Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe –50 Lake Shore Drive, also known as “Edgemere”.

Edgemere, one of the first grand year-round homes in Grosse Pointe and home to Joseph Berry in 1882.

Joseph Berry was a prominent figure in the Grosse Pointe community in the late nineteenth century. As a teenager he had moved with his family from Richmond, VA to Detroit in 1855. At the age of sixteen he began working for Theodore H. Eaton in a wholesale chemical house, where he quickly realized there was a need for better varnish and began experimenting.

Within 3 years he had leased a small building southwest of Detroit in Springwells and began manufacturing his own brand of varnish. By 1860 he had partnered with his brother Thomas and began Berry Brothers Paint and Varnish, along with becoming the president of Detroit Linseed Oil Company, and of Combination Gas Machine Company.

In 1881 Berry commissioned Edgemere. In an area surrounded by summer cottages and part-time residents he had become one of the first full-time inhabitants of Grosse Pointe when construction began at 50 Lake Shore Drive.

Berry hired famed Detroit architects Mason & Rice to design his new home. The two architects (who had employed Albert Khan at the beginning of his career) were heavily influenced by the style know as “Richardson Romanesque”, a style that is characterized by low-slung arched entrances, dark masonry and detailed brickwork. Prior to the Edgemere project they had completed and would later design many prominent buildings in Detroit and in Michigan including the Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island (1887); Belle Isle Police Station (1893); and the Hiram Walker Plant (Windsor, Ontario 1896). In 1898 George Mason left the firm and went onto to design many prominent buildings in Detroit – Detroit Yacht Club (1923) and the Detroit Masonic Temple (1926) to name but a few.

The English manor house Mason & Rice created for Joseph Berry was typical of their Richardson Romanesque style – constructed from pressed brick and cut stone it featured the dark masonry and detailed brickwork they were known for. Many of the walls were covered in ivy to replicate the English manor look, and it was the first of a long series of “English Manor Houses” to adorn Grosse Pointe during that era. The 15-acre estate included extensive gardens and greenhouses, the grounds stretched from Lake St Clair to Kercheval and from McKinley Road to Sunset Lane.

Many years later, it was believed Edgemere had traces of American Victorian styling, with its fussy and pretentious exterior, however Berry was far from pretentious. As a widower he led a secluded and private life, he avoided the busy social scene and devoted his time to raising his three daughters and tending to his garden.

Soon after moving into the property, Berry became absorbed in the art of landscaping. The estate was awash with formal flowerbeds, luscious lawns, quiet lagoons, unusual varieties of trees, fruit trees, shrubs along with a huge greenhouse and potting shed. The greenhouses were home to Berry’s prized collection of orchids, and when not tending to his flowers Berry grew most of his own produce. The gardens and the greenhouses were open to the public on Sunday afternoons and it is believed the property had one of the first automatic in-ground sprinkler systems in the area.

Berry would later go on to build homes on the eastern end of the estate as wedding presents for two of his daughters – the first was built in 1892 and became known as the Henry Sherrard House, and the second was built in 1901 – called the Dr. Edwin Lodge house (now demolished).

In 1907 Joseph Berry died suddenly after an infection – brought on by a broken ankle – reached his heart. At the time of his death it is rumored he possessed more property that any other individual Michigan resident at the time. In 1942 the house was demolished, however many of the beautiful trees Joseph Berry lovingly cared for are still visible in the neighborhood today.


Written by Katie Doelle
Copyright © 2015 Katie Doelle

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