This post isn’t so much about the house, but more about the rather highly noted couple that once resided in the home. As we mentioned in a recent post on 40 Sunningdale, some extremely prominent people have owned homes in Grosse Pointe. However, when Russian nobility – Count, and Countess Tolstoy – moved into 180 Lewiston this catapulted the home to the top of the charts in having the most prestigious residents of all.
180 Lewiston was designed by Marcus Burrowes, and completed in 1922 for Cameron Currie. Mr. Currie, born in London, Ontario, 1860, was a respected businessman within the city. He moved to Detroit in 1879 and began working for the Detroit Railway Company, rising to the position of secretary. In 1891, after the company was sold, Mr. Currie entered the banking and brokerage business, forming a stock company. At one point in time it is believed Mr. Currie was the only member of the New York Stock Exchange in the State of Michigan. Source: Landmarks of Detroit a History of the City by Robert B Ross and George B. Catlin. Cameron Currie married Harriett I. Lewis in 1887 and together they had two children – John and Gwendolyn. Both Cameron and Harriett were prominent members of the Grosse Pointe community. mage courtesy of GP Patch.com
Many years later, Cameron’s daughter, Gwendolyn, was firmly established as a wealthy Grosse Pointe socialite. Having been married and divorced (her first husband was Wesson Seyburn, a member of one of Detroit’s oldest families) Gwendolyn met Count Cyril Petrovich Tolstoy at a party in Paris, hosted by mutual friends. Cyril Tolstoy was a Russian Count, and grandson of the famous Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy, author of War & Peace, and Anna Karenina. Cyril Tolstoy was born at the czar’s summer palace, was educated at Russia’s foremost military academy, and later because an officer in the Horse Guards. During the Russian Revolution he joined the Cossacks to fight the czar. Source: Elmwood Endures: History of a Detroit Cemetery, by Michael S. Franck.
Based on the same research (from Elmwood Endures), after the revolution he married a Seattle heiress in Paris. They divorced in 1927. After meeting Gwendolyn the pair married in1929 at a Russian Orthodox Church of Christ, in Manhattan. It was a small affair with only four witnesses in attendance. This included a mutual friend of the couple Colonel J. Brooks Nichols, who resided at 415 Lakeshore. Source: www.newspapers.com
After their marriage, and having lived in Paris for several years, the couple returned to Detroit during the depression. Cyril Tolstoy became a stockbroker, and they moved into 180 Lewiston. It is not clear whether Gwendolyn’s father, Cameron Currie, gave her 180 Lewiston, or whether the new countess inherited the property after her parents had died.
During their years living in Grosse Pointe the couple were active philanthropists. One of Gwendolyn’s notable causes, according to the Grosse Pointe Review, 1947, was the American Aid to France fundraising campaign. We do not know how long the couple resided at the property, but we do know Count Cyril Tolstoy passed in 1959, and Countess Gwendolyn Tolstoy passed in 1982.
180 Lewiston, designed for the Currie’s by Marcus Burrowes, was a regal Georgian design. Built of brick, with a striking limestone entrance, the design includes all the classic traits of a Georgian residence – large windows on the first floor, a distinctive entrance, and masonry blocks (quoins) on the corner of each wall. It is not clear how large the house was when it was completed, but it currently measures 7,320 sq ft.
Marcus Burrowes was a versatile artist, with a long and distinguished career. He designed more than 1,000 structures in and near Detroit, which included – residential, public and municipal buildings. During the 1920’s and 1930’s Burrowes was widely known throughout southeast Michigan for his English Revival Style buildings, a style he also brought to the Grosse Pointe communities. He designed around 10 homes here including: 34 Beverly Road, 394 Lakeland, 1018 Bishop, 854 Edgemont Park, 33 Hendrie Lane, 1005 Cadieux, and 437 Lakeland.
It can be said that while Grosse Pointe has, and is, home to many prominent families very few properties can lay claim to having a Russian Count, and a wealthy Grosse Pointe Socialite as its residents, now that’s a rare thing indeed.
*Photos courtesy of the Higbie Maxon Agney archives unless stated.
Written by Katie Doelle
Copyright © 2021 Katie Doelle