Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – From Traditional to Contemporary – The Prized Work of Wallace Frost

When you hear the name Wallace Frost, do you think – prolific architect, colleague of Albert Kahn, and a diverse and richly talented individual – well, Mr. Frost was all of the above.

Wallace Frost designed over 40 homes in and around Birmingham Michigan. Despite working predominantly on the west side he also designed at least 10 significant homes in Grosse Pointe (that we know of).

Frost was born 1892 in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. He studied at the University of Pennsylvania under Paul Cret, a French-born Philadelphia architect and industrial designer. During World War I Frost was located in Washington D.C at the Naval Air Force base designing hangers for military instillations. While he was there he met Albert Kahn. According to research on Wikipedia Kahn frequently travelled to Washington for consultations about architectural projects for the government during this era.

Kahn had a great admiration for Frost’s work, and he asked Frost to join him in Michigan after the war. Frost took Kahn up on his offer and he moved to this area in 1919, settling in Birmingham in 1921. The two men worked closely together in Kahn’s office. It is reported they collaborated on some of Kahn’s most prominent projects, including the Detroit Public Library, the Fisher Building and The Edsel and Eleanor Ford house.

In 1926 Wallace Frost set up his own architectural firm, focusing on residential projects in around the suburbs of Detroit. His work developed several key characteristics, he became associated with creating midsize cottage style houses, with exquisite detailing, elegant woodwork, an abundance of light with a mix of Italian, French and English architectural influences. It is reported many people who lived in one of his homes often called them “Wally” houses” – This included one of Michigan’s most expensive mansions (in 2013) located at 3950 Franklin Road in Bloomfield Township, and a superb home in Palmer Woods.

1350 Wellesley built in 1928 Palmer Woods Historic District Detroit, MI_detroityes

1350 Wellesley, Palmer Woods – Courtesy of Detroityes.com

Between 1932 and 1933 Frost left Michigan and travelled to Europe, working predominantly in Florence, Italy. On his return to the United States, he moved to Southern California, where his traditional style of architecture underwent a complete transformation to a Californian modern style, which included his own large home in the Montecito Valley, near Santa Barbara. You couldn’t get two more diverse styles.

In 1939 he returned to Birmingham, MI, where he would practice until 1961. With him he brought his new modern architectural approach, which is evident in two of his houses in Grosse Pointe. He also designed a spectacular home in Orchard Lake Drive, in Bloomfield Township, one of only a handful of contemporary house’s he designed in Michigan. This also included a contemporary ranch-style home – in 1957 – for Howard and Letha Sober who donated it to the state in 1969, becoming the Michigan Governor’s Mansion. Wallace Frost died in 1962.


Governors Mansion – Courtesy of Wikipedia.com

The Grosse Pointe Houses

During his career Wallace Frost contributed several wonderful homes to the Grosse Pointe community. Some of his work here veered towards the larger end of the scale with two lake front mansions on Jefferson, yet also included several smaller residences in Grosse Pointe Farms


42 Hendrie Lane – Grosse Pointe Farms – 4,635 sq ft

242 Lewiston – Grosse Pointe Farms – 4,500 sq ft

16632 East Jefferson – Grosse Pointe Park – 6,683 sq ft

Situated on nearly one acre of land, this home has eight bedrooms, nine baths, a working elevator and a third floor, which is over 1500 sq ft.


41 Hendrie Lane – Grosse Pointe Farms – 5,490 sq ft
Edward B. Caulkins House

157 Moross – Grosse Pointe Farms – 4,000 sq ft

15324 Windmill Pointe – Grosse Pointe Park – 9,931 sq ft
Ross W. Judson House – founder of Continental Motors Corporation. This is Frost’s largest home in Grosse Pointe. Situated on the lake it is believed this home sits on the original site of the Windmill.

16628 East Jefferson – Grosse Pointe Park – 8,974 sq ft
Julian P. Bowen House. The French Normandy home is arguably Frost’s most noted work in Grosse Pointe


75 Vendome – Grosse Pointe Farms – 4,582 sq ft

1954 and 1955 – Post California period

515 Lake Shore – Grosse Pointe Shore – 8,532 sq ft

280 Vincennes – Grosse Pointe Farms – 4,600 sq ft

The Wallace Frost homes around Michigan have been described as prized finds, and we would certainly agree with that.

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


Written by Katie Doelle
© 2015 Katie Doelle