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Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – Welcome to 980 and 976 Lake Shore

Posted by Darby Moran on Tuesday, January 9th, 2018 at 11:07am.

Having focused the last couple of blog posts on nationally recognized architects – Bloodgood Tuttle and Harrie T. Lindeberg – and their rare projects in Grosse Pointe, we now turn our attention to one of the oldest homes in the community 980 Lake Shore.

The origins of this property can be traced back as far as 1808. According to research by the Grosse Pointe Historical Society the patent title for the property was given to the French “Habitant” family of Julien Forton at the beginning of the 19th century.

The original property was a large farm bordered by Lake St. Clair, Mack Avenue and the Macomb County (Milk River) line. It is believed the landowner; Mr. Forton then deeded part of property to his daughter Monique and her husband. Several years later, in 1848, the couple sold a potion of the land to Pauline Van Antwerp, who, in 1849, built a permanent property on the land. Source: Grosse Pointe Historical Society.

In 1910 parts of the land, from the large farm, were sold. The new owner, Frank Biscoe, built an Arts & Crafts inspired motor garage and apartment on the property. In 1914 the property was sold again, the new owners, William and Lois Mertz, would reside there until 1953, when they decided to the divide the property. The Mertz’s sold the main house (980 Lake Shore) and moved into the original Biscoe home – the “Carriage House”, now recognized as 976 Lake Shore.

Fast forward to 2018, and part of the original home, from 1849, still exists on the lot. The remaining part of the structure, we understand, makes up the middle section of the existing structure – 980 Lake Shore. This would possibly make this home the oldest clapboard house in Grosse Pointe to be still on its original foundation. Understandable throughout the course of history the original construction has undergone significant changes, as has the immense 3.76-acre lot on the shore of Lake St. Clair that surrounds both buildings.

The main building, 980 Lake Shore, has witnessed some major changes, and has been sold a number of times. Extensive renovations, took place in 1953 and 1973. The floor plans below provide us with a visual explanation as to how the home has changed over the course of around 20 years. The first floor plan (of both the first and second floors), shows the layout in 1972, while the second is from 1979 – after the extensive alterations were completed. The center of the home, believed to be the original middle section from 1849 remains the same configuration with the large (14’ x 19.7’ sq ft) dining room and staircase. However there are significant changes on the first floor. The porch was removed, and replaced by a nicely sized breakfast room (12’ x 20’ sq ft), while a substantial garden room (22’ x 28’ sq ft) was added to the rear elevation. Both ends of the home were remodeled, which included the installation of a large (19’ x 24’ sq ft) living room on the right hand side of the home.

The changes to the second floor were less dramatic. A bedroom replaced the sitting room, while two smaller bedrooms were converted into a larger 16’ x 18’ sq ft bedroom. The interior details, once the remodel was completed, were superb. The morning room has a marble fireplace and features hand painted walls by an artist from Cranbrook. The living room’s central feature is an 18th century paneled fireplace, with oil painting imported from a castle in Europe.

The approximate size of the home, after the changes were made in 1973, is 4,375 sq ft – a vastly different property from the original farmhouse constructed in 1849. Parts of the original home still exist, and elements of the early building materials were found during the renovations, including the insulation, which was straw. Source: Grosse Pointe Historical Society.

The original carriage house, now 976 Lake Shore (pictured below) features a chauffeurs room and bathroom (off the garage), while the second floor includes a (15’ x 26’ sq ft) living room, a (12’ x 7’ sq ft) sunroom, a (12’ x 10’ sq ft) kitchen, bathroom, and two bedrooms.

980 Lake Shore is a recipient of a bronze historic plaque from the Grosse Pointe Historic Society, and is a superb example of this significant and wonderfully diverse historic community.

Written by Katie Doelle

Copyright © 2018 Higbie Maxon Agney & Katie Doelle

If you have a home, building or street you would like us to profile please contact Darby Moran – Darby@higbiemaxon.com – we will try and feature the property.

(For more historical information on Grosse Pointe, visit Grosse Pointe Historical Society).

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