Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – 17700 E.Jefferson

This week we would like to focus on another of Grosse Pointes’ lost mansions – “By-Way”, located at 17770 East Jefferson, the former home of Frederick Moulton Alger.

We have already delved into the history of several lost estates on Lakeshore. These grand mansions, owned by prominent members of the community (Scott Whitcomb, Henry D. Sheldon, William P. Stevens, and J. Brooks Nichols), have been lost over time having been demolished and the properties subdivided for new homes.

“By-Way” was designed by William B. Stratton & Frank C. Baldwin, and completed in 1908. William Buck Stratton, born in Ithaca, New York in 1865, was an innovative designer and has often been described as having a vigorous creative imagination with a diverse range and aptitude for switching between architectural styles. He was at the forefront of the latest trends in commercial and residential design, which allowed him to create buildings that were ahead of their time.

In 1893 Stratton struck up a partnership with Frank C. Baldwin, which would last until 1911. It was the first of many partners Stratton would work with during a long and distinguished career.

The firm of Stratton and Baldwin was the first in Michigan to be made up of men trained in American architectural schools  – Baldwin graduated from Boston Tech, while Stratton graduated from Cornell. Their firm has been described as one of the most influential architectural companies in Detroit during the early 20th century.

One of Stratton’s earliest projects in Grosse Pointe was the home for Frederick M. Alger. The book, Tonnancour, edited by Arthur M. Woodford provides the following description of the home. ‘From the entrance side the house resembles a low rambling one-and-a-half- story English farmhouse. One the lakeside of the house it is apparent that the main concern of the architect has been to provide the principal rooms of the house with the maximum glass area toward the southern lake exposure. The rear of the home has a collection of French doors that open onto a terrace that runs the full length of the house’. The home was considered ahead of its time in terms of its design, and functionality, attaining a level of originality and charm that had rarely been seen in Grosse Pointe. Source: Tonnancour.

Frederick Moulton Alger was born in Detroit, 1876. He was the son of Gen Russell Alger – the 20th Governor, U.S Senator and the U.S Secretary of War. Frederick Alger attended the Phillips Academy in Massachusetts, and graduated from Harvard in 1899.  Having served as Captain in the US Army during the Spanish American War he returned to Detroit where he would hold a series of prominent positions including, director and treasurer of Alger, Smith & Co., lumber manufacturers, director of the Packard Motor Car Co. and director of the People’s Wayne County Bank. Sadly, after sustaining a serious injury to his left leg, he died in Detroit, 1933.

“By-Way” was a prominent home in the Grosse Pointe communities. Located on the shores of Lake Saint Clair it had some fabulous architectural neighbors, including Rose Terrace, the Moorings (now known as the Grosse Pointe War Memorial) that was owned by Frederick’s brother, Russell Alger Jr., and the home of Murray W. Sales (originally 17743 East Jefferson, now 251 Lincoln).

Like so many of the grand estates in the community the home was demolished in the 1960’s, and the land subdivided. All that is left, as a lasting memory is the street – Alger Place, and a home that was originally part of the estate – but more on that next week. 

*Photos courtesy of the Higbie Maxon Agney archives unless stated.


Written by Katie Doelle
Copyright © 2021 Katie Doelle