Having presented the superb Georgian Cottage Hospital Nurses Residence in Grosse Pointe Farms we now focus on the work of noted Detroit architect Roland C. Gies, which includes another significant building in Grosse Pointe – Bon Secours.
Roland C. Gies was born in Detroit, 1874. He was educated at the St. Mary School and the Detroit College. He spent the majority of his career in the city where he was ‘favorably known’, and well respected by his peers. Having graduated with a degree in architecture he gained valuable experience in the office of R.E Roseman, and for a long time afterward was identified with the firms of Albert Kahn, and Donaldson and Meier. Source: The City of Detroit, Michigan, 1701-1922, Volume 4
In 1903 Gies completed a significant residential project – the new home for George Stroh, located at 548 East Grand Blvd – which undoubtedly helped forge his career. The striking house contained several unusual features for the time, including a third floor gymnasium, a subway-tiled walk-in refrigerator, and an electric burglar alarm system.
In 1904 Gies partnered with Maxwell Grylls to form the firm of Grylls and Gies. Together they designed many wonderful formal brick Georgian homes, including several residences in Indian Village – 1072 Seminole (built in 1904), 1106 and 1127 Seminole (1905), 962, 1043, 1038 and 1012 Burns Ave (pictured below) – were all completed in 1906.
In 1906 the firm of Grylls and Gies was dissolved. Maxwell Grylls would join in the formation of one of Detroit’s most famous architectural firms – Smith, Hinchman and Grylls, while Roland C. Gies set up his own firm focusing on projects throughout Metro Detroit. Gies tended to specialize in domestic projects, however his technical training and broad practical experience also allowed him to diversify and create several attractive commercial buildings in Detroit. This included the Comfort Station #8 Riverbank Drive built in 1914 Belle Isle Detroit.
Here in Grosse Pointe Mr. Gies worked on several residential projects. He continued with his recognized approach of creating large brick homes. All were perfectly proportioned, and demonstrated his immense skill for detailed brick designs.
Gies’s first project in Grosse Pointe was located at 970 Lake Shore. This 6,744 sq ft residence was completed in 1918, and is a slight departure from his signature center entrance Colonial inspired homes.
His next project was located at 1004 Balfour, Grosse Pointe Park. This 3,650 sq ft symmetrical home is stunning, and wonderfully proportioned in every way. The 3-story residence features a large sunroom (12’ x 22’), a grand center hall (7’ x 22’) and natural fireplaces in the living room and family room. The second floor includes 4 bedrooms, while there are 3 further bedrooms on the third floor – presumably for maids.
Gies next project in Grosse Pointe came in 1923, and was also on Balfour, number 1123 Balfour. This is a 3,162 sq ft central entrance Colonial home, with some wonderful detailing in the brickwork.
In 1927 Gies created 60 Kenwood, in Grosse Pointe Farms. This English manor inspired home is 4,810 sq ft, and features superb detailing across the exterior of the home, including the intricate brickwork on the chimney. There are 8 bedrooms, all located on the second floor – at least three were allocated to the maids. The second floor also contained an 18’ x 13’ sq ft library.
One year later, in 1928, Gies completed another striking brick home, 571 Lakeland, which displays all the classic hallmarks of his signature style.
Finally, in 1941 Gies completed the new Bon Secours hospital on Cadieux Road. The Sisters of Bon Secours originally opened the convalescent facility in a house on Cadieux Road, in 1938, on property they had purchased in 1924. It did not become a full service hospital until 1945. This building has since undergone major alterations from Gies original design. Source: The Village of Grosse Pointe Shores By Arthur M. Woodford.
Roland C. Gies died in 1949, have had a wonderful career. He may not be one of the more recognized artists to ply his trade in Grosse Pointe, but his perfectly formed brick residences certainly stand out from the crowd.
Written by Katie Doelle
Copyright © 2017 Higbie Maxon Agney & Katie Doelle
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(For more historical information on Grosse Pointe, visit Grosse Pointe Historical Society).