secours.

Roland C Gies

Roland C. Gies was born in Detroit, 1874. He was educated at the St. Mary School and the Detroit College. He spent the majority of his career in the city where he was ‘favorably known’, and well respected by his peers. Having graduated with a degree in architecture he gained valuable experience in the office of R.E Roseman, and for a long time afterward was identified with the firms of Albert Kahn, and Donaldson and Meier. Source: The City of Detroit, Michigan, 1701-1922, Volume 4

In 1903 Gies completed a significant residential project – the new home for George Stroh, located at 548 East Grand Blvd – which undoubtedly helped forge his career. The striking house contained several unusual features for the time, including a third floor gymnasium, a subway-tiled walk-in refrigerator, and an electric burglar alarm system.

548 East Grand Blvd – Courtesy of Flickr

In 1904 Gies partnered with Maxwell Grylls to form the firm of Grylls and Gies. Together they designed many wonderful formal brick Georgian homes, including several residences in Indian Village – 1072 Seminole (built in 1904), 1106 and 1127 Seminole (1905), 962, 1043, 1038 and 1012 Burns Ave (pictured below) – were all completed in 1906.

1012 Burns Ave – Courtesy of Flickr

In 1906 the firm of Grylls and Gies was dissolved. Maxwell Grylls would join in the formation of one of Detroit’s most famous architectural firms – Smith, Hinchman and Grylls, while Roland C. Gies set up his own firm focusing on projects throughout Metro Detroit. Gies tended to specialize in domestic projects, however his technical training and broad practical experience also allowed him to diversify and create several attractive commercial buildings in Detroit. This included the Comfort Station #8 Riverbank Drive built in 1914 Belle Isle Detroit.

Here in Grosse Pointe Mr. Gies worked on several residential projects. He continued with his recognized approach of creating large brick homes. All were perfectly proportioned, and demonstrated his immense skill for detailed brick designs.

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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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