One of the first great mansions built on Lake Shore in the early twentieth century was Stonehurst, located at 500 Lake Shore.
At the turn of the century, each year, more and more beautiful homes were being built on Lake Shore. Architects were ambitious and each mansion was becoming grander and greater than the one before. Money was no object, but decoration was essential.
The client usually had an idea of the size and scale that he would like his home to be, but the details were left to the architect who took full advantage of the opportunity to show what he could do.
One great example of this was Stonehurst. An Early English Renaissance “castle”, designed by Pittsburgh architect Albert H. Spahr for Joseph Scholtman and his new wife Stella Ford*, who commissioned the property in 1914 after returning from a three-month honeymoon abroad. Spahr was a renowned architect and before working on Stonehurst he had previously designed mansions for Stella’s siblings – “Fairholme” – a Tudor style mansion at 585 Lakeshore (for her sister Mrs Elmer D. Speck) and an impressive manor house for her brother, Emory Leyden Ford, at 485 Lakeshore.
Stella’s other sister and her husband, Dr. Harry N Torrey, also resided on Lakeshore and had hired local Architect, John Scott, to build “Clairview” at 575 Lakeshore. The Scholtmans resided at “Clairview” while their new home was constructed, and moved into their new home in 1917.
The imposing stone mansion cost an estimated $2m to build; it sat on a 30-acre estate and was built about 500 ft from the lakeshore. The 40-room house was immense and no expense was spared in creating a luxurious place for the family and their two daughters. On entering the property through heavy wrought iron doors, the family would ascend up a twin flight of marble steps into the great hall with its carved oak panels, ornate ceilings and grand staircase. Just off the great hall was the atrium, it was constructed of marble and stone, and contained a bronze nymph fountain.
At the east side of the atrium was a formal dining room, a breakfast room, and at the opposite side was a paneled library, a sun porch and a music room. The walls of the music room were constructed from oak paneling; the wood had been removed from a stately home in England, shipped and reassembled at Stonehurst at a reputed cost of $100,000. Aside form the wood the house was filled with beautiful decorative details including a hand crafted tapestry (measuring 5’ x 7’ depicting the gardens of Stonehurst that took Mrs. Scholtman 4 years to complete) paintings and oriental rugs.
All five master bedrooms on the second floor included baths and fireplaces and there was a sitting room for Mrs. Scholtman off the master suite. The lower floor contained a large ballroom, while the maids quarters occupied the third level. The formal gardens featured terrace and a pond, and further back was the greenhouse complex, a seven-car garage and the head gardener’s and chauffeur’s houses.
Mr Schlotman died in 1951 and Stella Ford Schlotman remained in the property until she died in 1974 aged 95. Many of the rooms remained unchanged since it was built, and up until her death she had a staff of over twelve. In February 1974, the house was opened up to the public for a final look at the property. The contents, fixtures and valuable materials were auctioned off in April and soon afterward, after 57 years of standing; Stonehurst was demolished, thereby ending a golden era of the fine mansions in Grosse Pointe.
Stonehurst took its place at the top table among the superb homes that were built on Lakeshore, and while it may be gone, it will not be forgotten.
Click here to read the full story of Stonehurst and the Schlotman Family.
Image is courtesy of Grosse Pointe Historical Society.
* Stella Ford was the granddaughter of entrepreneur Captain John Baptiste Ford.
Written by Katie Doelle
Copyright © 2015 Katie Doelle