Other Cool Things

Detroit: The Henry Glover House

This is Part IV in a series. Part I is here. Part II. Part III. Part V.

 

Brush Park, Alfred Street, 2019. As part of a massive redevelopment of Brush Park, the above three late 19th-century houses, long abandoned, were reborn. But all were done on the cheap and look little as they did originally.

 

From my previous posts:

The city of Detroit, which owned these three houses and the surrounding land, offered all for redevelopment, stipulating that the historic houses had to be retained. And this, this, was the mistake. The city should have also demanded that the facades be restored to their original appearance.

It is no coincidence that great cities are also normally beautiful cities. Humans respond to beauty, be it a beautiful flower, face, or building. Yet somebody, at some high level working for the development company, made the decision that cheapness should prevail. Somebody decided that people and the city did not deserve beauty.

With such a decision in place, what happened was inevitable. Had a more enlightened soul been in charge the results would have been striking.

Today, with laser technology, intricate brackets and ornamentation can be created with surprising affordability. But, on Alfred Street, the will to do things right did not exist.

The mega-development company clearly did not think it necessary to retain a preservation-trained architect, instead relying on, no doubt, an underpaid and inexperienced draftsperson who did not even understand the value of scale. Because the will to do things right did not exist.

The mega-development company clearly did not think it mattered to the buyers of their new townhouses that their windows would overlook banal brick boxes instead of gloriously restored historic houses. Because the desire for beauty did not exist. Because the knowledge that beauty has value did not exist.

In short, the three old houses on Alfred Street are today banal brick boxes not due to cost constraints.

No, they are banal brick boxes due to a lack of vision. And because somebody lacked a spirit of generosity.

 

Around the block, at 229 Edmund Place, a wholly different story is unfolding. Developer Doug Quada does not have at his disposal the tens of millions spent by the mega-developer of the Alfred Street townhouses, apartments, and the three historic brick houses, yet he doing a laudable first-class restoration. And why? Because Quada has vision. Because Quada has a spirit of generosity. And importantly, because Quada thinks that the people of Detroit deserve such work.

 

The Glover house circa-1960.

 

Circa-1970. The cornice on the left is missing, as is the tower roof. But the house is still largely intact.

 

The Glover house in 2014. Quada purchased the wreck for $331,000.

 

Work has been slowly but steadily ongoing since, documented on Facebook.

 

It is believed that the house originally looked like this. In the early 1900s, the house was converted into apartments, a large addition was built in the rear, and the right side of the house was increased in height. This stunning drawing is by Briguyinla.

 

Quada plans to retain the changes to the right side (east) of the house but to otherwise restore it.

 

The job is monumental. The entire east interior was removed.

 

The rear addition had collapsed.

 

Yet, amazingly, much remains. Quada plans to retain the interior trim, most of which survived. He had it tested and it is black and white walnut.

 

The entry foyer featured two walnut arched openings. These were carefully removed, stripped of paint, and have now been reinstalled. As such, the essentially new interior (which will be five apartments) will retain a sense of history, a sense of soul.

 

See the stonework around the double second-floor window, left?

 

The stone, as with all the window stone, was stolen. However…

 

…Quada is planning to have the lost stone surround on the double window recreated, and he has…

 

…already been installing new stone on all the windows. Stunning. Bravo!

 

When the work is completed, all the missing stone window surrounds will have been recreated. Out of stone.

 

The main entry, as was typical for the era, had double doors. One remained. Quada is having a matching door made rather then just infilling with doors from Home Depot.

 

Two chimneys on the west side were long gone, giving the house a stubby appearance.

 

Quada had them recreated, even though they are capped. Because, well, don’t all houses need to touch the sky?

 

Who does this? Bravo!

 

Bravo.

Bravo

Bravo.

While my Cross House is a monumental project, it pales in comparison to the work required to bring back the Glover House. I cannot recall any house so utterly devastated being brought back to life and I find this project deeply inspiring.

I also cannot help but notice the tale of two cities unfolding on Alfred Street and Edmund Place.

On Alfred, a mega-developer made the decision to restore three historic houses as cheaply as possible.

On Edmund, just around the block, a developer with vastly less available funds is making the effort to restore the Glover House largely to its original beauty and quality.

On Edmund, the will to do things right is profound.

On Edmund, the desire for beauty is profound.

On Edmund, there is profound knowledge that beauty has value.

On Edmund, there is vision.

On Edmund, a spirit of generosity soars.

 

5 Responses to Detroit: The Henry Glover House

  1. I love it when people say, “the house is too far gone to save.” Aka, “I’m not willing to spend the time or energy to restore it properly.”

    And if the stone work around the windows was beautiful enough for someone to steal, then it is worth it to recreate.

  2. “If the stone work around the windows was beautiful enough for someone to steal, then it is worth it to recreate.”

    Well said, Sarah!

  3. That is amazing! I was disappointed though that it’s going to be 5 apartments. But at least it is saved and with original details.

      • And, we are not at the end of history yet. Who knows – maybe this will be a SF house again some day. Life as a large multi-unit should buy it another 100 years one hopes. I am glad it is getting fixed up properly! Thanks for this. When I was an undergrad in MI in the late 1990’s, I would drive to Detroit just to look around. It really fueled my love of old houses.

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