Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – 880 Lake Shore

Last week we presented some of the homes on Lake Shore, in Grosse Pointe Shores, that were built before 1911, of which there were more than a dozen properties. A significant number of the homes built around this period still exist today. This week we remain in Grosse Pointe Shores to explore one of the finest homes ever built in the community, 880 Lake Shore, designed by architectural legend Albert Kahn for the leader of Michigan’s sugar industry Clinton Goodloe Edgar.

880 Lake Shore, completed in 1916, is an 8,403 sq ft Italian Renaissance inspired residence – a popular choice of Kahn for the projects he completed in Grosse Pointe Shores during this era. William Hawkins Ferry, in The Buildings of Detroit, wrote “the Italian Renaissance influences of the home are similar to that of Charles Platt’s design for Alger House, (now the Grosse Pointe War Memorial).” According to Ferry “Albert Kahn was a great admirer of the work of Charles Platt, and it is believed Kahn recommended Platt to the Alger family to create their Italian inspired residence on the lake.” So, it would come as no surprise if Platt’s work proved to be a source of inspiration for Kahn’s own project at 880 Lake Shore.

The property is a striking home, finished in white stucco with a red tile roof – both key traits of the Italian Renaissance approach. The house features a 20’ x 40’ sq ft living room, a 13’ x 28’ sq ft sitting room, and a large 20’ x 22’ sq ft dining room. The second floor originally had five main bedrooms, a sleeping porch, plus two additional bedrooms for maids. The third floor had four further bedrooms, while the basement (at one point) had an unfinished ballroom and a fireplace. Above the two-car garage were originally the chauffeurs’ quarters with a living room, dining room, kitchen, and a bedroom. As the photo below demonstrates the rear elevation is filled with an abundance of windows, archways, and an open terrace, thus providing a perfect view of the lake. The boat house was also designed by Albert Kahn. The close-up image of the terrace is courtesy of The Buildings of Detroit, Williams Hawkins Ferry.

The garden at 880 Lake Shore was designed by renowned New York landscape architect William Pitkin, Jr. Born in Rochester, New York, 1884, Pitkin was one of the leading landscape designers in the United States during the early 20th century. His projects were nationwide, ranging from a 64-acre estate in Flint (known as the Applewood Estate, 1916), several large projects in Ohio, along with an exclusive historic subdivision in Jacksonville, Florida. Some of his projects also included landscaping entire neighborhoods. It is reported he designed the lots so that houses could be set back far enough from the sidewalk to allow trees to be the focus as residents walked through the neighborhoods. Source: www.tclf.org.

As far as we know Mr. Pitkin worked on at least five prominent gardens in Grosse Pointe, all of which were located on the grand estates of Lake Shore, created by nationally recognized architects –

  • 241 Lakeshore, 1913, Charles A. Platt
  • 421 Lake Shore, 1914, Chittenden and Kotting
  • 123 Lakeshore, 1914, Trowbridge and Ackerman
  • 17100 E. Jefferson, 1915, Trowbridge and Ackerman
  • 880 Lake Shore, 1916, Albert Kahn

The original owner of 880 Lake Shore, Clinton Goodloe Edgar, was born on December 21, 1873, in Detroit. He was the grandson of the founder of the Edgar Sugar Brokerage firm. Mr. Edgar graduated from the Michigan Military Academy in 1893 and earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Cornell University in 1897. He began his career with the Detroit Gas Works as a chemist and a year later joined W. H. Edgar & Son as a labor foreman.

Several years later he became a stockholder in the Continental Sugar Company of Cleveland, Ohio. Then, in 1914 Mr. Edgar acquired a large block of the company’s stock and became the company’s president. We understand “at the outbreak of World War I, he attended officers training school at Plattsburgh Camp, New York. Following his training, he was appointed Lieutenant Colonel in charge of the Supply Division, Aviation Section of the Signal Corps (the predecessor of the Air Corps). During his service he was instrumental in the construction of aviation centers for the training of pilots and the maintenance of airplanes. Captain Edgar was chosen as the man with sufficient executive and professional ability to handle the task – a huge undertaking that would involve the expenditure of $70,000,000. Following the war, in 1922, he was appointed General by order of President Harding as a reward for meritorious service.” Source: Detroit Free Press (August 1932).

Clinton Goodloe Edgar married Mary (McComas) in 1900, and together they had two children – Katherine and James. Mr. Edgar passed unexpectedly on August 9, 1932, while on vacation in Paris. His obituary stated, “the untimely death of Brigadier Gen. Clinton Goodloe Edgard deprived Detroit of a citizen who was an element of strength in the community and who contributed materially to its greatness as a center of metropolitan advance.” Source and image: Detroit Free Press (August 1932).

From information in our files – upon Mr. Edgars death it was stated Mrs. Edgar would never live in the house on Lake Shore again – she remained at the couple’s other residence 866 Iroquois in Indian Village. The Edgar Estate on Lake Shore was listed for sale in April 1933. By June 1935 the house was available to rent for $650 per month (around $14,500 today). The property also included a further building (with its own address – 882 Lake Shore – now razed). 882 Lake Shore was also available for rent at $200 per month (around $4,500 today). It was noted the rental price on both properties included the services of the gardener. In December 1942, both properties were sold to Rankin Peck, president of the National Congress of Petroleum. By March 1946, Mr. Peck was considering selling the estate for $200,000 (around $3.1m today). It was then purchased later that year by Dr. Adolph G. Studer.

880 Lake Shore is an exquisite home. In 1933, it was described as “a very charming place”, and today it remains just that. An Albert Kahn masterpiece on the shores of Lake St. Clair.


*Photos courtesy of the Higbie Maxon Agney archives unless stated.
** Research, information, and data sources are deemed reliable, but accuracy cannot be fully guaranteed.



Written by Katie Doelle
Copyright © 2024 Katie Doelle