The state of Michigan lies at the very heart of the Great Lakes: Lower Michigan is surrounded by three lakes—Erie, Huron, and Michigan; the Upper Peninsula also by three—Michigan, Huron, and Superior. The state has 3,288 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, 36,350 miles of streams and rivers, and 11,037 lakes.
Glaciation that formed the lakes also gouged and shaped the varied topography of the land—exposing the crystalline rocks of the Laurentian Shield in the Upper Peninsula, creating the fertile farmlands of southern Michigan, and leaving behind the relatively infertile soil of the northern Lower Peninsula that supported vast forests of pine and hardwoods.
Rich natural resources abounded throughout the state—the copper and iron ranges of the western Upper Peninsula; the oil and gas fields of the central and northwestern Lower Peninsula; the salt mines of Saginaw, Bay, and Wayne counties; and the limestone quarries of Petoskey, Alpena, Rogers City, Monroe, and Trenton. There were additional forests on the Upper Peninsula, in the Saginaw Valley, and along the shores of Lakes Huron and Michigan. The region's soils, tempered and enriched by the westerlies and by the moisture of the lake effect, encouraged fruit growing and muck-land vegetable farming. Then, too, the crisp northern climate, the countless miles of superb lakeshore, and the abundance of fish and other wildlife in the lakes, streams, and forests formed an irresistible magnet for recreation.
The economies supported by this landscape developed a variety of special building types. At the same time, the character of its architecture has been shaped by the changing attitude of the people themselves toward their rich and splendid land. In its wilderness phase it was perceived as awesome and terrifying. Then it came to be viewed as a land of many offerings, a strategically located land that could be conquered to form its own special economy, its own way of life. Finally, in more recent times, this same land has been viewed as worthy of appreciation and conservation. What has emerged architecturally is a special mix of forts and farms; of mines, lumber camps, and mighty factories; of Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps and attractive resorts; of small towns, cities, and suburbs—all comprising a fascinating mix of buildings that speaks with simple eloquence of the state of Michigan itself.
Native American Architecture: An Overview
In most areas of Michigan today there are few obvious visible clues to suggest that anyone lived here before the arrival of the Europeans. Nevertheless, forests and woodlots conceal burial mounds and earthworks, while sites of villages and camps contain certain traces of long-vanished wigwams, lodges, and longhouses.
Michigan's first inhabitants arrived more than twelve thousand years ago and found a land much different than today's. Glaciers occupied the northern half of the state while the southern part resembled present-day northern Canada in climate and landscape. Known to archaeologists as the Paleo-Indians, these people were hunters of barren-ground caribou. Although archaeologists have found no traces of their dwellings in Michigan, analogy with contemporary groups having a similar lifestyle suggests that they were domed structures erected over shallow depressions scraped in the ground. The dwellings probably consisted of hides stretched over a wooden framework held in place on the ground by stones or clumps of sod. This type of primitive shelter was easily erected and very portable, each an absolute necessity in a migratory pattern of living.
After the glaciers receded to the north, around ten thousand years ago, Michigan's climate moderated. The tundra landscape was replaced by a succession of forest types culminating in the magnificent hardwood and conifer forests encountered by the earliest European explorers. It was from these forests that the Native Americans got their building materials. Stone suitable for building was rare; rock cairns appear to be the only substantial structures erected. It was probably also during the cultural period archaeologists call the Archaic (8000–1000 B.C.) that certain basic building types were developed and then maintained by Michigan's primary Native American tribal groups: the Ojibwa, the Potawatomi, and the Odawa.
The most basic type of early Native American dwelling was the bark- or mat-covered wigwam. The builder, almost always a woman or group of women, began the construction of a wigwam by thrusting the sharpened butt ends of saplings into the ground (or placing them in dug holes) about two feet apart in an oval or circular pattern. A pole at each end of the arrangement was bent toward the center with the two tops tied, forming an arc. The remaining poles were then bent toward the center, lashed onto the principal arc, thus forming a domed framework. A space between two of the poles formed a doorway and mats woven from cattail stalks were placed along the base of the framework, forming the wigwam covering. A hole was left at the top through which smoke from the central hearth could escape. A wigwam typically housed an entire family. Inside the wigwam was a fireplace and along the sides were sleeping areas; the rear was used for storage. A deer hide or bearskin covered the doorway. The use of birch bark for the exterior was restricted to the natural range of the paper birch tree.
Another type of dwelling was the so-called summer house. It was constructed by placing a crotched sapling at each corner of a rectangle, which generally measured about 14 by 20 feet. Four poles were bound to the tops of these uprights, creating a rectangular box. At the center of each end, another, taller crotched sapling was erected and a ridgepole secured in the crotches. Roof poles were then laid about three feet apart from the ridgepole sloping down to the top of the wall poles on either side. Walls, six to seven feet high, were created by binding poles together vertically and horizontally. The entire structure, except for the doorway and smoke hole, was then covered with bark sheets tied onto the framework. The door would have been covered with a skin or woven mat.
The longhouse was an unusual form of dwelling. Huron Indians, fleeing west after being devastated by the Iroquois during warfare in the late 1640s, introduced it into Michigan in a highly developed form. It was a communal dwelling, communally built, about 20 to 30 feet wide, 20 to 30 feet high, and 120 to 160 feet long. It sheltered five or six related families. Longhouses were framed with saplings set in the ground in opposing pairs, tied together at the top to form arches, and further supported by horizontal poles. Slabs of chestnut or elm bark formed the walls and roof. There was a smoke hole or vent in the roof. The interior featured a central aisle or passageway with a hearth for each family group. Partitioned sleeping areas, open to the passageway, lay on either side. Above the sleeping platforms were long racks or shelves for storage of clothing and equipment. Storage areas and small doorways were located at each end of the structure. For the Huron and other people who built longhouses, these structures were a physical expression of their way of life—family solidarity, economic cooperation, and consensus rule by adults.
Michigan's Native Americans also had several kinds of special purpose buildings. The sweat lodge was a small version of the wigwam with a capacity of one to four people that was used for curative or ritualistic purposes. The menstrual hut was another variety of small wigwam and was used only by a woman during her menstrual period. Here she lived in isolation because of the belief that contact with a menstruating woman or anything she touched was harmful and dangerous.
Another specialized structure among the historic tribes was the medicine lodge. This was also a wigwam-type structure, but of much larger size, sometimes one hundred feet in length. It was open at the top and had cedar boughs for sides. This lodge, the focus of the Medicine Dance or Midewiwin, was used only once or twice a year. The medicine lodge and the “dance circles” reported by pioneer observers in the early historic period have their roots in sites such as the two-thousand-year-old stockade-like enclosure discovered at the Schultz site, located at the junction of the Tittabawassee and Shiawassee rivers in Saginaw. 1This building was almost certainly the locus for important social or religious gatherings.
Of less certain function are the earthworks found in the interior of north-central Michigan. These earthen walls are 1 to 3 feet high and surround a circular or oval area 150 to 300 feet in diameter. They were originally surmounted by a palisade of wooden posts, broken at intervals by “gates,” and surrounded by ditches varying in depth from one to five feet. Whether all earthworks were elaborate ritual structures has not yet been determined.
There were also thousands of burial mounds spread primarily across the southern two-thirds of the Lower Peninsula. Varying in height from one to fifteen feet and from fifteen to one hundred feet in diameter, they were the final resting place for the honored dead of a variety of prehistoric groups between 600 B.C.and 1000 A.D.Preconstruction activities often involved the ritual clearance of the ground surface down to subsoil, the excavation of a burial pit, placement of the bodies or skeletal remains and artifacts in the pit, refilling the burial pit, and then careful construction of the mound, often using specially selected soils.
According to the 2000 U.S. census, Michigan's residents included over 58,000 Native Americans, about one-half of one percent of the state's population. Some live in tribal communities. Today twelve tribes of Ojibwa, Odawa, and Potawatomi are federally recognized. In addition to housing, the tribal communities have constructed other buildings for use as community centers, businesses, and industries. Such buildings as the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture and Lifeways at Mount Pleasant ( IB4) and the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort ( IB5) reflect contemporary Native American responses to economic opportunities and the ability to preserve and present their own stories of tribal struggle and survival.
French and British Exploration and Early Settlement
Since the easiest access to the area that is now Michigan was the water route up the St. Lawrence River and across Lakes Ontario and Erie, the first settlers of European origin were from French Canada, and thus the earliest buildings were primitive frontier structures (forts and trading posts) that were French in character. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, French missionaries, fur traders, and soldiers followed the travels of French explorers who had sought a water route to the Pacific. The French and British, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and, in the nineteenth century, the Americans organized space and built forts for military defense, trading posts, and missions.
The French attempted to control the hinterland through their Jesuit missions, their military presence, and their licensed traders. Jesuit priest Jacques Marquette established the first mission in present-day Michigan near the foot of the rapids of the St. Mary's River at Sault Ste. Marie in 1668. Here he directed construction of a fortified enclosure protecting a chapel and a house. Missions at strategically linked waterways such as the St. Mary's River at Sault Ste. Marie, the Straits of Mackinac, and the St. Clair and Detroit rivers, which were gateways to Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, and Erie, respectively, became central points of contact for Indians, missionaries, fur traders, and officers of French Canada. The missions were located close to Indian villages and were moved to new sites as Indians migrated. Thus, in 1672 Marquette moved to St. Ignace a mission established in 1671 on Mackinac Island. It was moved again to the south side of the Straits in 1715, and to L'Arbre Croche in 1741.
The major military posts were at the Straits of Detroit and Mackinac. In 1701 Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac established Fort Pontchartrain du Detroit, a fur trading post at the present site of Detroit. It was the first permanent French settlement on the Lower Peninsula. It had a two-hundred-foot-square enclosure of nearly twenty-foot-high log palisades. Within the fortified space were laid narrow streets on which stood the commandant's house, guardhouse and barracks, parish church, priest's house, and other houses. A cemetery and gardens stood outside. Settlers cultivated farms outside the fort on long, narrow lots that ran back from the river and as early as 1708 built simple oak or cedar log-framed houses sheathed with clapboards.
At the conclusion of the French and Indian War in 1763, when France lost nearly all of its North American empire, the area east of the Mississippi River, including what became Michigan, came under British rule. The British replaced Pontchartrain with Fort Lernoult (Fort Shelby), which was built just north of it in 1777–1778. The old French fort on the river remained the center of Detroit until it was destroyed by the 1805 fire.
In 1715 the French had built Fort Michilimackinac on the Straits of Mackinac at present-day Mackinaw City; until 1780 it was the center of the Upper Great Lakes fur trade. The fort itself was a palisaded village with houses, gardens, and a church. The British occupied it in 1761. During the American Revolution, the fort's commander, Patrick Sinclair, transported everything portable across the Straits and by 1781 he had reestablished the fort at Mackinac Island. Now known as Fort Mackinac ( MK7), it guarded the Straits with three blockhouses and stone ramparts with sally ports. Articles of peace signed at Paris in 1783 ceded Michigan to the United States, and in 1796 under the Jay Treaty, the British relinquished their fur trading posts at Detroit and Mackinac.
During the uncertain days of the early territorial period, the U.S. government built forts at the southern tip of Lake Huron and the eastern end of Lake Superior. Among the earliest was Fort Gratiot erected in 1814 by the federal government at present-day Port Huron to protect residents and travelers in the Upper Great Lakes, and trade on the St. Clair River. Further security was added in 1822, when Colonel Hugh Brady and two companies of American soldiers began building Fort Brady at the Sault. Intended as an impressive show of military presence, it later provided defense for the Sault Locks, constructed in 1855 ( CH5). In 1893 the United States moved this fort to New Fort Brady, now the site of Lake Superior State University ( CH13). In 1844, in anticipation of tension between miners and Indians in the Keweenaw Peninsula, the federal government erected Fort Wilkins, a cluster of twenty-three mostly log buildings ( KW6).
Throughout the years of transition from frontier to statehood, the architecture of Michigan was marked by a gradual but accelerating intrusion of established stylistic concepts from the Eastern Seaboard into the primitive building environment of the hinterland. The building traditions of French Canada, colonial New England, and New York are evident in the structures those early settlers built. Fur traders and agents, missionaries, and Indian agents constructed trading posts, agency quarters, houses, and missions, while the territorial governor built a territorial courthouse and capitol.
Around 1789 French Canadian fur trader François-Marie Navarre (1759–1836), employing the traditional French technique of pièce-sur-pièce,or log construction, built the Navarre-Anderson Trading Post on the River Raisin ( MR15). The American Fur Company commissioned Madame Madeline (Magdelaine) Marcotte LaFramboise (1780–1846) to establish a trading post near Grand Rapids. Built in 1806 (now demolished), it was a thirty-foot-long hut of logs and bark located some two miles below the mouth of the Flat River, near present-day Lowell. In 1817, the American Fur Company erected on Mackinac Island a large symmetrical dormered agency house. This house (now the Robert Stuart Museum; 7342 Market Street), however, was in the Federal style, which was then at its height on the East Coast. Its elegance contrasted radically with the more primitive log construction of the French and testified to the mobility of high-style ideas even on the developing frontier. The house was part of a complex that included a warehouse, trading post, and clerk's quarters. Twenty years later, around the time Michigan achieved statehood, the fur company reverted to a more primitive form in a group of log buildings and a log house for trader Abraham W. Williams (1792–1873) on the west shore of Murray Bay near present-day Munising.
In 1827, on the bank of the Grand River, Louis Campau built two blockhouses, again constructed of close-fitting logs or blocks with tenons at the corners. One served as a dwelling, the other as a trading post. Just a few years later, however, in 1835, Patrick and Frances Mouton Marantette erected a Greek Revival house on the St. Joseph River next to their trading post at Not-a-wa-sepe, near what is now Mendon ( SJ4). The appearance of Greek Revival at this early date was another important step in bringing Michigan architecture current with the more developed regions of the nation.
Territorial governor Lewis Cass took up residency in the French colonial Macomb-Cass house, which was erected by 1819 on the north side of Larned Street between 1st and 2nd streets in Detroit. The house exemplified pièce-sur-pièce à tenon en coulisseconstruction, in which blocks of hewn white cedar timber or logs were closely fitted together and tenoned at the corners into grooved uprights. The one-and-a-half-story, side-gable house was clad in weatherboards and had a steep dormered roof through the center of which rose a massive stone chimney. The interior contained a salon or audience room and dining, drawing, library, and lodging rooms. The Federal-style house at Sault Ste. Marie built in 1826–1827 by Obed Wait for Indian agent Henry Rowe Schoolcraft ( CH6) makes a fascinating contrast.
The Mission Church ( MK10) on Mackinac Island also had its roots in New England. Built by William Montague Ferry, a missionary under the sponsorship of the United Foreign Missionary Society, together with carpenter and teacher Martin Heydenburk, it has a tower and octagonal belfry and Federal antecedents. Not so the church built a few years later by John Sunday (or Shahwundais). A Chippewa from Canada, Sunday was a Methodist missionary who established in 1832 the Kewawenon Indian Mission at Kewawenon, an Indian settlement on Keweenaw Bay north of L'Anse. The church he built was of simple log and birchbark construction.
Of these early buildings the most ambitious of them all was Obed Wait's Greek Revival territorial courthouse (later the capitol) in Detroit. Built in 1823–1828, this brick courthouse had an Ionic hexastyle portico. Wait tempered this bold statement, however, with a three-staged steeple, and sidelights and an elliptical fanlight around the main entrance, details that added a note of Federal elegance to a basically Greek Revival building.
Frontier Farms and Villages
The migration of more permanent settlers from the established regions of New England and New York, again along the lakes and, in some cases, through the Western Reserve, into southern Michigan resulted in the development of the earliest farms and villages. This migration was enormously facilitated by the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825. Architecturally, it flowered in the fine Federal and Greek Revival buildings that characterize the farm country of the southern tier of counties.
The canal provided a cheap and safe water route from the East to Lake Erie and then to Detroit. It became the chief route for immigrants to the Great Lakes country and was instrumental in creating agricultural growth in the West. New Englanders and New Yorkers left worn-out farms for fresh lands in the Michigan Territory and brought their building traditions with them. European immigrants also came into Michigan by the canal. In addition, the canal facilitated the transportation of Michigan products to eastern markets and of supplies to Michigan. By 1836 Michigan used the Erie Canal for shipping grain, and later, for transporting copper and iron to major railroad centers.
In 1805, under the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, Michigan became a territory. The ordinance determined how to govern the lands north of the Ohio River, created the Northwest Territory, and prescribed the conditions by which each territory would become a state. Its provisions aided the western movement into the Michigan Territory by assuring Americans from the Northeast a political process to statehood.
The orderly grid pattern of north–south and east–west roads, farms, fields, and county lines is the result of the Basic Land Ordinance of 1785. This ordinance provided for the division of western land into townships six miles square, each divided into thirty-six numbered sections of one square mile or 640 acres, with one section set aside for maintaining public schools. It also established methods of land sale and disposition and required survey prior to settlement. At times, town plans based on this grid system were adjusted to the dominant physical features of the land. As a result, towns like Adrian, Allegan, Grand Ledge, Grayling, and the Monroe Center of Grand Rapids are interesting because of their variation from the monotonous grid pattern. Other exceptions to the rectilinear pattern were found in the earlier narrow ribbon or long lot farms extending inland from the water that were laid out by French settlers, and in Judge Augustus B. Woodward's partially executed Detroit plan of 1805. The latter called for wide streets radiating from the Detroit River with secondary radials from parks, a scheme that was obviously influenced by Pierre L'Enfant's plan for Washington, D.C.
Federal surveyors began in 1815 to establish the base line and prime meridian in Michigan Territory. 2The principal meridian did not reach the Upper Peninsula until 1840, but in the meantime surveys were pushed forward in southern Michigan. The first efforts were concentrated on lands likely to attract settlers, and by 1825 most of the southern third of the Lower Peninsula had been surveyed. Progress northward was slow, but between 1835 and 1840 the Lower Peninsula was virtually completed and a beginning had been made in the eastern part of the Upper Peninsula. By 1851 the entire state had been surveyed with the exception of some inland lakes, rivers, and islands. Once surveyed, land was sold at government land offices. The first office opened at Detroit in 1818, and later ones were located at Monroe, White Pigeon, Kalamazoo, Ionia, and Flint.
Aided in the 1820s by the territorial governor's purchase of rights to additional land, by Congress's reduction of the minimum plot purchasable to eighty acres, and by the surveyor general's completion of the land survey, the southern portion of Michigan quickly became a region of frontier farms and villages.
Pioneer families cleared land and built log structures, but these were soon superseded by Greek Revival houses employing New York and New England building methods such as coursed cobblestone and wood. Builder's guides by Asher Benjamin and Minard Lafever, which had helped shape the Greek Revival in the East, also served as sources for Michigan builders in the 1830s and 1840s. 3The strong Greek Revival interest in southern Michigan was, in part at least, a spillover from the nearby Western Reserve in Ohio, which had so many splendid Greek Revival buildings. At the same time, Gothic Revival was employed for Episcopal churches.
The Greek Revival style persisted for better than two decades in Michigan—from the Territorial Capitol in 1823 to the Caleb M. and Mary S. Chapel House in Parma ( JA17) in the 1850s—and it embraced all building types. In 1835–1837, for example, C. P. Calkins built a tiny Doric temple-front law office in Grand Rapids (235 State Street). Some ten years later Alvin N. Hart, a native of Cornwall, Connecticut, built the Lapeer County Courthouse ( LP1), an imposing Greek Revival building with a Doric portico and a three-stage tower that still dominates the county seat. In 1853 the graceful, porticoed Greek Congregational Unitarian Church was erected (now demolished) in Detroit. Indeed, the depth to which classical ideas penetrated the American frontier is also manifest in many place names: Romeo, Adrian, Albion, Ypsilanti, Cassopolis, and Troy.
Some towns were established in the open country using the grid plan with a village green or courthouse square and streets planted with trees. Marshall is Michigan's best-known and most beautiful example of this concept. Settled in 1831, its wide main street leads to a circular green on which a Doric porticoed courthouse once stood. The street was lined with a tavern, hotel, business blocks, churches, and homes. Elsewhere in the 1830s land speculators platted townsites at locations on ports or on rivers where waterpower could be harnessed. Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, and Grand Rapids are successful examples.
As early settlers worked the land, growing production created the need both to take crops to market and to get supplies and new settlers into the territory. Roads, canals, and harbors were constructed and natural waterways improved with the aid of federal grants, under the provisions of the General Survey Bill of 1824. By 1837 main state roads included the Detroit–Fort Meigs (Ohio) from Perrysburg, Ohio, to Detroit; the Chicago Road from Detroit to Chicago; the Saginaw Road from Detroit to Saginaw; the Fort Gratiot Road from Detroit to Fort Gratiot; the Territorial Road; and the Grand River Road from Detroit to Grand Rapids. These roads were built in increments over a period of time. Thus, the Chicago Road was surveyed and started in 1825 and completed to St. Joseph in 1835. Docks and warehouses for produce and supplies were built at distribution centers such as Detroit, Mackinac, Sault Ste. Marie, and Grand Rapids.
Inns to accommodate travelers were built along the way. Stephen Jennings acquired a Greek Revival house that Allen and Orrin Weston had erected in 1836 on an important intersection of the Grand River Road at Farmington and converted it to an inn (28000 Grand River Avenue, Farmington Hills). Arriving in 1843 from Cooperstown, New York, Sylvester and Lucy Walker bought and converted an existing two-story side-gable house with a Federal entrance into an inn for travelers on the Chicago Road ( LE10). It was located at the well-traveled intersection of the Chicago and La Plaisance roads.
The “Toledo War” of 1835–1836 resulted in Michigan's relinquishing to Ohio its claim to the Toledo Strip, a 468-square-mile area stretching from Lake Erie to western Hillsdale County that included Toledo; it received in exchange the western Upper Peninsula. This sequence of events also opened the way for statehood. On January 26, 1837, President Andrew Jackson signed the bill making Michigan the nation's twenty-sixth state.
Lumbering of the Pine Forests of Lower Michigan
It was no accident that architecture in the lumbering areas of Lower Michigan should be marked by a predilection for wood. This preference is manifest in a variety of forms ranging from the log structures on the frontier to the fine wooden Queen Anne houses that characterized so many lumbering towns during the late nineteenth century. The sheer abundance of the forest would seem to have mandated that this should be so. Pine forests, dominated by magnificent white pine, the highest quality of which was known as cork pine, ranged through more than two-thirds of the Lower Peninsula. The southern limit of the forest followed a line moving northward from Lake Michigan in the extreme southwest of the Lower Peninsula along the coast of Berrien County through the northern part of Van Buren County and the eastern part of Allegan County and then eastward through the centers of Kent, Ionia, Clinton, and Shiawassee counties before dipping through the southwestern corner of Genesee County and across the middle of Oakland and Macomb counties to the northern tip of Lake Saint Clair. The Upper Peninsula also had pine forests.
Like other developments in Michigan, lumbering was shaped by the Great Lakes. The geology, topography, climate, and soil of the region produced a physical environment favorable to the growth of a great lumber industry. First, encircled by the Great Lakes and the longest shoreline of any area in the nation, Michigan had a ready-made water transportation system with potentially great harbors that connected it to markets in the East and to the Midwest. Second, its network of rivers provided an inner transportation system for moving the logs from the forest; and this same network also served as a reliable source of waterpower for manufacturing the logs into lumber after they arrived at the mills. Third, the Great Lakes exerted an influence on the climate, moderating the temperature but fostering precipitation. Michigan's long summers and short winters and its higher ratio of rain to snow were suited for logging, driving, and manufacturing; and its less extreme temperatures provided an ideal climate for the growth and harvest of pine.
Woodsmen harvested the forests moving north along the east and west sides of the state and then into the interior. The course was determined by the major drainage basins, harbors, and shoreline. Beginning in 1830, logging and the manufacturing of wood products expanded and by 1855 had spread up both sides of the Lower Peninsula along its rivers. On the eastern shore there were sawmills from Detroit to Cheboygan, on the western shore, from Allegan to Traverse City. By 1870 commercial lumber manufacturing was well established. The industry reached a peak in the 1890s and was over by 1910. From 1870 to 1900 Michigan led the nation in lumber production.
As Michigan's population grew in the 1830s, there was an increasing need for building materials for dwellings and farm buildings. Mills on the St. Clair, Saginaw, Grand, and Muskegon rivers supplied this home market. Until 1840 almost all of the lumber produced in Michigan was used for its own domestic, commercial, and agricultural needs. After 1840, however, the urbanizing East, its own supply of lumber nearing depletion, sought Michigan lumber, which was shipped to Albany and to ports on Lake Erie. The westward migration, especially on the treeless plains, created another outlet; in this case, after 1840, the lumber was shipped to Chicago and Milwaukee and west by way of the Illinois and Michigan Canal. Thus, the Great Lakes connected Michigan to both close and distant potential markets.
Mill sites or lumber manufacturing operations often were located in advance of settlement. The sites included plant machinery and dams, docks, housing, and stores. Large mills located along the shore at or near the mouth of rivers became distribution centers.
With the invention of the narrow-gauge logging railroad, the Shay locomotive, and the big logging wheel, and with the arrival in the 1870s of the railroads in general, the forests of the state's interior were harvested with even greater efficiency and zeal. Although the interior counties supplied logs in ever-increasing abundance, they did not, for the most part, develop as manufacturing centers.
The chartering of over twenty railway corporations in 1837 alone began an extraordinary era of railroading. The completion of the Erie and Kalamazoo and the Adrian and Kalamazoo railroads by the 1840s was followed by the Michigan Southern, Michigan Central, and Michigan Northern railroads in the 1850s and by northern Michigan railroads in the 1860s and 1870s. Lumbering, mining, and tourism all thrived as railroads crisscrossed both peninsulas.
Along with the expansion of the railroads, the larger mills with more highly developed technology, together with the transformation from waterpower to steam, made it possible to produce more uniform and finished lumber and more refined and complicated decorative elements, all in sufficient quantity to meet the demands of the ever-growing building trades. These demands also opened the way for special wood products such as flooring, veneering, and furniture. But the dramatic expansion of the lumbering industry was not without its price. Because of the voracious appetite for lumber that stimulated its growth in the first place, the seemingly inexhaustible forests of the state were suddenly gone, and by the end of the nineteenth century the industry found itself in a disastrous decline. Indeed, it was not until after reforestation in the twentieth century that a few industries based on lumbering products, such as pulpwood, particle board, woodwork for automobile bodies, and portable and prefabricated housing, became viable.
The architecture that flowered in those parts of Michigan where lumbering was the way of life is a vivid reflection of that dynamic episode in the state's history. It captures with uninhibited delight the special qualities of the people and the place, and does so in forms that exploit to the fullest both the structural and decorative potentials of wood. This is manifest not only in a preponderance of wooden architecture but also, and especially, in the overt enthusiasm with which the craftsmen in these regions handled the material.
This condition was not, of course, unique to Michigan. The seemingly endless tracts of forest that confronted the early settlers and pioneers in this country made it inevitable that from the very beginning Americans would use wood in abundance and with a special empathy. Indeed, many of the nation's most original and thoroughly national architectural accomplishments were realized in wood. The magnificent forests of Michigan put the state in the mainstream of that development, and the architecture that it produced thus became an effective mirror of what was happening in the nation at large. This same architecture, however, also had a strong regional flavor, evoked in part by the diverse components that comprised its base and in part by the individualism of the designers and builders that gave it life. At the root were the French elements introduced in the early log structures built by the trappers and traders who came into the region from Canada. These were followed by waves of those later generations of Americans who came up the Great Lakes from New York State and western New England, bringing with them long-established methods of designing and building in wood. To add spice to the mix, there were also several small but homogeneous ethnic groups from Europe, each of which had its own ideas about how wood should be used in building.
All of this, together with the growing presence of professional architects—some immigrants from the eastern establishment, some locally born and trained—made it certain that each episode in American architecture in which wood played a significant role was received with a ready sympathy. Michigan's Greek Revival buildings showed the same characteristics of style as those in New York, New England, or the Western Reserve, but also spoke with a strong local accent. These circumstances vitalized the established architectural conventions as they permeated the Michigan frontier, and to the degree that they represent conditions and values that were commonly held, it was these same things that gave the architecture of Michigan its regional quality.
The wooden architecture of Michigan captures with uninhibited delight both the dynamics of the lumbering industry and the optimism of the age. The story unfolds quietly in small towns, more urgently in the turbulent cities. Its elements emerge in the crisply cut Greek temple fronts, in the board-and-batten siding and interlocking tracery of Gothic Revival churches and cottages, in the brackets, corbeling, and open arcading of the Italian villas, all rendered in wood. A special climax was the advent of Queen Anne in domestic architecture, which flowered in Michigan in the 1880s when the industry was at its height. A particularly expressive example is the sumptuous house built in Muskegon in 1887–1889 by the city's leading lumberman, Charles H. Hackley, which is unsurpassed in Michigan ( MU7). It sings of wooden architecture and celebrates the forest, it shouts of the ambition of the lumbermen of the Muskegon River valley, and in its expansive exuberance it invites comparison with that triumphant example of building in wood, the spectacular William Carson House in Eureka, California.
As the lumber industry declined and finally closed, many lumbermen left special architectural legacies to the success of the industry itself, and testimonies to their own ambition. The gifts came in the form of civic architecture—libraries, theaters, art museums, and schools. These distinctive buildings often formed a nucleus for the cultural development of the city. Many are fine high-style works designed by recognized Chicago, New York, or Boston architects, or by proficient local architects. Lumberman Charles Hackley was among the most generous, with his gifts to the city of Muskegon. All bearing his name, they include a park ( MU1), a granite and sandstone Richardsonian Romanesque library ( MU2), and a Beaux-Arts classical art gallery ( MU4). He also built schools and churches.
The program of reforestation and wildlife protection, promoted by the State Conservation Commission in the 1920s, was continued by the CCC and other federal work-relief programs between 1933 and 1942. Trees were planted, trails were cut, and in the Ottawa, Hiawatha, and Huron-Manistee national forests of northern Michigan, rustic structures of native materials were built for administrative, protectional, and recreational purposes.
U.S. Forest Service architecture had an intimate relationship with the landscape and was sympathetic to the natural environment. Although it was consistent with contemporary architectural development in the revivalist tradition, the philosophy of nonintrusiveness called for the use of native and natural materials. Designs drew primarily upon rural vernacular structures, including design elements found in the Arts and Crafts movement. The Forest Service used wood and wood products extensively for both economic and associative reasons. The Hiawatha National Forest built its early American Munising Ranger District Administration Site ( AR3) to fit into its small-town environment, while its Clear Lake Organizational Camp ( ST4) is rustic. Michigan's Forest Service architecture is more modest than that of the West. Nevertheless, it did influence the construction of hundreds of rustic cabins along the riverbanks and lakeshores and in the woods.
Copper and Iron Mining
The rich copper and iron deposits in the legendary mineral ranges of the Upper Peninsula were natural resources that would rival the forests in their importance to the state's economy. But mining and its consequences also had an impact on architecture. Here, stone was the common building material; even stone left over from the actual mining process was used for building purposes. At the same time, a number of specialized building types were created specifically for mining operations. Consequently, there developed a vigorous vernacular mode that added a craggy brow to the architectural profile of the state.
The historical facts that lie behind this development are themselves revealing. In the nineteenth century, scientific surveys sponsored by federal and state governments provided increasingly accurate and reliable data about mineralogical resources, flora and fauna, and soil conditions and gave their locations. The reports also projected the marketability of the area and forecast the region's importance to the economic development of the state. As early as 1819, exploratory expeditions under the authority of the U.S. Secretary of War, together with the territorial governor of Michigan, were carried out by scientist and writer Henry Rowe Schoolcraft (1793–1846). Schoolcraft was also an authority on the North American Indian and was thus a particularly appropriate person to explore the Upper Peninsula. His observations about the various physiographic and geological features along the southern shore of Lake Superior were the first to arouse serious interest in the region's potential. Aware of the vast copper deposits, he argued that federally sponsored surveys would “augment our sources of profitable industry” and “promote our commercial independence.” It was not until 1841, however, that things began to move. In that year, the report of state geologist Douglass Houghton confirmed the presence of the region's Precambrian iron and copper and attracted the attention of geologists worldwide. It pointed specifically to the rich copper deposits in the western Upper Peninsula and initiated the first copper rush into the area. A decade later, geologists for the federal government, J. W. Foster and J. D. Whitney, studied the Lake Superior region and expanded on the earlier reports, adding further impetus to its development. 4
This scientific activity was not confined to Michigan. It was but part of a larger exploration of the country, an exploration made possible by the dramatic advances in the earth sciences that were a mark of nineteenth-century America. Their revelations were observed with an acute interest that would lead to a dramatic change in the way Americans saw and understood the land in which they lived.
It was not only physical data, however, that the scientific expeditions revealed. Their reports also contained vivid descriptions, written with urgent enthusiasm, of first discovery and were permeated with expressions of fascination, awe, and reverence toward a varied and spectacular land. More than that, the veracity of these accounts was confirmed by actual visual images, provided by artists and photographers who had been taken on the expeditions to record what they saw. The reports of Foster and Whitney on Michigan, for example, fully capture this new attitude toward the unbroken wilderness. In part factual, in part intensely romantic, they contain detailed descriptions of the brilliantly colored rocks as they had been shaped by the ceaseless action of the surging lake into striking and beautiful caverns, cornices, grotesque openings and Gothic doorways, arches, and ruinlike shapes reminiscent of antiquity. Equally important, the text is illustrated by lithographs of geological formations that not only have the appearance of architectural forms but are identified as such—Monument Rock, the Castles, Miner's Castle, the Amphitheater, the Chapel. By thus associating the earth's structure with architectural structure, the imagery of geology has been made to impress the imagery of architecture in such a way as to give wholly new meaning to stone as a building material.
As identified in the various geological reports, the Copper Range is a narrow spine that runs the entire length of the Keweenaw Peninsula, stretching in a four- to six-mile-wide belt through Ontonagon, Houghton, and Keweenaw counties. Some four hundred copper mining companies operated here between 1872 and 1920. At the center of the range is the Portage Lake Mining District. One of four mining districts in the Copper Range, it held the rich Pewabic amygdaloid and Calumet conglomerate lodes. The earliest discoveries of copper were made at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, in the northern third of the mineral range, and in the Ontonagon vicinity, in the southern third. Later discoveries occurred in the South Range area, just southwest of Houghton.
The Marquette, Menominee, and Gogebic iron ranges are in Marquette, Dickinson, Iron, and Gogebic counties. In 1844 William Burt and Jacob Houghton confirmed Douglass Houghton's reports when they too discovered iron ore at Negaunee. 5The following year twenty citizens from Jackson opened the Jackson Mine near Teal Lake. By 1875 the mines had shipped over 900,000 tons of iron ore valued at nearly $4 million.
The completion of the Sault canal (St. Mary's Falls Ship Canal; CH5) around the rapids of the St. Mary's in 1855 opened shipping between Lake Superior and Lake Huron, and on to the other Great Lakes. With the entire Great Lakes system open to shipping, large-scale mining operations became a reality. Mining structures of all kinds appeared at many locations along the mineral ranges; docks and warehouses were built at transportation and distribution points at Eagle River, Houghton, Marquette, and Escanaba. Some of these specialized buildings were constructed from the dark, gray-black rock discarded from the mines themselves. A significant number, however, were built of a beautiful red sandstone that was indigenous to the Upper Peninsula. Cropping out at various points along the south shore of Lake Superior, this sedimentary rock is made up of sand-sized grains of quartz, bonded together by iron oxide, calcite, authigenic quartz, and silica; the iron oxide gives this lovely material its rich reddish-brown color. The most prolific outcropping, the Jacobsville formation, occurs on the Keweenaw Peninsula, southeast of the Keweenaw fault. It extends eastward along the shore of Lake Superior to Sault Ste. Marie and Sugar Island and probably constitutes the bedrock over much of the bottom of Lake Superior in that area. It also crops out from Munising westward to the head of the lake. Over the years, forty-six companies extracted the famous sandstone from quarries in the Jacobsville formation. Its resonant presence enlivens the streets in the cities and villages throughout the mineral ranges.
From 1870 until 1910, the prosperity of the copper and iron mining, lumbering, and shipping industries of the Lake Superior region created a demand for ever more substantial buildings, and in satisfying this demand, architects, builders, and clients alike preferred the sedimentary rock from the Jacobsville formation. The red sandstone city halls and county courthouses, churches, schools and libraries, banks and commercial blocks, and houses they built give the Lake Superior region a distinct identity.
Between 1880 and 1900 Richardsonian Romanesque, which had already permeated most of the upper Midwest, brought exciting new potential to the architecture of Michigan. Not only was it a style of national prominence but it was one that was particularly suitable to the character of the region. Its dynamic stone masonry, massive forms, and irregular outlines introduced qualities of style that seemed to be almost begging for rendition in Lake Superior sandstone. But H. H. Richardson's intensely poetic style was also responsive to the natural qualities of wood. It therefore had an equally powerful affinity with the forests of Michigan and offered exciting new possibilities for the further enhancement of an already firmly established and joyous commitment to wood.
The Richardsonian mode arrived in Michigan at the height of the lumbering and mining years and was received with flamboyant, if sometimes naive, enthusiasm. It appeared in buildings of all types but was used with the greatest originality in domestic architecture, especially in the towns and cities of the mineral ranges. The best-known example was built in Marquette in 1890–1892 for John M. Longyear, a speculator in mineral and timber lands (see MQ13).
A public building in the Richardsonian Romanesque manner that had special meaning for the mineral ranges was the Michigan School of Mines erected in 1887–1889 two years after the legislature established the school. Situated on a slope above Portage Lake at East Houghton in the heart of the mining district, it contained all departments of the school—laboratories, classrooms, offices, and library. Built of random rock-faced ashlar of Jacobsville sandstone quarried locally at Portage Entry, and trimmed with Marquette brownstone, it projected a geological image of the land the building was designed to illuminate and celebrated one of the state's most precious attributes.
Richardsonian Romanesque marked the triumphant climax of nineteenth-century romanticism in both American and Michigan architecture. It was also its final affirmation. The World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago introduced a wholly different concept of formal relationships that within a decade radically altered the direction of architectural design in this country. Its source was the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In contrast to the aggressive picturesqueness of the Richardsonian mode, the design principles taught at the Ecole espoused symmetry, regularity, harmony, and axial planning. The Ecole began attracting young Americans shortly after the middle of the nineteenth century, and by 1890 a sufficient number had been trained there, or had otherwise been influenced by its teachings.
Both the high classicism and the whiteness of the Columbian Exposition affected the architecture of Michigan as quickly as it did the rest of the nation. Public architecture in particular was conceived in these terms. As a result, the red and brown local sandstone that had so enriched the rough polychrome walls of the Richardsonian era gave way to the smooth surfaces of marble and other whitish limestones that were mandated by classical design. This was especially true on the Upper Peninsula, where the local sandstone had been so conspicuously displayed. Although the vast majority of the Beaux-Arts classical designs were by local or midwestern architects, in the larger urban centers of the Lower Peninsula they were occasionally joined by the work of such prominent eastern firms as McKim, Mead and White ( WN14), Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson ( WN125), and Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge ( KT14).
This swift change in architectural direction dealt a fatal blow to one of the most expressively regional episodes in Michigan's architecture and the red sandstone quarries of the Upper Peninsula. Indeed, as the twentieth century progressed, stone in general gave way to artificial stone, concrete, and brick. Then, too, the rapid development of steel and reinforced-concrete skeletal construction encouraged the use of brick and other synthetic materials, which were lighter and more economical as sheathing for the frame. Although as the twentieth century progressed local architects continued to design with sensitivity for their time and place and outstanding architects continued to make their boldly individual statements, the architecture of the state as a whole became increasingly absorbed into the mainstream of national development.
Growth of Detroit around the Automobile Industry
Although substantial urban areas developed within all of these economic and geographical nuclei, the principal urban flowering of the state was the growth of Detroit around the automotive industry.
Detroit was founded by the French in 1701 as Fort Pontchartrain du Detroit or Fort Pontchartrain of the Strait. Because of its strategic location on the Detroit River, the city was destined to play a decisive role in the development of the region and the nation. Occupied by the British in 1760 and then by Americans in 1796, Detroit remained a frontier village into the nineteenth century. While no buildings survive from this earliest period, the city had a gridiron plan and high earthen ramparts, houses were Quebec types with steeply pitched roofs, sidewalks were of wood, the streets narrow and unpaved, and there were wooden wharfs along the river. Detroit was incorporated in 1805 as the county seat.
After Detroit was destroyed by fire in 1805, the city fathers adopted a visionary plan for a model metropolis that emulates, but does not replicate, L'Enfant's plan for Washington, D.C. Designed by Judge Augustus B. Woodward, it was based on a hexagon, divided into twelve sections that could be added to as the city grew. Principal streets were 200 feet wide, secondary diagonal streets were 120 feet wide, with circles and other open spaces. Although landowners impeded implementation of Woodward's plan and only its vestigial remains can now be seen around Grand Circus Park ( WN27), the distinctive broad avenues and open spaces still characterize downtown Detroit. Throughout the nineteenth century, too, as a result of Woodward's plan, civic buildings stood in relative isolation, thus never losing visibility—a quality Detroiters found essential; and the Campus Martius, Woodward's city square, provided a long-lasting focal point for government.
During the early decades of the nineteenth century, for political and geographical reasons, river cities such as Cincinnati and St. Louis grew faster than cities on the Great Lakes. Because of its location on the quiet flowage between the upper and lower lakes, however, Detroit was strategically placed as a transportation center and by 1818 the first regularly scheduled steamship between here and Buffalo began its service. This was followed in 1825 by the completion of the Erie Canal, and beginning in 1830 radial roads, following old Indian trails, were laid out as military roads extending from downtown Detroit to outstate. All these transportation advantages contributed to make Detroit the gateway to the Northwest and promoted the settlement of Michigan. In turn, later in the nineteenth century, the extractive industries of Michigan helped to foster industrial growth in Detroit. More immediately, the resulting need for hotels, warehouses, and other service facilities led to the expansion of Detroit's commercial district.
Most of the settlers in the early nineteenth century were from New England and New York State. They brought to Detroit the architectural concepts then popular on the East Coast, which led to a nearly homogenous environment characterized by low wooden buildings painted white and punctuated by tall church steeples. The Federal style dominated the earlier structures, followed by the Greek Revival. In general, buildings had low rooflines concealed behind balustrades, an entrance framed with sidelights and fanlights, and porches carried on slender columns. Both churches and domestic buildings tended to approximate the historic Greek temple form. By midcentury, some wealthy merchants were seeking countrylike surroundings for their new residences, thus reflecting the growing pressures of the urban scene and the corresponding urge to escape. Increasingly romantic attitudes toward the natural world prompted wholly new relationships between the house and its environment, relationships that owed much to the writings of Hudson River landscape gardener and architectural critic Andrew Jackson Downing. Among Downing's many concerns were two that bore directly on these relationships, the house as it appeared when seen in the landscape, and the landscape as it appeared when seen from the house. To this end he argued against the classical temple and ardently recommended instead houses designed according to picturesque principles. Downing introduced two new domestic building types: for the middle class, he recommended the cottage with its ornamental bargeboards and Gothic detailing; for those of wealth and discrimination, his choice was the villa, either Gothic or Italian, with its irregular massing, towers, and terraces. It was the villa that attracted those wealthy Detroiters who were seeking the serenity of the countryside. Picturesque buildings also appeared in the city itself, where they created a welcome diversity. As in most American urban settings, however, a common sense of scale evoked the impression of a consistently designed and uniform city.
Industrial and commercial growth was unprecedented in the second half of the nineteenth century. The population expanded from 45,619 in 1860 to 205,876 in 1890. No single industry dominated the economy, although at that time Detroit was the leading stove-producing city in the world. Initially, Jefferson Avenue was the major retail district, but after the Civil War, the business area began to expand north on Woodward Avenue, following the fashionable residential districts. Jefferson Avenue then became the wholesale warehouse district. Urban sprawl was encouraged by Detroit's level site, which on three sides lacked natural boundaries; and the city was tied together first by a horse-drawn, and later, by an electric streetcar system. These factors affected the building pattern. According to a contemporary commentator, there were many miles of inexpensive but decent houses, each with its little plot of land. Most dwellings were owned by their occupants. 6This pattern was unlike eastern cities, where land, labor, and lumber costs were significantly higher.
By the late 1860s, Detroiters, like other Americans, viewed Paris as a model for ideal urban development. Architects in Detroit willingly provided what their clients wanted—buildings in the French Second Empire style, with mansard roofs, projecting center and corner pavilions, and most important, architectural sculpture. Julius Theodore Melcher's sculptures of female figures symbolizing Justice, Art, Industry, and Commerce adorned the base of the cupola of the Second Empire city hall (1891; demolished), and statues of LaSalle, Cadillac, Marquette, and Father Richard occupied niches on its four corner pavilions.
Public sculpture not only commemorated the past it expressed through visual form the ideals of the period and beautified the city. The first monumental sculpture was a Civil War memorial by Randolph Rogers, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument ( WN20) erected in the Campus Martius opposite the old city hall in 1872. In the early decades of the twentieth century, public sculpture reflected increased civic pride, as Detroiters erected monuments to honor their heroes. By midcentury the public monuments came to extol abstract and universal concepts.
Many nineteenth-century buildings were built of Trenton stone, a limestone quarried locally downriver or on Kelley Island in Lake Erie. In response to the increased demand for buildings, Detroit architects were attracted to the latest innovations in building technology. The economic advantage of substituting cast iron for stone was immediately recognized. Iron had long been used for interior columns and beams, but now it was employed for exterior facades. The introduction of new structural materials and of plate glass resulted in stylistic changes as well: facades now could be opened up, creating a feeling of lightness. In some Detroit buildings, brick load-bearing exterior walls were maintained, and decorative cast-iron panels were bolted to them.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, Grosse Pointe was transformed into a summer colony, as wealthy businessmen bought up old ribbon farms, first laid out by the French, to realize the recreational advantages of Lake St. Clair. By 1880 Detroit businessmen began to build year-round houses here. Grosse Pointe was to become a place of escape from the city, enabled by the automobile and the paving of Jefferson Avenue. Designers synthesized architecture and landscape into truly magnificent settings for comfortable living. In addition, Indian Village ( WN113), one of several subdivisions to serve as an upper-class residential neighborhood within the city, was platted in the 1890s. Palmer Woods was planned in the second decade of the twentieth century as an ideal residential community for the upper middle classes, removed from downtown congestion.
The need for openness and for recreational facilities was not limited to the wealthy. In 1879 Belle Isle was purchased by the city and developed into a vast public park. It quickly became popular for boating and picnicking. Soon after, Palmer Park ( WN89) was acquired by the city. Grand Boulevard was laid out in 1883–1887 as a landscaped residential boulevard, twelve miles long, which extended around the outskirts of the city. It was also intended to serve as a peripheral road, connecting all of the earlier major radial traffic arteries. Thus, by 1890 Detroit had the beginnings of a radial and ring road transportation system that was to be developed in the future.
In the 1890s a radical transformation of the downtown area of Detroit began. Following the example of Chicago, the domes, spires, and cupolas of earlier civic and religious buildings were being overshadowed by a skyline dominated by tall buildings. After several decades of decentralization and urban sprawl, the city turned inward. As density began to increase, expansion was upward into large commercial structures and skyscrapers. By 1894, completely metal-frame buildings with terra-cotta facades began to appear in the city. The earlier homogeneity was shattered by disparities of scale, between low buildings of three to six stories and skyscrapers of up to fourteen stories, disparities that were symptomatic of the rapid growth without planning that was taking place in the city as well as in the nation at large. The need for more office space culminated in the 1920s, when Griswold Street became the heart of the financial district. The result was the erection of a series of monumental skyscrapers. The Penobscot Building ( WN13) reached forty-seven stories and remained Detroit's tallest structure until the completion of the GM Renaissance Center in 1977 ( WN7), and One Detroit Center, formerly Comerica Tower ( WN23), in 1993. New and exciting developments were also taking place in the suburbs. But in 2010 many commercial buildings in the Central Business District stand vacant.
The first automobiles rolled on the streets of Detroit in 1896, and in a short time the city was transformed into the Motor City. Mass production made the automobile accessible to the population at large, and in the resulting economic boom, the city's population grew from 285,704 in 1900 to 993,678 in 1920. This happened where it did and when for a number of reasons. First, the geographical position of Detroit placed it within easy access by water to essential materials, a position, moreover, that had already encouraged the city's development as a center of carriage and wagon manufacturing; it was also a city of diversified, small-scale enterprises with plenty of machine-shop facilities and skilled labor. Most important of all, however, is the fact that the right people, with the right entrepreneurial and technical talent, were here at the right time. By 1900, those Michiganians who had profited from mining, lumbering, supplying coal, and merchandizing had money to invest in the automobile industry. At the same time, those aggressive entrepreneurs and their associates—among them Ransom E. Olds, Henry Ford, and William C. Durant—provided the drive that, between 1900 and 1915, transformed the fledgling auto industry into a world-class enterprise. Ford's contribution was technical, the concept of a car for the multitudes; a car that was durable, simple, and easy to operate and maintain; a car of standardized design that could be produced on the assembly line—the Model T. Durant was the administrative genius who put together a smoothly functioning industrial organization.
New manufacturing processes as well as the automobile radically changed Detroit. Since industrial plants required large tracts of land, they tended to be moved to the periphery of the urban core, where they were served by the Michigan Central Belt railroad line. By 1904 congestion was already a problem and an outer belt railroad line was built on the east side. This line opened up a vast corridor for industrial development just outside the city limits. Speculative housing for factory workers was built adjacent to this area. The need for larger and larger sites caused further decentralization of industry. As early as 1906 Henry Ford purchased a sixty-acre site in suburban Highland Park for a new factory. Completed in 1914, the moving assembly line was first introduced here. A year later Ford acquired a two-thousand-acre site on which to build a superplant, an enterprise that was ultimately conceived as a self-sufficient industrial city. This remote site at River Rouge had adequate rail transportation and the potential for a harbor. The need for extraordinarily large industrial sites was still present in the 1980s. In one instance, to attract industry back to Detroit proper, an entire neighborhood, Poletown, was demolished so that a supercolossal plant could be built for General Motors.
The introduction of reinforced concrete in 1903 opened the way for new methods of plant construction, and owners turned to local architectural firms for innovative solutions. Albert Kahn, one of the foremost industrial architects of the twentieth century, whose long career from 1896 to 1942 coincided with the growth and maturity of heavy industry, was particularly active in Michigan. His designs were motivated more by functional than by philosophical concerns. The Packard Plant ( WN97), the assembly line at Highland Park ( WN126), and the consolidation of all aspects of the Ford Motor Company's production in one plant at River Rouge ( WN134) revolutionized industrial construction. In his factory designs Kahn responded to the manufacturing process and programs and to the desire to improve the working conditions.
Just as Henry Ford revolutionized automobile production in his assembly line process, so, too, mass production met the need for workers' housing. Modern Housing Corporation, a subsidiary of General Motors Corporation, built homes in Pontiac and Flint and other cities where GMC plants were located.
The automobile changed the built landscape of Michigan, as it did that of the rest of the country. People moved out beyond streetcar lines; shopping centers eventually clustered in the suburbs; and new automobile-related building types arose along roadsides, including gas stations, automobile dealerships, drive-in businesses, roadhouses, tourist cabins, and motels. During the 1920s, the great prosperity of the automotive industry built Detroit and brought it to full economic maturity. Quite appropriately in this city, the Fisher brothers and Albert Kahn built a corporate monument to the automotive industry in the New Center area. Within the twenty-eight-story Fisher Building ( WN77), a thirteen-story parking ramp garage accommodated the automobile. Albert Kahn incorporated parking garages within the Detroit Athletic Club ( WN30), First National Bank building (1919–1922; 660 Woodward Avenue), and S. S. Kresge Administration Building (1931; 2727 Second Boulevard), and within hotels and other structures. A company formed in 1921 to solve the parking problem, and eventually, by 1925, Detroit Garages erected nine warehouse-type garages. 7
Following the philosophy of the Arts and Crafts movement, some Detroit architects and designers believed that the monotonous standardization of industrial methods was detrimental to society, and they sought to remedy the situation through design. Foremost among them was ceramicist Mary Chase Perry Stratton and the Pewabic Pottery Company ( WN110). In the heart of Detroit, the home of mass production, Pewabic successfully established its handcraft operations and became one of the leading producers of architectural tiles in the United States. Newspaper publisher George G. Booth, founder of the Society of Arts and Crafts in 1906, carried on the ideals of the movement when he hired architect Eliel Saarinen, who worked with sculptors, wrought-iron designers, silversmiths, and weavers for the world-renowned Cranbrook ( OK4). Booth's leadership was to have a significant influence on the architecture of the region and beyond.
Development continued in the downtown area of Detroit. Beginning in 1916 the area around Grand Circus Park ( WN27) became Detroit's movie theater district and Washington Boulevard was transformed from a residential street into the city's exclusive shopping district ( WN25). New hotels and office buildings were continually changing the skyline, as the business core of the city migrated northward.
With civic improvement in mind and strong political support for planning, a City Planning and Improvement Commission was established in 1910. At this time, Detroit was one of only five cities in the United States to have such a commission. A preliminary plan by Edward H. Bennett of Chicago was completed in 1915. It was based on Daniel H. Burnham and Bennett's Chicago Plan of 1909 and Augustus B. Woodward's Detroit plan of 1806, on Detroit's existing radial road system, and on French tradition. Bennett envisioned a multi-core metropolis based on function and guided by aesthetic principles of order and hierarchy. While many of the ideas contained in the plan never reached fruition, many did, such as the Cultural Center, Outer Drive, Roosevelt Park, Rouge Park, the zoo ( OK9), and the Huron-Clinton Parkway. Largely because of Bennett's plan, voters in 1919 approved funds for the development of a park and playground system.
A Center for Arts and Letters was first proposed by William C. Weber, an art museum trustee. In 1910 the museum purchased an 8.5-acre site on Woodward Avenue, two miles from downtown in a fashionable residential neighborhood. Later it successfully lobbied the Library Commission, with the support of the mayor and City Planning and Improvement Commission, to locate a new library across the street. The monumental grouping of the Beaux-Arts Public Library ( WN61) and the Institute of Arts ( WN62) was viewed as offsetting the commercialization of the city's downtown environment. While the reasons for choosing this style were complex, appearance alone set these buildings apart and gave them an identity and an associative quality that appealed to Detroiters. A later plan for the area, initiated in 1945, resulted in further clustering of cultural, educational, and medical institutions. Adjacent is the campus of Wayne State University, which has important mid-twentieth-century buildings by Minoru Yamasaki ( WN67, WN68).
Consistent with the multi-core concept for a city, General Motors built its headquarters on W. Grand Boulevard ( WN76). The erection of Albert Kahn's Fisher Building ( WN77) followed. New Center was envisioned as a shopping, office, and entertainment complex, a city within a city, which would be superior to downtown in its more favorable location and its ability to serve the outward-migrating population. New Center represents the beginning of the concept of satellite town centers, which were to develop in Detroit after the Korean War.
With these grand buildings of the 1920s and nascent isolationism in response to growing political tension and the threat of war in Asia and Europe, Detroiters and Michiganians, along with Americans all over the country, reasserted what they considered to be American values. Interest in Americana and the Colonial Revival was heightened in Michigan by Henry Ford's museum and village at Dearborn ( WN135) and by his revival of small mill production and industries everywhere in Michigan in the 1930s. The colonial American image was also promoted in popular magazines and in architectural articles and books. 8At Greenfield Village ( WN135), Ford created an idealized early American village. He moved historic buildings here from elsewhere, constructed replicas of houses of famous Americans, and built Dearborn Inn ( WN136) in the colonial image. Ford attempted to reconcile rural life and industry by removing his small automobile parts–manufacturing shops from the city and placing them in small hydroelectric-powered mills in the country. Between 1918 and 1944 he developed twenty-four village industries in southeast Michigan.
The federal government responded to the Great Depression with government-sponsored public works projects and emergency relief programs. Through the Public Works Administration (PWA) under the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933, roads, public buildings, and other projects were built; and through the Civil Works Administration (CWA) under the same act, local make-work projects were initiated. Later, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) under the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935 built or improved roads, bridges, public buildings, aircraft landing fields, and parks. Through these programs, too, artwork of various kinds was installed in post offices, schools, and other public buildings. 9Not all the government-sponsored architecture of Michigan was conceived in traditional stylistic terms. Modern architecture designed for local materials was first introduced into Michigan through government-sponsored projects of the Great Depression era.
In 1940, with World War II already raging in Europe, William Knudsen, then president of General Motors, directed the transformation of civilian industrial production to military hardware—tanks, bombers, trucks, and aircraft engines. Automobile factories were converted to wartime use and housing for workers constructed at Willow Run, Norwayne, Centerline, and elsewhere.
Albert Kahn Associates, the Ford Motor Company engineers, and the U.S. Department of Defense collaborated in building the mammoth Willow Run Bomber Plant in Wayne County for the manufacture of the B-24 “Liberator” bomber. The plant and a test field were constructed within eighteen months between 1941 and 1942. The complex consisted of the vast steel-frame, brick-faced factory on a concrete slab, with assembly lines and subassembly bays, completely blacked out from daylight. There was also an administration building, a hangar, and a test field. Today, the airfield operates as Willow Run Airport, used for freight, corporate, and general aviation flights. In Superior and Ypsilanti townships, west of Ypsilanti, the Willow Run Village went up between 1942 and 1943. Designed to accommodate twelve thousand and built under the auspices of the Federal Public Housing Authority, it was intended as temporary housing (though survived after the war as temporary University of Michigan married student housing for veterans) for the workers at the bomber plant who had come from other parts of the country and were then living in cars, trailers, tents, or shacks. The prefabricated structures were designed by Saarinen, Swanson and Saarinen.
With growing automobile congestion, the need for an improved road and transit system in Detroit was apparent. In 1923 a master plan for 205-foot-wide limited-access superhighways with 84-foot-wide median strips was proposed. One interesting result of this innovative plan, which brought Detroit national attention, was the widening of all major highways. Direct road connections were made to Windsor, Ontario, located across the Detroit River. A bridge was built in 1927–1929 ( WN45) and a tunnel in 1928–1930 ( WN6). More radical solutions to congestion were soon needed, however; and following earlier experiments, a comprehensive system of freeways for Detroit was finally proposed in 1943. An effort to get workers in Detroit to the automotive-turned-war-munitions plants in Ypsilanti quicker and more efficiently precipitated the construction of the Willow Run in 1942, and Detroit Industrial and Edsel Ford Expressways (all subsequently assigned the I-94 designation). Ironically, the federal initiatives to build one of the most efficient freeway systems in the nation and to subsidize suburban home construction contributed to Detroit's destabilization; people no longer needed to live close to where they worked.
After World War II city and institutional planners and businesspeople focused attention on slum clearance and urban renewal. Already in 1941 the development of a comprehensive master plan had begun. A year later, in Detroit, Suren Pilafian developed a campus plan for present-day Wayne State University, a plan that aided the transformation from a city-supported teacher and community college to a major state-supported urban university. At the time, the school occupied old houses in the Cass Corridor and the former Richardsonian Romanesque Central High School (1894–1895, Malcomson and Higginbotham). The new plan, revised in 1948 and 1950 by Pilafian and Francesco Montana, called for new buildings arranged around open spaces. Minoru Yamasaki revised this plan in 1954 so that it became a compact urban campus with courts linking low-rise buildings, and it had a pedestrian mall. The McGregor Memorial Conference Center ( WN67), in its delicacy and warmth, is among Yamasaki's finest work in America and was a welcome addition to an otherwise harsh city environment. Leading Detroit architects designed other buildings on the Wayne State University campus in the 1960s and 1970s.
The warehouse district on Jefferson Avenue was leveled and a long-envisioned Civic Center built in its place. The plan opened up downtown to the riverfront and provided Detroit with governmental, cultural, and convention facilities, all grouped around the Philip A. Hart Plaza ( WN1). Today RiverFront Park further opens the river to the city.
Lafayette Park ( WN98) offered new middle-class housing adjacent to downtown. Initiated by the city planning commission in 1946 to entice suburbanites back to the city, the plan was to redevelop 129 acres east of the center of the city with high- and low-rise apartments and town houses. It was carried out in the 1950s and 1960s and financed with city, federal, and private funds. While the overall plan for Lafayette Park was a collaborative effort by distinguished architects and planners, specific buildings were individually designed. The initiative to provide new low- and moderate-priced housing, however, did not stop with Lafayette Park. Elmwood Park, designed by Eberle M. Smith Associates in 1966, was a subsequent development and further efforts continued. Together Lafayette Park and Elmwood Park house a downtown residential population of 16,000 people, a concentration that spurred the development of restaurants, bars, and discos.
At Midtown a huge medical and academic center comprising the Henry Ford Health System, Detroit Medical Center, and Wayne State University integrated existing medical facilities and provides ready access to the city through its location adjacent to the freeway system. In 2010 Vanguard Health Systems intends to purchase the Detroit Medical Center, assume debt, and make capital improvements. Activity here is sparking new residential and retail development.
Between 1940 and 1970 Michigan contributed to the development of the American modern movement. With Eliel Saarinen at Cranbrook ( OK4), the design tradition of the automobile industry in Detroit, and Herman Miller in the Michigan furniture industry ( OT10) to the west, modernism flourished. Albert Kahn, Alden B. Dow, Minoru Yamasaki, Eero Saarinen, and others made Michigan a leader in the design industry.
The exodus from downtown Detroit to the suburbs had resulted in an urban form characterized by a series of multifunction town centers—Fairlane, Southfield, and Troy—located in a broad circle around the city. Detroit had become a polycentric city. By 1967 it was clear that the downtown area needed revitalization. Shortly after the riots of that year, New Detroit, Incorporated, a group of the city's businesspeople led by Henry Ford II, made plans to reconstruct the downtown riverfront. The GM Renaissance Center ( WN7), an ambitious hotel, office, and retail megastructure located downtown on the Detroit River, became the symbol of Detroit's revitalization efforts. Since the RenCen, there have been other successful initiatives, both public and private, to develop the downtown area into an attractive residential, commercial, and entertainment area. An underutilized unifying factor is the People Mover ( WN8), a nearly three-mile-long elevated and automated transit system opened in 1987, that connects the courts, government offices, sports arenas, exhibition centers, major hotels, and commercial, banking, and retail districts. Federal and private monies have been allocated to fund the construction of the Woodward Avenue corridor light-rail line from Hart Plaza to the New Center at W. Grand Boulevard. In 2011 an environmental impact study is underway to meet the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act.
Because automobile companies preferred to have their corporate headquarters near their plants, downtown Detroit never attained the high density of commercial centers reached in such cities as New York and Chicago. Even in the 1950s the Ford Motor Company chose to build its new world headquarters by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill in suburban Dearborn ( WN133), and General Motors located its new technical center in Warren ( MB3), where Eero Saarinen created an architectural complex to serve and celebrate the automotive age. Banks and other companies, however, remained downtown, some out of necessity.
Among the successful private undertakings on the riverfront is Stroh River Place ( WN108), formerly the Parke-Davis Pharmaceutical Company's industrial complex, which is a model of adaptive reuse. In more recent developments, however, there are efforts to incorporate new structures with the old, as the city looks to the future. In 2003–2004 the city celebrated its three-hundred-year founding (Detroit was founded in 1701) with the redevelopment of Campus Martius as a legacy park ( WN19).
Other initiatives include General Motors Corporation's successful rehabilitation of a midtown neighborhood, known as New Commons. Eastern Market on Gratiot Avenue, one of the largest historic public markets in the United States, continues to serve farmers, community gardeners, vendors, and buyers on five blocks as it has since 1891. The riverwalk, greenways, nature trails, bike trails, urban farms, and wildlife habitats are beginning to link the city for pedestrians. The Dequindre Cut Greenway, for example, utilizes an abandoned rail corridor to connect by means of a nonmotorized trail the downtown and the river to Eastern Market. Subsequent phases will continue the trail to Midtown and residential neighborhoods.
With its declining population (which has fallen to 713,777 from its peak of around 2 million in 1950) and its high unemployment rate in 2010, Detroit will not be able to acquire the resources necessary to develop and rehabilitate the vast uncared-for areas and neighborhoods of some seventy-eight thousand abandoned houses. The city is contemplating “right-sizing,” that is, consolidating the city of 140 square miles in some fashion to restore density and make it easier to deliver services. Demolition of three thousand derelict houses was completed in 2010. Urban farming and parkland are filling up the desolate expanses of vacant lots and land. Detroit's civic, philanthropic, business, and community leadership commit to work together to reinvent Detroit. Many view the strategy as an opportunity to create a new master plan for the metropolis. In 2010 Flint and Saginaw are examining similar actions. Detroit is also rebuilding itself as an entertainment city with sports facilities for baseball, football, and ice hockey, and three new gambling casinos. And preservationists are busy at work. The Greater Detroit Historic Preservation Coalition is engaged in developing a unified preservation message for the city. The coalition is creating partnerships with foundations, corporations, and community development organizations to support the identification and retention of architectural heritage.
Since 2005 General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler had been losing billions of dollars, the result of missed opportunities, disastrous decisions, and flawed leadership. Detroit lacked a diversified source of profits from small and fuel-efficient vehicles. In 2008 all three companies needed an infusion of new capital to survive and the federal government bailed out two of the car companies and insisted they restructure. 10By mid-2010 GM and Ford posted operating profits.
Hope remains high, nevertheless, because civic pride is strong, because Detroit remains the center of one of the nation's major industries, and because its location on the Detroit River between the Lower and Upper Great Lakes is unbeatable.
The hundreds of miles of wild shoreline, rivers, and inland lakes in Michigan became the setting for some truly exciting resort architecture that in many ways is unique to the state. At the same time, however, it was symptomatic of a growing trend in late-nineteenth-century America to seek out and enjoy the natural wonders of this rich and varied land.
Resort life required special architectural forms, and resort architecture became a distinctive building type in vacation communities. The type included hotels and boardinghouses, cottages, villas, boathouses, clubhouses, and casinos. It reached its heyday between 1890 and 1910 when the summer cottage, hotel, and clubhouse took the form of an open, spacious, and comfortable domestic building, frequently designed by an architect and built of indigenous materials in the Queen Anne, Shingle, or Colonial Revival style. Most had large verandas for people to enjoy the outdoors without exposure to the elements and combined the rusticity suitable to informal vacation life with the comfort required by those accustomed to the conveniences of city life.
Because of Detroit's location on a strait between the upper and lower lakes, the area around the city, from the outset, became a delightful recreational center for Detroiters. Early residents of the city enjoyed the opportunity to experience the beautiful, broad Detroit River for boating, rowing, steam excursions, fishing, duck hunting, skating, and picnicking. These recreational pursuits in this natural environment led to the development of splendid resort architecture, with many excellent examples of Queen Anne and Shingle Style buildings. Unfortunately, for the most part these buildings are no longer standing. They were erected up the river at Belle Isle, Lake St. Clair, the St. Clair Flats, the village of St. Clair, and Port Huron; and downriver at Grosse Ile and Wyandotte and at Amherstburg and Put-in-Bay, Ontario. They were later, and even simultaneously, duplicated at other lakeside locations reached by steamers and trains throughout Michigan.
At Belle Isle, the city constructed a conservatory ( WN121), a casino for public entertainment ( WN123), pavilions, and park buildings on grounds landscaped by Frederick Law Olmsted. Detroiters enjoyed the park year-round. These recreational buildings are evidence of the flowering of resort architecture in the hands of Detroit architects.
Washed by the clear blue waters of Lake St. Clair, Grosse Pointe became a summer colony known for its Queen Anne and Shingle Style cottages and for its distinguished wooden clubhouse. The Grosse Pointe Club, later reorganized as the Country Club of Detroit, was founded in 1884. Two years later it erected a clubhouse on a seven-acre site on the point where the lake and the river meet. It was a large, gabled Shingle Style building designed by William E. Brown. At the northeast corner a huge round tower rose to an open circular belvedere; from beneath its conical, umbrella-like roof, members could see as far as fifteen miles across Lake St. Clair. A veranda extended around three sides, forming both a lounge and a promenade. Not far from this expansive clubhouse were a number of summer cottages.
One of the finest examples of the Shingle Style in the Detroit area was the Lake St. Clair Fishing and Shooting Club (The Old Club). Although organized in 1872, it was not until the mid-1880s, at the north end of St. Clair Flats Canal, that the club constructed a clubhouse. Designed by Rogers and MacFarlane, the large wooden building was smoothly clad in shingles and had a twelve-sided tower at one corner. Resting on pilings at the edge of the river's main channel, it had a broad porch, banks of windows, and sloping roofs; it burned in 1924. Many resort buildings on the Detroit River and the Great Lakes shoreline resembled those built in the mountains and on the seashore in New England and New York State.
The Great Lakes provided a ready-made transportation system for ferry trips and excursions that linked Detroit with other shoreline communities and islands. Detroit also became a gathering center for vacationers from the East and the South. It was a point of embarkation for daily and even longer lake and river trips on excursion steamers. At the same time, many popular, healthful, and beautiful resorts were within easy reach of the city by boat or by train. In the 1870s, steam navigation and railroad companies took full advantage of this lucrative tourist potential. They speculated in resort hotels, provided transportation for city dwellers to remote resort centers, and advertised in published travel guides both their accommodations and passenger services. Typically, resort centers thrived where scenic beauty, a pleasant climate, and a historical past conjoined. They were often at the small lumbering, fishing, and shipping communities that had developed around natural harbors where streams ran into the big lakes. The supreme achievement of these resort establishments remains without contest the fantastic Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island ( MK11). Built in 1887 by three transportation companies, it had an unrivaled location above the Straits of Mackinac.
Government, transportation companies, chambers of commerce, and newspapers promoted these resort centers. Railroad commissioners and the State Board of Health offered information on the summer resorts around the shores of both the Great Lakes and the inland lakes. 11The Board of Health published a directory of some 125 summer and health resorts, mineral springs, and sanitaria, giving railroad and steamboat connections and hotels at each. These promotional publications contributed to the settlement and popularity of resort centers and were also a factor in the development of resort architecture itself.
At many charming and pleasant lakeshore fishing, lumbering, and shipping villages, corporations established resort associations and plotted subdivision-like resort communities. Sometimes people from the same town or church established resort associations, using land purchased cheaply, donated by the adjacent town, or financed by the railroad. Cottages built on this land made it possible for people with common interests to live in a homogeneous community. The Harbor Point Resort in Emmet County, for example, originally named the Lansing Resort, was organized in 1878, by a group from Lansing. By 1910 there were eight such resort associations in the Harbor Springs vicinity of the Little Traverse Region alone, some divided into as many as two hundred lots.
The number and variety of these associations was considerable: there were the Methodist Episcopal Camp Meeting Ground at Bay View and the Chicago Club at Charlevoix ( CX4); others were formed at Pointe Aux Barques, Northport Point, Epworth Heights, Les Cheneaux Islands, and Macatawa Park. Even the Northern Hay Fever Association established a resort. It was built between 1883 and 1884 at Topinabee on the Michigan Central Railroad line.
Once the grounds had been cleared, lots plotted, and roads laid, the association usually built a hotel or assembly hall. Then individual members, sometimes after living in tents at the outset, erected picturesque wooden cottages. Frequently they resembled a version of the Queen Anne with Stick Style and Eastlake decoration and had dormers, towers, belvederes, and verandas. By the late 1880s large elaborate wooden and shingled cottages appeared on Mackinac Island (see Mackinac Island Resort Architecture, pp. 554–55) and at Harbor Springs and Charlevoix. Some were brand new constructions; others were transformed from earlier simpler cottages. Many were designed by architects.
Architects and builders gravitated to the resort communities to participate in the building rush that took place between 1880 and 1910. Earl H. Mead, for example, after working for three years in Lansing, followed those of his clients who summered at the Lansing Resort (now Harbor Point), and in 1898 opened a permanent office here with Thomas E. White, all within two years after he first designed a cottage at the Lansing Resort ( EM14). Another architect-builder who came to Harbor Springs was Charles W. Caskey. He arrived after designing cottages at the Presbyterian Resort, present-day Wequetonsing, which was founded in 1877 by people from Allegan. Steeped in the rich wood building tradition of Allegan, a lumbering center on the Kalamazoo River, Caskey created dozens of wooden cottages with large porches at Wequetonsing and on Mackinac Island ( MK14). Other architects included Darius Moon, a Lansing architect-builder who planned cottages at Bay View and Harbor Springs, and Asbury W. Buckley of Kalamazoo and later Chicago, who designed many of the cottages on Mackinac Island ( MK13, MK15). In the twentieth century George W. Maher and Thomas E. Tallmadge ( AE12) of Chicago planned cottages at Saugatuck and Douglas. Saugatuck and Douglas on Lake Michigan had developed as resort communities for Chicagoans. The work of these architects, and others like them, contributed substantially to a lively regional resort architecture.
The cottages and summer houses that made up the organized resort centers were not the only residential architecture that characterize recreational Michigan. Boardinghouses were the first to make their appearance, followed quickly by hotels. Many who later built cottages and summer houses stayed at these facilities on their early trips into the recreational areas. As early as 1842 families from southern Michigan and states lying to the south began making their way to Mackinac Island. Each succeeding year as more tourists came, old buildings were remodeled to accommodate them. By the early 1860s the island became more accessible when the railroads extended their lines to both sides of the Straits of Mackinac and the steamship companies increased the number of steamer arrivals. With the construction of the Grand Hotel in 1886–1887 ( MK11), Mackinac Island became one of the most famous resorts in America.
Westward through the Straits to Grand Traverse Bay at Traverse City, the towered Italianate Park Place Hotel (now demolished) was built in 1873. In Petoskey, on the northwest coast, there were several late-nineteenth-century hotels: the Arlington Hotel was a large frame building with a mansard roof and a two-story wraparound veranda; the comfortable Clifton House, situated near the railroad depot; and the towered Cushman House to which was later added a giant rounded and balustraded Ionic portico. At Harbor Point the Harbor Point Association erected a “commodious and elegant” hotel in 1896 (demolished).
Resort centers also developed around the sources of mineral waters that were alleged to have medicinal curing powers. In St. Louis, in the center of Michigan, magnetic springs of this kind were discovered in 1869. A park was landscaped, a bathhouse was erected, and the “world-renowned St. Louis Magnetic Mineral Water” was piped in. Invalids and summer visitors, solicited largely through advertisements, arrived by railroad and filled the limited accommodations to overflowing. Private houses were quickly turned into boardinghouses, and new boardinghouses and hotels were built. The largest and most famous was the Park House Hotel and Sanitarium, built in 1881. Located adjacent to the park and bathhouse, it was a three-story structure with a large wraparound veranda supported by bracketed and clustered piers.
The mineral springs at Grand Haven were sufficiently promising to encourage the hope that the site could become the “Saratoga of the West,” and in 1872, to capitalize on the floods of visitors, Dwight C. Cutler opened the palatial mansard-roofed Cutler House. At about the same time, first-class hotels for invalids and resorters were built at nearby Fruitport and Spring Lake.
Michigan's most famous mineral springs resort was Mount Clemens, just north of Detroit. It had eleven bathhouses, each with its own wells, and, by 1915, seventy-two hotels and boardinghouses had been built there. Among the most elaborate was the Park Hotel and Baths. This large Beaux-Arts classical structure with a two-story Ionic porch was surrounded with private gardens. Important also was the large Medea Hotel and Bath House, a brick and sandstone Richardsonian Romanesque building erected in 1882 on Gratiot Avenue. Altered in 1891, added to in 1904, and designed by Northrup J. Gibbs, it was remodeled and added to in 1891 and 1904 by Theophilus Van Damme, and demolished in 1990. An arcaded piazza ran across the front of the four-story building.
During the time all this was going on in Lower Michigan, an undertaking of a different kind was attempted in Marquette, on the Upper Peninsula's northern shores. In 1892, a group of Detroit-area physicians and prominent Marquette citizens organized the Marquette Lake Superior Hotel-Sanitarium Association. Together they financed the construction of a sprawling 325-room resort hotel and sanitarium, designed by Elijah E. Myers, and built in Mountain Park in Marquette. The serene setting provided a sweeping view of the lake and was steeped in the sharp pure northern air. This, together with the walking trails and the many modern facilities provided by the hotel and sanitarium, encouraged its promoters to hope that it would become a major retreat for invalids and resorters alike. But such was not to be. The location was too remote and the summer season too short to make the project feasible, and before long it failed. The hotel itself, however, survived until 1929, when it was demolished. It was an impressive sight. Constructed of variegated Marquette brown sandstone on the lower stories and shingles above, its picturesque assortment of wings, towers, and piazzas animated the surrounding countryside at the same time that its naturally textured walls united building and landscape in harmonious accord.
While lakeshore communities and islands proved to be a natural setting for some vigorous high-style resort buildings, Michigan's backwoods, with their lakes and riverbanks, offered an equally suitable location for several wilderness camps and hundreds of examples of rustic log architecture. Though on a smaller scale, many of the camps and hunting and fishing lodges were conceived in terms similar to Camp Uncas and Sagamore Lodge in the Adirondacks.
In general, the wilderness camp was an isolated, rustic but comfortable, self-sufficient complex where people of wealth could escape urban life. A prime Michigan example is White Deer Lake Camp, built over a period of time by Cyrus H. McCormick, founder of International Harvester Corporation and the son of the inventor of the mechanical reaper. In 1904 he purchased 150 acres of dense forest and rugged rock bluffs on White Deer Lake in the western Upper Peninsula. His first camp building, which he located on an island in the lake, was a small single-room gabled structure of horizontal logs (Library Cabin) with a stone fireplace and a porch. Soon a main lodge for entertaining guests was erected. It was a two-story, hipped-roof structure of horizontal and vertical logs (Chimney Cabin) with a two-story balcony overlooking the lake. A large granite fireplace and chimney rose through the center of the house and opened in the living room. Eventually McCormick acquired seventeen thousand acres with sixteen lakes, and White Deer Lake Camp, built for the most part between 1904 and 1964, grew to a complex of five cabins on an island, and several buildings, including a boathouse, caretaker's cabin, dining hall, and servants' quarters, on the mainland. In 1969 Gordon McCormick donated the seventeen-thousand-acre site to the Ottawa National Forest, and in the mid-1980s the buildings were either disassembled and moved off the site or demolished.
Later, in 1920, Detroit industrialists—Harold H. Emmons, Edwin G. George, Sidney D. Waldon, and Frank F. Beall—established the Black River Ranch, an exclusive hunting and fishing camp southwest of Onaway in Montmorency County. They reforested the land, farmed, raised livestock, and conserved wildlife. In 1922 H. Augustus O'Dell, a member of both the Black River Ranch corporation and the architectural firm O'Dell, Hewlett and Luckenbach, drafted plans for the main lodge. Overlooking Silver Lake, the large, two-story, hipped-roof rustic log structure with shed-roof dormers is clad with shingles on the upper story. A balcony encircles the two-story living room, which has a large fieldstone fireplace. Individual bedrooms for each member flank the living area.
Many modest rustic log camps and cabins line the Au Sable River and other rivers, Lake Gogebic, and other lakes. On a smaller scale are the tiny cottages and the rustic log and synthetic log houses for permanent and seasonal residents of northern Michigan. In the 1920s Earl Mead designed for the Ottawa Lumber Company at Harbor Springs a series of small summer cottages that could be constructed inexpensively. The Perma-Log Company in Mio, Otsego Log Homes, and Great Lakes Logs are other manufacturers of ersatz logs or log homes.
After World War I, the character of resort life changed. Automobile transportation and the construction of good roads opened new areas to development and democraticized resorting. Cottages were built along lakeshore highways instead of being confined to areas near boat docks and railroad stations, and tourist cabins were built along the highways themselves. Then, too, changing economic and social conditions would no longer support the expensive and elaborate turn-of-the-twentieth-century lifestyle. Even so, in at least one instance the image of the rustic log resort has survived until recently to enhance a modern highway. Frank Johnson's ten-room family house was located on the sandy shore of Houghton Lake, the state's largest inland body of water. But the site is also on MI 55, the highway that skirts the southeastern shore of the lake. Johnson transformed the house into a large resort hotel that had walls of interlocking horizontal logs, a gabled central section supported by fieldstone piers, and a huge fieldstone fireplace. Eventually Johnson's Resort was expanded into a rustic log complex with twelve cabins, a tavern, a two-hundred-seat dining room, a dance palace, and a fifty-five-unit motel. Known as Johnson's Rustic Village, its multiservice complex and its rustic structural fabric are clearly a deliberate evocation of an exciting episode in Michigan's architectural past.
As the tourist industry burgeoned in response to the automobile, prefabricated cottages, repetitious campsites, condominiums, and franchised motels outnumbered individually designed resort buildings. There were some isolated exceptions, such as the James Douglas House at Harbor Springs ( EM17), designed by Richard Meier; the Amy Alpaugh House (1947) by Frank Lloyd Wright on a hilltop overlooking Lake Michigan and Grand Traverse Bay north of Northport; and the playful, one-of-a-kind vacation houses built by Chicagoans at Lakeside, Union Pier, and New Buffalo. For the most part, however, resort architecture in the post–World War II period displays a mundane uniformity not found previously. Cottage and home owners continue to group together in subdivisions such as L'Arbre Croche and Birchwood Farm Estates, both in the Harbor Springs vicinity, and in developments such as The Homestead ( LU5) and Grand Traverse Resort Village ( GT11) in the Grand Traverse Bay area, and Bay Harbor near Petoskey. In 1989–1990, Thomas S. Monaghan built a vacation complex on Drummond Island ( CH17). Designed by Charles W. Moore and Gunnar Birkerts, the wooden and corrugated metal–sheathed buildings are inspired in part by Michigan's vernacular wood and resort building traditions, distinctive high points in Michigan's architecture.
Many ethnic groups were attracted to Michigan, and each made its contribution to the architecture of the state. Attracted by Michigan's resources, European groups arrived in the state between 1837 and 1914. They came from French Canada, Cornwall, Ireland, and Germany, and later from Finland, Poland, Austria, and Italy. Immigrants to the mineral ranges lived in simple wood company houses constructed by the mining engineers, but they built their own churches, social halls, and commercial blocks, all of which retained the traditions of their respective homelands. The Irish came to Wayne, Houghton, Marquette, and Kent counties as laborers and farmers; the Dutch settled in western Michigan; the Poles made their way to the sugar beet fields of the Thumb and to the potato fields of Alpena County, and later to the automobile factories of Detroit and Hamtramck. Slovenians, Yugoslavs, and Scandinavians also represented significant immigrant groups.
The immigrant builders brought their own decorative and structural traditions, including patterned brickwork, log, and other building methods. In fact, so powerful was their nostalgia to create structures that resembled those of their homeland that foreign-born clients sought out their countrymen to serve as architects for their major works, whether or not the designers resided in the state. Francis G. Himpler of New York City, for example, built for German parishioners a Roman Catholic church in Detroit ( WN42) that resembled the hall churches of northern Germany. Gordon W. Lloyd of Windsor, Ontario, a master of the Anglican taste, designed churches for Episcopal congregations throughout the state ( WN144); and Erhard Brielmaier of Milwaukee designed Roman Catholic churches for German- and Polish-speaking parishes ( IR3). Churches were the most common type of building to receive the distinct mark of immigrant groups. The Eglise St. Joseph in Lake Linden ( HO21) built for French Canadian millworkers in a blend of Romanesque, Gothic, and Byzantine may be the best example in Michigan of that immigrant group's architecture.
The many ethnic groups also left their stamp on such building types as houses, farms, schools, cemeteries, and even fishing villages. In Hancock, the Suomi Synod of the Finnish Lutheran Church built a college and seminary, known today as Finlandia University ( HO13). The building served as the headquarters of an institution established to preserve Finnish religion, heritage, and culture. In the twentieth century the school called on Finnish-born architect Eero Saarinen to design Nikander Hall ( HO13.2). Finns established a fishing village at Big Traverse and a sauna was conspicuous behind each house.
The impact of ethnic groups continues to the present, with Jews, African Americans, Arabs, Middle Easterners, and Asians establishing their own significant presence with new buildings or adapting existing buildings for their reuse. These groups often have their own representatives among professional architects.
Ezekiel Solomon, a Jewish native of Berlin, Germany, arrived at Michilimackinac in 1761 to participate in the fur trade. Other Jews came as peddlers and merchants and eventually Jews populated communities throughout Michigan. Albert Kahn was Michigan's most famous Jewish architect. Although African American migration into Michigan began in the 1840s, many black southerners came to Detroit during the Great Migration between 1916 and 1930. Most lived on the Near East Side in the St. Antoine District in deplorable overcrowded conditions. Eventually the west and northwest neighborhoods became home to the upper-class African American community.
In the twentieth century, Mexican immigrants settled in the urban centers of southeast Michigan. By 2003 southwest Detroit had 40,000 Mexican residents, who upgraded older houses and neighborhoods here. First working as seasonal labor in agriculture, they gravitated to jobs in the auto industry in Detroit, Saginaw, Flint, Pontiac, and Lansing.
Muslims from Europe and the Middle East first immigrated to Detroit in the 1890s. By the 1970s more Arabic-speaking people lived in Detroit than in any other city in the United States. In 2009 some 150,000 Muslims worship in over fifty mosques in Detroit ( WN139). The Arab American National Museum opened in 2005 at 13624 Michigan Avenue in Dearborn and Dearborn's south end presents businesses, coffee houses, and homes all recycled and reinvented with Arabic arches and domes. Muslims also made their way to Flint, Lansing, Ann Arbor, and Grand Rapids.
In the 1990s the Asian population around Detroit grew to more than 55,000. Indians, Koreans, Chinese, Japanese, and Filipinos generally work in professional occupations and live in affluent communities. Following the evacuation of Japanese from the West Coast at the time of World War II, Minoru Yamasaki came east from Seattle, eventually arriving in 1945 in Detroit. The rich diversity of ideas introduced by these many ethnic groups not only livened the architecture of Michigan but also reinforced the grand diversity of the nation as a whole.
The historic preservation movement in Michigan has been a positive force in shaping the state's architectural profile. No longer concerned solely with preserving the major landmarks, historic district commissions acting under local historic district ordinances now reach out to safeguard historic buildings and districts in cities, townships, and villages throughout the state. Individuals and private corporations and institutions and governments have identified, protected, restored, and rehabilitated a broad range of historic buildings, and their preservation has enhanced the public understanding of both the richness and the diversity of the state's architectural legacy. The most monumental governmental project is the restoration of the Michigan State Capitol.
As of 2006, Michigan had more than 1,550 listings in the National Register of Historic Places, encompassing over 10,000 resources. Sixty-five communities have ordinances pursuant to the Michigan Local Historic District Act, Public Act 169 of 1970, as amended. Seven hundred designated local historic districts protect more than 20,000 historic resources. Eighteen governments are designated Certified Local Governments, under the National Park Service program.
In the period 2002–2005, 164 projects were certified to receive federal tax credits, representing a direct investment of $226 million in historic buildings. Private individuals and corporations using tax credits have undertaken large and small rehabilitation projects. Among the most spectacular in the nation is GM's rehabilitation of the General Motors Technical Center in Warren ( MB3). The Michigan Main Street Program, currently comprising thirteen downtowns, aims to assist downtown commercial districts to revitalize and grow into vibrant centers of commerce for people and business.
Port cities such as Petoskey and Marquette are incorporating historic buildings into the redevelopment of their waterfronts. Detroit Riverfront (see Detroit Riverfront, p. 56) combines new development, warehouses, and civic buildings on a nearly six-mile-long promenade.
In rural areas of northern Lower Michigan the focus is on the conservation of small villages, shoreline, forests, and farmland. Travelers seek out rural, maritime, and architectural resources. The rich and complex copper mining heritage is showcased at Keweenaw National Historical Park (see Keweenaw National Historical Park, pp. 480–81), as is the lumbering and agricultural history of Port Oneida ( LU6) in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (see Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, pp. 430–31), and the automobile story told in the MotorCities National Heritage Area, which encompasses ten thousand square miles in southeast and central Michigan, including the cities of Detroit, Flint, Jackson, and Lansing. 12Scenery and sites along heritage routes attract visitors. Recognizing the importance of cultural tourism to the economy (tourism is one of the state's top three industries—the other two are manufacturing and agriculture) is motivating communities to preserve, interpret, and promote their heritage.
The architecture of Michigan is an open and profusely illustrated book that tells with simplicity and warmth the compelling story of the state, its land, and its people. Rooted in the wilderness, shaped in the dreams of dauntless men and women on the move, textured by human action, it is a story easily read by anyone who is willing to take the time to visit the buildings themselves and to examine them with unbiased curiosity.
Elizabeth B. Garland and Scott G. Beld, “The Early Woodland: Ceramics, Domesticated Plants, and Burial Mounds Foretell the Shape of the Future,” in Retrieving Michigan's Buried Past: The Archaeology of the Great Lakes State,ed. John R. Halsey (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.: Cranbrook Institute of Science, 1999), 125–46.
Under the ordinance of 1785, the federal government surveyed the land in advance of sales. The baseline ran east and west at 42° 26′ 30″ N, which is the northern boundary of the state's second tier of counties. The principal meridian was located at 84° 22′ 24″ W, running north from Defiance, Ohio.
Among the guides were Asher Benjamin's The Country Builder's Assistant (1797); The American Builder's Companion (1806, 1816); The Rudiments of Architecture (1814); The Architect or Practical House Carpenter (1830); The Builder's Guide (1830); The Elements of Architecture (1843); and Minard Lafever's The Young Builder's General Instructor (1829); The Modern Builder's Guide (1833); The Beauties of Modern Architecture (1835); The Modern Practice of Staircase and Handrail Construction (1838).
Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, On the Number, Value, and Position of the Copper Mines on the Southern Shore of Lake Superior,17th Cong., 2d Sess., S. Doc. 5 (1822), 7–28; Douglass Houghton, Fourth Annual Report of the State Geologist, Michigan,H.R. Doc. 27 (1841); J. W. Foster and J. D. Whitney, Report on the Geology and Topography of a Portion of the Lake Superior Land District, in the State of Michigan,Part 1, Copper Lands,U.S. 31st Cong. 1st sess., H. Exec. Doc. 69 (1850); Part 2, The Iron Region, Together with the General Geology,U.S. 32d Cong., Spec. sess., S. Exec. Doc. 4 (1851). See also, Charles Lanman, A Summer in the Wilderness Embracing a Canoe Voyage Up the Mississippi (New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1847), 132–35.
Alvah Bradish, Memoir of Douglass Houghton: First State Geologist of Michigan (Detroit: Raynor-Taylor, Printers and Binders, 1889), 105–6.
Silas Farmer, History of Detroit and Wayne County and Early Michigan (Detroit: Silas Farmer and Company, 1890), 1:367–448.
Shannon Sanders McDonald, The Parking Garage: Design and Evolution of a Modern Urban Form (Washington, D.C.: Urban Land Institute, 2007).
Colonial Revival architecture was popularized in such magazines as House Beautiful, Ladies' Home Journal,and Better Homes and Gardens.See also Fiske Kimball, “The Old Houses of Michigan,” Architectural Record52 (October 1922): 227–40; and Rexford Newcomb, Architecture of the Old Northwest Territory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1950).
In Michigan the PWA program alone funded the construction of county courthouses, post offices, ice arenas, community buildings, city halls, schools, detention homes, housing projects, and hospitals, as well as such utilitarian service-related structures as garages, water purification works, sewage disposal plants, garbage incinerators, bus garages, hydroelectric power plants, municipal power plants, and highway bridges.
Paul Ingrassia, “How Detroit Drove into a Ditch,” Wall Street Journal,October 25, 2008, W1.
A Guide to the Health, Pleasure and Fishing Resorts of Northern Michigan, Reached by the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad (1879, 1882); The City of Detroit and Resorts of Northern Michigan (1883); James Gale Inglis, Northern Michigan Handbook for Travelers including the Northern Part of Lower Michigan, Mackinac Island and the Sault Ste. Marie River, with Maps and Illustrations (Petoskey, Mich.: G. E. Sprang, 1898).
In 1998 the U.S. Congress designated the MotorCities National Heritage Area (MCNHA) in southeast and central Michigan. An affiliate of the National Park Service, the MCNHA works with local partners to interpret, preserve, develop, and promote the automotive and labor heritage of Michigan. See http://www.motorcities.org.