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Gordon Hall (Judge Samuel William Dexter House)

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Judge Samuel William Dexter House
1841–1843, Calvin T. Fillmore and Sylvester Newkirk, builders. 8347 Island Lake Rd.
  • (Photograph by Balthazar Korab)
  • (Photograph by Balthazar Korab)

Gordon Hall is one of the most imposing wooden Greek Revival houses in Michigan. From its hilltop site above the Huron River, the house literally presides over the steepled village of Dexter to the east. It was built for Samuel William Dexter (1792–1863), a Boston-born and Harvard-educated politician and newspaperman who was chief justice of Washtenaw County from 1826 to 1833. Named for Dexter's mother, Catherine Gordon Dexter, Gordon Hall has a massive hexastyle Greek Doric portico with somewhat attenuated columns across its pedimented facade. The plan consists of an almost-square central two-story section with flanking one-and-a-half-story wings. Flanking long-side porches have similar but shorter Doric columns. In spite of the recent application of aluminum siding and the division of the interior into apartments, Gordon Hall is important because it shows the context and environment within which such grand temple-front houses were built.

In 1950 Katherine Dexter McCormick, granddaughter of Judge Dexter, donated the house to the University of Michigan, and, in turn, the university divided it into faculty apartments. In 2001, when the university announced plans to sell the house and its sixty-seven-acre site, the Dexter Area Historical Society and the Save Gordon Hall Committee rescued the house from a developer. With funds from an intense campaign, the society acquired the property. It intends to restore the house for a museum and conference center.

Writing Credits

Kathryn Bishop Eckert

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