Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Welcome to Ellair Place

Last week we explored 855 Ellair Place, a mid century modern home completed in 1951 by George Bickford Brigham, Jr. for William Harris.

This week we stay on Ellair, to present some of the other homes that exist on this picturesque dead end street by the lake. The houses on Ellair Place cover a broad spectrum of architectural styles, ranging from English manor, Cape Cod, Colonial through to midcentury modern. The homes were constructed over a period of two centuries. Noted architects, including; Smith, Hinchman and Grllys, and George Bickford Brigham, Jr. created them for some rather prominent families.

Ellair Place is located between Edgmont Park and Bishop Road. There are currently ten houses on the street, however, this wasn’t always the case, and over the years the shape of Ellair has changed considerably.

The earliest residence, built in 1895, is 869 Ellair, which lays claim to being the oldest home on the street. Not much is known about this home, but it is a wonderful example of a Colonial Farmhouse. Constructed of wood this style was particularly popular for farm homes that were built during this era. Image courtesy of Realtor.com

820 Ellair is another of the earlier homes constructed. Based on our files it appears this grand residence was possibly built around the beginning of the 20th century. We do know, at some point, the property was owned by Ross W. Judson, and was then purchased, in 1929, by Ms. Lydia Mendelssohn, and her husband Christian Henry Buhl, II. Set on six acres (between Bishop, Ellair, Jefferson and the lake), our files also indicate the residence, in 1929, had four bedrooms, three baths, a large 18’ x 36’ living room, and a magnificent awning covered terrace. The photos below are of the original Judson property. It is believed Mr. and Mrs. Christian Buhl, on purchasing the home, made significant alterations to the property. In 1996, the property was razed, and the land has subsequently been sub divided.

879 Ellair is another fine example of a Colonial Farmhouse, constructed of wood. Completed in 1911, the property has been significantly updated.

In 1926, 858 Ellair was completed for Lloyd L. Axford, an attorney, nationally known as an authority in real estate and probate law. 858 Ellair is a striking English style house with distinctive Arts & Crafts elements. The front elevation is particularly eye catching with a flat façade and characteristic geometric elements. It is believed the original address of this home was 818 Ellair. This property has been razed – the year of demolition is unknown.

815 Ellair was completed in 1930 for John A. Bryant, founder of the Bryant and Detwiler Company, one of Detroit’s most significant construction firms in the early 1900’s. The nationally recognized firm of Smith, Hinchman & Grylls, designed the 7,030 sq ft home, a magnificent English Tudor residence overlooking Lake St. Clair. The main floor features a 21’ x 30’ sq ft living room, a unique 12’ x 40’ sq ft gallery, a 30’ x 15’ glassed porch a 15’ x 20’ sq ft dining room, along with a maid’s sitting room. The second floor includes four main bedrooms, along with two additional bedrooms for maids. The carriage house is now an apartment.

According to research from Michiganmodern.org Smith, Hinchman and Grylls is one of the oldest architectural firms in America. Sheldon Smith, a self-taught architect, started the company in 1853 in Ohio, having gained experience with his brother, an architect on the east coast. In 1855 he moved the company to Detroit. From what we can determine the first project undertaken by Smith, Hinchman and Grylls in Grosse Pointe was in 1909 – the original Home Telephone Co. Building, located at 35 Fisher Road. During the 1920’s Smith Hinchman and Grylls focused on creating classically inspired architecture throughout Metro Detroit, which is also visible in the multiple projects they undertook within the Grosse Pointe Communities.

835 Ellair, the second house from the lake, is a charming Williamsburg style Colonial home, completed in 1949.

One year later, in 1950, 895 Ellair was built. Mary Seymour commissioned the 1 1/2-story New England Cape Cod style home.

855 Ellair is a mid century modern home completed in 1951 by George Bickford Brigham, Jr. for William Harris.

Completed in 1977, 875 Ellair is a beautiful center entrance England style colonial. Image courtesy of Estately.com

The last addition to the street was 878 Ellair. This custom-built 3,162 sq ft home was completed in 1997. Image courtesy of Realtor.com

Ellair Place has arguably one of the longest periods of time, 102 years, from when the first home was constructed (in 1895) through to the last addition (in 1997), of any street in Grosse Pointe. And yet, despite the homes being created across two centuries, the architects, of these fine properties, have respected the style and charm that was already in place.

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

 

Written by Katie Doelle
Copyright © 2020 Katie Doelle

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