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The Hidden Gardens of Beacon Hill Tour & Soirée 2019

The Hidden Gardens of Beacon Hill Tour & Soirée 2019

Rain-or-shine… and it was shine!

For the second year in a row, we’ve had the pleasure of sponsoring the Hidden Gardens of Beacon Hill Tour & Soirée. This is the largest and most important fundraiser for The Beacon Hill Garden Club, and this year marked its 91st tour. While this spring was unseasonably wet and chilly, the Tour and evening Soirée enjoyed rare days of glorious sunshine – making the experience all the more wonderful.

Tour-goers on the Hill (Credit: Amy Wilson)

The Beacon Hill Garden Club has a long and storied history. In 1928, twenty Beacon Hill residents who shared a love of their neighborhood and a passion for horticulture formed the Beacon Hill Garden Club. Their goal was simple: they wanted to improve their beloved Boston niche. During this period following the great depression, described as “the Golden Age of postwar exuberance,” Beacon Hill was rejuvenated as a desirable neighborhood, and many families arrived or returned to purchase and restore area homes.

Chestnut Street Garden (Credit Amy Wilson)

One of the features many of these homes shared was a walled outdoor area once used as a “laundry yard.” When restoring their own, outdated laundry yards, Club founders, including Gertrude Beals Bourne (described as the moving force in the club’s founding) discovered the joy and beauty a garden could bring to their outdoor living space. The following year they hosted the first tour of the Hidden Gardens of Beacon Hill.

The Sunflower Castle on Mt Vernon Street, home of BHGC founder Gertrude Beals Bourne (Credit Amy Wilson)

Today, the Beacon Hill Garden Club enjoys a thriving membership of 60+ neighborhood residents who own and maintain a hidden outdoor garden. Members agree to show their gardens every 3 to 5 years, which keeps the tour interesting and fresh for the roughly 2,000 visitors who attend each year.

The live band at the Soiree

We chatted with club president, Kate Enroth, about what makes the club so enduring, and what keeps it so relevant within the Beacon Hill community. She explained that, because space in Beacon Hill is a premium, these gardens “become special rooms for the homeowners.” The gardens not only enable people to maximize their space, but they also provide an opportunity for individual, creative expression, which club members love sharing with tour attendees. Local shops also welcome the chance to have tourists in the neighborhood and sometimes offer store discounts to tour-goers – another example of the neighborhood community coming together for this special event.

Some homeowners have lovely statues they’ve collected intentionally for their garden space (Credit Bob O’Connor)
We were thrilled to see the unveiling of Myrtle the Turtle at the Myrtle Street playground – a special place we helped revitalize years ago for our children. The sculpture was designed by artist Nancy Schon of Make Way for Ducklings fame and was donated by the club last year to commemorate its 90th anniversary.

By sharing their gardens with the public, Beacon Hill Garden Club members bring together a wide spectrum of people. Some are serious, well-versed horticulturists, while others – perhaps without a green thumb – come to explore and appreciate the gardens and history of Beacon Hill. All attendees have one thing in common: by attending the tour, they are supporting a significant number of local non-profits. Each year, the funds raised from the tour are donated to approximately 40 Boston area organizations including The Rose Kennedy Greenway, The Esplanade Association, The Food Project, The Boston Nature Center, and Friends of the Public Garden, among others. These grants range from $500-$15,000 and represent important, meaningful contributions for all.

Attendees gather for drinks and hors d’oeuvres at the Soiree

More images from the Hidden Gardens of Beacon Hill Tour & Soirée 2019

The Carnegie: Vineyard Trust’s Restored Landmark

The Carnegie: Vineyard Trust’s Restored Landmark

Of the Island, for the Island

Vineyard Trust is the hidden treasure of Martha’s Vineyard. The Trust owns and oversees 20 historic properties on the island, referred to as “landmarks for life.” These landmarks are not just preserved for people to look at from afar, they are historic sites used and loved by islanders and visitors from all over the world.Vineyard Trust’s flagship venue, The Carnegie, originally called the Carnegie Library, was named for philanthropist and summer resident Andrew Carnegie who funded the library’s construction in 1904. The library was built on land donated by Caroline Osborn Warren, a member of the prominent Osborn whaling family, and remained the town’s public library until 2016 when the property was sold to Vineyard Trust for $1.

Paramount to Vineyard Trust’s mission is to ensure the properties they revitalize and maintain are central to the island community – and continue to serve their originally intended use. In preserving the Carnegie, the library’s original learning function was both maintained and celebrated.

After an exciting restoration we were honored to lead, The Carnegie now serves as an island visitor center with reading rooms, galleries, and a permanent exhibition, Living Landmarks, which “illustrates the story of Martha’s Vineyard through the lens of the 20 landmarks in Vineyard Trust’s care.”

In addition to the beautiful interior learning space where events are hosted from April to October, The Trust also offers two separate walking tours that explore Martha’s Vineyard’s architectural and maritime history.

This week marks Vineyard Trust’s most important annual fundraiser, Taste of the Vineyard. This much anticipated two-night event raises money to restore and maintain all of the Trust’s historic landmarks. The first night is the lively Gourmet Stroll, and the second night is the upscale Patrons’ Party and Auction. (Side note: If you’re reading this before 5 pm on Saturday, June 15th, you are still eligible to bid on a 1965 Mustang – a highlight in this year’s auction. See auction link for details).

Like all Vineyard Trust properties, the Carnegie is of the island, for the island. It is a beautiful landmark both inside and out, preserved for future generations to engage and learn about the important past, present, and future of Martha’s Vineyard.

Embracing Chilly June in New England

Embracing a Chilly June in New England

What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?
-John Steinbeck

We use a combination of gas and wood-fueled fireplaces

Here in New England, we’ve had a long winter and chilly spring – and the start of June has followed suit. But, we New Englanders are a resilient bunch, familiar with this unpredictable prelude to summer. We find ways to connect our indoor and outdoor living space as much as possible – even when the weather doesn’t always cooperate. In fact, a particularly cool spring may inspire us to use our outdoor areas even more frequently.

Today, we will share some of our favorite ways to connect the comfort of indoors to our outdoor living spaces during June’s cooler evenings and throughout the months ahead.

When we design a home, we like to encourage easy indoor-outdoor living. There are several ways to create and expand a homeowner’s living space including light-filled, three season rooms, intimate covered porches and richly appointed outdoor entertaining areas.

The three season room – sometimes referred to a sunroom – is typically enclosed in glass and provides an immediate visual connection to the outdoors. It is weather resistant (not weather proof) and provides a wonderful, gradual transition from the house to the outdoors. In warmer weather, the glass can be removed and replaced with screens, allowing summer air to circulate throughout.

Covered porches represent another continuation of a home’s living space and provide an outdoor retreat where homeowners can relax and entertain al fresco. Depending on our client’s program, we often include a fireplace in this space to create an inviting and cozy outdoor oasis.

Some of our homes include both an outdoor fireplace and fire pit, which provide social seating areas for multiple guests or generations. With the fires’ light and added warmth, homeowners can enjoy these outdoor spaces in cooler weather – and later into the evenings.

Outdoor entertaining has never been more popular, and for many clients, the backyard living space is the new seasonal living room. Therefore, our design goal is to create an inviting retreat that offers not just one experience, but rather numerous opportunities for passive and active outdoor living. By using the home’s topography, we create multiple levels of outdoor enjoyment – from porches and gardens to fireside seating – which homeowners can use throughout the seasons.

We all appreciate that wonderful connection to the outdoors, even when the weather is brisk. So enjoy your special gathering spots – before long the heat of summer will be at our doorstep.

An Insider’s Guide to Martha’s Vineyard

An Insider’s Guide to Martha’s Vineyard

Getting to know the Island

It’sEdgartown Light no secret – we treasure the island of Martha’s Vineyard. People often ask us to describe what it is that makes the island so special. Is it the natural beauty, the culture, the unique, local businesses? The answer is yes, all of this and more.While each season is lovely, summer is an especially magical time on the island. With warm weather on the horizon, we want to give you an inside look at the places we recommend our friends and clients explore when they first come to the Vineyard. These are some of our favorite spots to eat, learn, unwind, and soak in all that makes the island unique and endearing. We provided links for more information and see below a map listing all of the locations.

After arriving by airplane or ferry, the first stop is Edgartown – a village steeped in history and classic architecture. There are many stellar lodging options and we especially like the Hob Knob Hotel, the newly redesigned Harbor View Hotel and The Sydney, a boutique inn we recently finished. If guests prefer renting a house, a great real estate resource is Point B Realty on Winter Street in Edgartown.

If yours is an early arrival, we suggest stopping at Rosewater Market for a cup of coffee and pastry. From there, walk to The Carnegie, a restored Vineyard Trust property which we recently just helped transform into a visitor’s center with a Living Legends exhibit showcasing The Trust’s 20 working island properties. Next, head to Edgartown Lighthouse, a magnificent and historic working lighthouse that marks the entrance to Edgartown Harbor. If you’re an art lover, walk to the nearby Eisenhauer Gallery and North Water Gallery to see some fabulous local and contemporary artwork.

By now it’s time for lunch. If you prefer to eat on the go, the Quarterdeck on Dock Street is a great option. Or, for something more leisurely, try the Atlantic Fish & Chophouse, which offers terrific food and harbor views. After an energizing lunch, we recommend a walking tour through Edgartown’s historic district, which dates back to 1641. Be sure to check out the Old Whaling Church, one of the “finest examples of Greek Revival architecture in New England.” More walking may call for an ice-cream break – in which case we recommend stopping at Mad Martha’s.

After unwinding back at the hotel, a favorite choice for dinner is Alchemy where the food is delicious and the environment is high-energy fun. Alchemy is a great spot to end your first day in Edgartown, and it’s also walking distance – always a bonus.

There is much to do and see outside of Edgartown, so we highly recommend exploring the unique beauty offered throughout the island. Heading up-island is a must. The term up-island dates back to the Vineyard’s whaling days and refers to the western parts of the island including West Tisbury, Chilmark, Menemsha, and Aquinnah. When you go, be sure to stop at the island’s oldest retail business, Alley’s General Store, the “purveyors in almost everything.” Then make your way up to Aquinnah for breathtaking views of the clay cliffs and historic Gay Head Lighthouse. If you’re a beach-goer, visit Lobsterville Beach while you’re there. (Sidenote: there are many stunning beaches up-island, but most require a town sticker, so plan accordingly.)

Lobsterville Beach

Next, head to Menemsha harbor for a fabulous sunset. If you like seafood, pick up lobster and steamers at Larsen’s for a beach picnic you’ll never forget.

Oak Bluffs is another great area of the island to explore. We love showing people the colorful nineteenth-century gingerbread cottages on the Martha’s Vineyard Campground. With whimsically painted filigree trim, they’ve been called an “immaculate dollhouse village conjured from a childhood fantasy.” If you’re visiting the island on August 14th, head to the annual Illumination Night to see the cottages beautifully lit with Chinese lanterns. Across the way is the beloved Flying Horses Carousel, the country’ oldest working carousel, and always a favorite stop for both young and old.

Illumination Night - Oak Bluffs

Boating is also a big part of summer life on the Vineyard, so we highly recommend getting out on the water. You can stay local and explore the inner and outer harbors or Edgartown with Catboat Charters, or choose a more adventurous day trip over to Nantucket on the Inter-Island Ferry from Oaks Bluffs to Nantucket. Being on the water is always a good choice. After all, “it’s only an island if you look at it from the water.” (Chief Martin Brody, Jaws)

Martha’s Vineyard offers endless culture and beauty – and thankfully remains unspoiled in many important ways. There are no chain stores, traffic lights or parking meters. There are miles of walking trails and pristine beaches. We could, of course, go on with other favorite views and haunts, but we will save those for another time. For now, this is a great insider’s start to exploring the culture, beauty, and diversity of Martha’s Vineyard. We hope you find it as endearing as we do.

Flag Etiquette on Memorial Day

American Flag Etiquette on Memorial Day

In recognition of Memorial Day, we want to highlight some history on this important American holiday, and share some helpful flag-display etiquette.

Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day takes place on the last Monday in May to honor and recognize all who have sacrificed in the service of our country. This day was first observed on May 30, 1868 when families used flowers to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The original date was chosen because it was not the anniversary of any specific battle – and so could represent all.

Memorial Day was observed on May 30th for decades, until in 1968 Congress declared Memorial Day a federal holiday that would be celebrated the last Monday in May. By choosing a “standing” Monday holiday, Memorial Day created a three-day weekend for much of America’s workforce.

With its place on our calendar, Memorial Day unofficially marks the start of the summer season. With holiday parades, cookouts and the anticipation of summer, Memorial Day weekend is a time when family and friends gather and red, white and blue are the colors-du-jour. If your home has an American Flag, be sure it’s displayed in all of its glory to commemorate this important day of remembrance.

Here are some general rules to know and follow when hanging your Flag on Memorial Day:

First, if you display your flag from a traditional flagpole, keep your flag at half-mast until noon and then raise it all the way to the top until sunset. If you choose to keep your flag displayed after dark, it should always be well illuminated.

Next, if you display your flag from a pole on the side of your house or porch, always be sure that the blue (union) section of the flag is at the peak of the staff.

Some of us choose to display our flags on an outside fence or building – or even an inside wall. In these cases, the blue (union) section should always be at the top left corner. We are all hoping for sunshine this weekend – but in the case of rain – your flag should only be displayed if it is all-weather.

Lastly, if you choose to display your American Flag on the same halyard as additional flags (such as a state flag or yacht club burgee), the American Flag should always be at the top.

Enjoy time with your family and friends this Memorial Day while remembering the spirit of this commemorative holiday.

To Beadboard, or not to Beadboard

To Beadboard, or not to Beadboard

The beauty in its versatility

Few design elements are so versatile they feel both cottagey and elegant at once. Beadboard, a style of decorative wall paneling (wainscoting), is just that versatile. Beadboard originated in England four centuries ago with the practical purpose of keeping heat inside the house, and outside dampness at bay. It is said that early English settlers brought the design to the U.S. to remind them of the “history and architectural character” of the homes they left behind. Today, beadboard is still associated with coastal New England home design but is admired and emulated across the country.

Beadboard was originally made of evenly spaced, wooden tongue and groove planks that interlocked with ridges or “beads” between each one. In this style of wainscoting, the panels were lined up vertically on an interior wall and typically covered the lower 3 to 4 feet, the same height as most chair backs (hence nicknamed a “chair rail”). Over time, beadboard evolved into a decorative treatment used throughout the home. In the 1800s, kitchen cupboards often used beadboard as a backdrop for special china or keepsakes displayed inside.

Today, beadboard is available in varying profiles and panel widths and can be purchased in large, carefully milled sheets. Because humidity is hard on wood – causing boards to shift and paint to crack – we use medium-density fiberboard (MDF), which comes in ready-to paint sheets, generally 4 feet high by 8 feet wide. MDF takes paint very well, does not expand or contract, and is a rugged as oak.

Common beadboard profiles used today

We introduce beadboard as a design feature in many of our homes to add character and charm. However, the way in which we use it varies depending on both the overall height of the space and the tone and texture of each room. For example, if we want to reinforce a cottage, seaside vernacular, we may choose to create a room with beadboard on both the walls and the ceilings. Though the look is uninterrupted from floor to ceiling, we subtly define the space by using a 6” width plank on the ceilings and a 3” on the walls.

In a more formal living space – such as a master suite – we often include beadboard as a classic, warm accent, covering just half or three-quarters of the wall. We may also introduce it as a ceiling accent – alone or with cased or antique beams.

The traditional yet casual versatility of beadboard is rich: it can be used in lieu of plaster or sheetrock, installed at any height and be painted or stained any color. Although we typically use Ahearn White paint, there are times when a spar varnish adds just the depth and warmth the room calls for.

Beadboard is a classic wall design with rich history that will forever be associated with New England style homes. Both sophisticated and beachy, beadboard adds architectural character, grace, and charm to your home as a featured presence or a seaside accent.

The Evolution of the Cape Cod House

The Evolution of the Cape Cod House

Born from Necessity and Today a Timeless Design

Sometimes the most iconic, charming styles of architecture are born from necessity. An excellent example of this is the original Cape Cod style home. In the late 17th century, Puritan settlers brought the concept of an English cottage to Massachusetts, making necessary style adaptations for the harsh New England winters. This simple, highly functional design was later coined a “Cape Cod House” in 1800 by Yale University President Reverend Timothy Dwight IV, and its name and iterations remain decidedly recognizable today. The original Cape Cod house was a cozy, one-floor rectangular structure with low ceilings and a large central chimney, which provided warmth to all of the adjacent living spaces. Built from accessible wood such as pine and oak, the façade was highly symmetrical and covered in cedar shingles or simple clapboard. The gabled roof was designed to minimize the weight of New England snowfalls and most homes had shutters, which could be closed in the winter to help protect from the outdoor elements. The original Cape style house became popular with settlers because of its easy construction, manageable size, and heat efficiency. While some generations of settlers remained in their original, stout Cape, those with the financial wherewithal appreciated the relative ease with which they could add on to the home as their families grew.

Commonly known as the Vincent House, this home was built in 1672 and is the oldest surviving residence on Martha’s Vineyard. It was home to the Vincent Family for eight generations and is now owned and maintained by the Vineyard Trust as a museum.

The early 20th century saw a revival of the Cape Cod style, spearheaded by the influential Boston architect Royal Barry Wills who reintroduced the Cape as a modern living option. Famous for his elegant simplicity, Wills was described as someone who “wanted only to design the indigenous New England Home supremely well.” Wills appreciated the strikingly symmetrical and unadorned Cape but realized that – while his clients admired the imagery of the Colonial era – they wanted modern amenities and space in their new home. Garages were added along with second-floor dormers. These dormers not only provided necessary light, they changed what was once unused loft (attic) space into livable rooms with cozy nooks and crannies.

This book features examples of the firm’s work from its founding to the present, with an emphasis on more recent houses that have been built throughout New England.

The housing boom of Post World War II saw a second revival of the iconic, adaptable Cape in locations such as Levittown, New York, the nation’s first planned suburb designed to house returning GI’s and their families. Over the years, the original “Half Cape” grew into what is called a “Three Quarter” and “Full Cape” with added wings and additional multi-paned, double-hung windows flanking the front door.

Today, our firm works with many classic homes and the iconic Cape remains a favorite. When designing or restoring a historic home, we often talk about the storyline or script that we create for each project. As detailed in our book, Timeless, this real or imagined narrative can describe a home’s origins and how the addition of different architectural elements came about over the years. The Cape Cod house lends itself well to this storytelling given its historic, humble beginnings and adaptability throughout the centuries.

One of the most popular homes we’ve designed on Martha’s Vineyard, the HGTV Dream Home 2015, tells the imagined story of a turn of the century Cape once used as hunting and fishing camp in Edgartown’s Katama plains. When designing the house, we created a storyline inspired by the island’s history. We imagined finding the simple, clapboard Cape nestled on the plain near two similar, smaller structures once used for curing meat and storing gear. In our narrative, we attached the three original buildings using porches and breezeways to create a single, light-filled Cape with shingled wings and an open, modern floor plan. The implied history of this new design captures the romance of the Vineyard while maintaining the Cape’s original symmetry, charm, and clean lines.

Once a study of simplicity and function – born from necessity – the unadorned Cape has evolved into a classic icon whose architectural adaptability and grace continues to stand the test of time.

Improving Your Home’s Curb Appeal

Improving Your Home’s Curb Appeal

Beyond the Window Box

The saying goes, “You never have a second chance to make a first impression” and when it comes to your home, that first impression doesn’t happen when someone steps through your front door. It happens from the street outside of your home and is referred to as “curb appeal.” We recently discussed the visual impact window boxes add to your home’s exterior, and this week we will share additional, practical focal points that will enhance your home’s curb appeal. Whether your goal is to increase your home’s equity, or you simply wish to create the most visually attractive picture of your home for your family and neighbors, enhancing your home’s curb appeal is well worth the planning and effort.

Beautify Yard and Walkway

  • Keep a well manicured lawn; edge flower beds and replace over-grown bushes and shrubs to ensure landscaping aligns with your home’s architecture
  • Be sure entrance walkway is well defined; use lighting and plant placement as visual aids
  • Ensure fence and pergola are in good working condition and freshly painted; if you don’t have either, consider adding one or both for charm
  • Re-seal any cracked asphalt and consider adding cobblestone edging to drive

Attention to Front Doors and Porch

  • Add seating to front porch; even a small landing can feel more inviting with a handsome chair or stool
  • The front door is your home’s focal point: be sure it’s freshly painted in a distinct color or stain
  • Make certain the entrance is well lit with sconces and/or a hanging pendant: exterior lighting helps define the look of your house
  • Clean door fixtures with metal polish and replace dated or worn hardware
  • Hang a door wreath for an updatable dose of seasonal beauty
  • Consider symmetry when adding potted plants or hanging baskets; overall organization of the façade is visually pleasing

Provide some Sparkle

  • Polish your house numbers or replace them if they are rusty or hard to read
  • Power wash outdoor siding, walkways and garage doors; this will give your home an instant face-lift
  • Washing your garage doors will reveal areas that need sanding and/or paint touch ups; consider adding a lantern over door(s)
  • Update the mailbox and paint the post if needed; add a fresh flowerbed to base
  • Make sure gutters and downspouts are clean and in good working condition
  • Ensure chimney is in good condition; touch up paint if needed

Enhancing your curb appeal will not only improve your home’s first impression for passers-by, it will create a more welcoming, visually pleasing exterior for your family and neighbors to enjoy. Your home’s first impression will be charming, inviting and lasting.

Atlantic Drive, Edgartown

Atlantic Drive, Edgartown

Designed to Optimize Ocean Views

South Beach, located in the Katama region of Edgartown, is one of the most spectacular and scenic beaches on Martha’s Vineyard. Situated on the southern side of the island, South (or Katama) Beach is a three-mile barrier beach with surf on one side and a protected salt pond on the other. It directly faces the Atlantic Ocean and represents a picturesque view for visitors and homeowners. Running parallel to South Beach is magnificent Atlantic Drive, which begins and ends at points often referred to as the “left” and “right” forks of South Beach. We have had the pleasure of designing several homes along Atlantic Drive, all of which presented similar location challenges. The shared objective for each similarly scaled program was to maximize ocean views, and the common challenge was adhering to strict, 30-foot height restrictions. This was particularly demanding given that each property was separated from the ocean by the drive as well as tall, rambling sand dunes.

To overcome this challenge and capture water views from as many primary rooms as possible, we designed each of these homes with an “upside down” layout. Sometimes referred to as “reverse living,” an upside-down house positions the main living areas such as the kitchen, dining and family rooms, along with the Master suite, on the top floor. These upper-level rooms all enjoy exceptional water views and continuous coastal breezes. To harmoniously connect the upper living areas to the pool and outdoor spaces, we introduced full-length decks and hidden outdoor stairways.

Although the first-floor living spaces of these upside down homes do not access ocean views, we were careful to seamlessly integrate them into the home’s overall functionality and vertical living style. Open floor plans with easy outdoor access and inviting stairways to the upper levels ensure that the space is vibrant, inviting and fully connected.

Each of the homes we designed on Atlantic Drive shared similar programs and objectives, and it was extremely important to us that each had a unique and independent solution. We looked to McKim, Mead & White as a historical reference for the first home we built, and for each of the following four we created a specific script and storyline. Additionally, we made certain that each home had optimal sunset views to the west and was carefully situated as not to obstruct another’s view.

When building near the water, a non-traditional, upside down layout can effectively optimize distant views that might otherwise be missed. On Atlantic Drive, our inverted home designs creatively solved our design challenges while enhancing our clients’ visual and living experiences.

The Secrets of Grosse Pointe

The Secrets of Grosse Pointe

New Urbanism on the Lakefront

We often use the term New Urbanism to describe the cohesive designs of towns such as Wellesley and Edgartown – both here in Massachusetts – where housing and shopping are in close proximity. To our west, in the state of Michigan, is the enclave of Grosse Pointe, another area that beautifully exemplifies the principles of New Urbanism in its walkable, human-scaled villages.

Grosse Pointe is an affluent coastal region approximately 8 miles east of Detroit comprised of five adjacent Pointes – Grosse Pointe City (often called “the village”), Grosse Pointe Park, Grosse Pointe Farms, Grosse Pointe Woods and Grosse Pointe Shores. Researchers with the Grosse Pointe Historical Society believe “what was once Grosse Pointe Township began dividing into different municipalities because of a dispute over alcohol.” Today, each community is closely linked to the other and shares the common, natural amenity of Lake St. Claire, a 26-mile lake that lies between Ontario and the US where residents can enjoy season-long boating.

Grosse Pointe began as a farming and hunting community where each farmer owned approximately 300 feet of water footage. To ensure the water was easily accessible both for drinking and transportation, most homes were built on the waterfront, which resulted in neighboring houses set fairly close together. As Detroit continued to prosper, Grosse Pointe grew to be the city’s foremost summer resort area. Soon after, with the invention of the railway and the automobile, Grosse Pointe became Detroit’s premier commutable, wealthy suburb – rivaling the Gold Coast of Long Island.

Edsel & Eleanor Ford House

Architects like Hugh T. Keyes who “designed grand estates for the great and wealthy of Detroit” built magnificent homes for the automotive elite. Edsel and Eleanor Ford built the largest of these Grosse Pointe estates known today as the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House. Edsel (the son of Henry Ford) hired architect Albert Kahn to build their Cotswold style home in 1929 after traveling with him to England to study the local vernacular. The home stands today as a national historic landmark and is open to the public for visitors. In addition to these great estates, the burgeoning community needed places for socializing. Clubs such as the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club, which was founded in 1914 and we recently had the pleasure of designing their new sailing center, and The Country Club of Detroit, a Tudor Revival built in 1897, remain some of the region’s most prominent buildings.

Today, Grosse Pointe’s architecture is both new and old and is predominantly Tudor, Dutch Colonial, and Neo-Georgian. Wide lawns and full canopy tree-lined streets add to the towns’ timeless aesthetic. The towns are pedestrian friendly – sidewalks are set well off of the streets and bike trails abound. Neighborhoods are designed with walkability in mind and village scaled commercial nodes make shopping easily accessible.

We are frequently asked what regions we are drawn to and what areas we believe hold significant architectural potential. Grosse Pointe is a location that does both. We are drawn to its history and sense of community and believe there is wonderful architectural potential in the village areas. For instance, introducing residential apartments above storefronts or sensitively restoring and updating smaller homes would allow additional housing options for current residents who wish to downsize but stay in the community. With the exciting renaissance happening in Detroit, Grosse Pointe holds significant allure and potential as one of the great examples of New Urbanism today.