2.26.2013

HISTORIC DETROIT LANDMARK HOMES ON THE WEB


The David Whitney Jr. House was built by successful lumber baron David Whitney Jr., one of Michigan’s wealthiest citizens and the wealthiest man in Detroit. He was worth more than $15 million at the time of his death in 1900 — about $388 million today, when adjusted for inflation.




The house is constructed using rose-pink South Dakota Jasper stone. It is measured to be 21,000-square-foot  and has 52 rooms (including 10 bathrooms), 218 windows, 20 fireplaces, and a secret vault in the dining room, an elevator, and numerous Tiffany glass windows.


The Tiffany glass windows have been estimated to be worth more than the house itself. The window designs often feature themes oriented around the purpose of the rooms they are located in.


Lawrence Fisher was the most flamboyant of the seven very prosperous Fisher Brothers. Along with his father and brothers, he earned his fortune in the Fisher Brothers Body firm that supplied General Motors. In the mid-1920s, Lawrence Fisher decided to build a magnificent home for himself—one that would clearly indicate his wealth, perhaps more than his good taste.



He selected this isolated corner of Detroit apparently because of his desirable location near Lake St. Clair. From 1925 to 1934, Fisher was not only a principal in Fisher Body but was also president of Cadillac.


C. Howard Crane, the great theater architect of that age, was selected to design the house. He was known for his exhauberant style as illustrated in his Detroit masterpiece—the Fisher Theater.

This was apparently meant to be a huge Mediterranean-style villa similar to some that rich individuals were building in Florida at this time. Fisher was a close friend of William Randolph Hearst who was building his San Simeon estate in California at this time so some think that Fisher wanted a Detroit home to rival San Simeon.

Jerome Croul-Francis Palms Home

Perhaps there is no better example of Queen Anne architecture in metropolitan Detroit than the home you see. Jerome Croul and his brother earned their fortune selling woolens and animals skins in Detroit. Croul came to Detroit and helped establish the Parson and Croul firm that sold woolens and sheepskins. Then Jerome Croul and his brother went into tanning and set up the Croul Brothers Leather Works. Jerome Croul also had a strong interest in public safety and served as Detroit's fire commissioner from 1872 to 1888.

Francis Palms, an immigrant who came to Detroit in 1832 from Antwerp, became a real estate developer. The first generation of wealthy individuals in Detroit built their homes very close to the city center, many of them between the present Jefferson Avenue and the Detroit River. Palms encouraged building along East Jefferson and helped to develop it as prestigious. Palms built his own home on East Jefferson in 1846.

Berry Gordy, Jr. /Nels Michelson Residence

The Michelson-Young Estate, more popularly known as the Gordy Mansion or the Motown Mansion, is one of the larger and more elegant homes located in the City of Detroit. It has a storied history and has been owned by several of the city’s most prosperous individuals, most popularly known among them, Berry Gordy, Jr., founder of Motown Records.


Interestingly, each of the owners was a self-made millionaire in his time and was a tremendous visionary. One owner, fresco-artist Pablo Davis, known for his work with Diego Rivera at the Detroit Institute of Arts, has his work on permanent display with the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.

This Italian Renaissance design of the main residence was built in 1917 by Nels Michelson, a Michigan lumber and timber baron. In 1926, the second owner, L.A. Young, substantially renovated the main residence and added a 4,500 square foot athletic building to the two acre estate.


When Hecker decided to build his home on the southeast corner of Ferry and Woodward, the area was still rural.  Hecker bought two lots on Woodward Avenue in 1887 for the price of $27,859 (about $667,000 today). Having a Woodward Avenue address commanded a premium price tag.

“At first, when the Heckers built, there were but two houses near them, the Bowens’ and the Mableys’, and the horse cars only came as far as Forest Avenue, so the few residents beyond had to drive from there to their homes,” the Detroit Free Press wrote in 1933.

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