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Governor's Mansion (Howard and Letha Sober House)
The Sober house expresses the values of upper-middle-class Americans in the 1950s. Its large living room, bar, and dining room, separated from a kitchen concealed from the public eye, were designed for a particular sort of entertaining, the cocktail party; the basement bomb shelter expresses the wish that technology could solve the problems it created; and the bringing of the indoors out through the patio and glass walls, and the outdoors in through plants, garden courts, and atriums convey a relationship of humans and nature as coequals. From the exterior the low, horizontal, L-shaped gray limestone house is deceptively compact, but encompasses 10,300 square feet.
The house was designed by Frost of Birmingham. Frost (1892–1962) studied with Paul P. Cret and worked with Albert Kahn. During the Great Depression he moved to California in search of projects, but returned to Michigan in 1939. He specialized in residential design in the Detroit suburbs. The Lansing clients were Howard and Letha Sober. Sober (1895–1986) was a pioneer in the auto transport, or haul-away, business. Ten years after the house was built, Sober donated it to the State of Michigan to serve as the governor's mansion, and it functions as such today. In 2004–2005 the Governor's Residence Foundation oversaw a privately funded renovation that updated and enlarged the house. In 2011, the governor used the house on occasion. Specimens of Michigan-grown evergreens used as Christmas trees enrich the new landscape, and colorful plantings requested by the governor brighten it.
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