Last week we introduced you to another lost mansion, the original 1000 Lake Shore, former grand home of Louis Mendelssohn, and his wife Evelyn.
This week we are going to continue to the story of the Mendelssohn family as we introduce 16500 E. Jefferson, the home of Louis Mendelssohn’s youngest daughter, Lydia, born in 1906.
In 1929 Ms. Medelssohn married Christian Henry Buhl, II. That same year the couple purchased the home of Ross W. Judson on Ellair Place, Grosse Pointe Park. Mr. Judson, the founder of Continental Motor Company, had recently moved from Ellair to 15324 Windmill Pointe, named Kasteel Batavia, which was designed by noted architect Wallace Frost.
The Buhl-Mendellsohn house on Ellair place was set on six acres between Bishop, Ellair, Jefferson and the lake. Based on our files it appears the grand mansion was possibly built around the beginning of the 20th century, and the original address was 820 Ellair Place. Very few photos of the property exist. Our files also indicate the residence, at one point, had eight bedrooms, nine baths, and a four car garage, however it is unclear by whom, or in what year this information was derived.
We did find a preliminary sketch, from 1930, which was created by ‘The Dean of Detroit architects’, George D. Mason. It was titled “sketch of an exterior view of the Buhl-Mendelssohn residence. The text written on the front of the photo reads “1930, Buhl-Mendelssohn-Prelim; 414”However, it is unclear what the sketch was for. Possibly the couple were planning on adding an addition to the home, or had they intended to build a new home on the lot? Image: courtesy of the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library.
At some point (during the 1950’s or 60’s) the address of the residence was changed from 820 Ellair to 16500 E. Jefferson. Mr. and Mrs. Buhl-Mendelssohn resided in the home until their divorce, in 1957. That same year Ms. Mendelssohn married Dr Thomas J. Morrison, a prominent New York physician. It is reported the couple spent more time in their homes in New York and Palm Beach than at their home on E. Jefferson. In 1974 Dr. Morrison passed. Lydia Mendelssohn continued to own the home until she passed, in 1988.
In 1989, according to our files, the house was listed for sale for $3 million (around $6 million today). However, based on various reports in the media it is alleged the estate (including the house) was subject to probate, when Ms. Mendelssohn’s will was contested. It is reported the property remained unoccupied, with the exception of a few staff members, until 1996 when the house was sold Source: Grosse Pointe News.
On August 26, 1996 demolition was scheduled to begin on 16500 E. Jefferson. Once razed it was intended around 15 new homes would be built. According to an article in the Grosse Pointe News ‘the property had 15 lots platted on it, meaning that developers can build up to 15 homes before seeking approval from the Park City Council’. At one point it was thought developers were thinking of building up to 19 homes on the estate. Based on information in our files we can confirm there were 10 available lots in the Bishop Road – Shady Lane subdivision (ranging in price from $210,000 – $1,300,000), and five further lots on the Ellair Place – Grosse Pointe Park Plat No. 1 (ranging in price from $230,000 – $1,830,000). The list below (from 1996) confirms the lot prices and sizes.
As with so many of the grand estates from the early 20th century that were demolished, there are numerous reasons as to why they were razed – for example, structural problems, fire, and the expense of adding modern conveniences such as air conditioning. There was also the realization, and reality, that these huge mansions were simply too big and too costly to maintain. In some instances, once the original resident was gone the new owner simply wanted to build something else, a home that was more modern, and easier to manage. However, in the majority of cases these massive houses, on their large expansive lots, were demolished to make way for new sub divisions, and in Grosse Pointe there are many.
Of the large grand homes that still exist, it is a testament to the people, and families, who own them that they have elected to maintain, preserve, and enjoy these wonderful historic estates. They are part of the rich architectural history that makes this area so special and unique, and for that we are extremely thankful.
*Photos courtesy of the Higbie Maxon Agney archives unless stated.
Written by Katie Doelle
Copyright © 2020 Katie Doelle