Mr. Kapp is one of those architects who was a ‘big name’ in the city, but only came to the Grosse Pointe to work on a handful of projects. This was also the case with a number of other premier designers including: Albert H. Spahr, John C. Stahl and Bloodgood Tuttle (to name but a few).
Kapp was born in Toledo, 1891. Having completed his architectural degree at the University of Pennsylvania he returned to Toledo to set up his own private practice. In 1918 he moved to Detroit. It is believed he worked for Albert Kahn, and then, in 1920, went to work for the prestigious firm of Smith, Hinchman and Grylls where he would remain for the majority of his career, leaving in 1941. The company had a reputation for allowing their designers individual creative freedom. As one of the firms most prestigious designers Kapp’s work covered a broad spectrum of projects - religious, education, commercial, residential, and industrial buildings in the Metro Detroit area. It is believed Kapp produced much of his best work while working for the firm. Amongst his major accomplishments were:
- The University Club - East. Jefferson - 1931
- The Detroit Historical Museum - 1928
- The Players Club - East. Jefferson - 1925
- The Wilson Theatre (Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts) - 1928
- The nationally acclaimed Meadow Brook Hall - 1926-29
- The Dossin Great Lakes Museum, Belle Isle - 1961
*Images are courtesy of Wikipedia.com
Often referred to as one of America’s “castles” Meadow Brook Hall, at 60,000 sq ft, is currently ranked 24th on the list of ‘Largest Historic Homes in the United States. Source: Wikipedia. Matilda Dodge Wilson and her husband Alfred commissioned it. Based on research from victoriansociety.org, we understand the Wilsons and William Kapp spent over a year in Europe searching for ideas for the home. *Image is courtesy of Wikipedia.com
Kapp was trained in the Beaux Arts tradition, and much of his early work drew from the classical architectural style(s). However, Kapp also adapted his style to match the ever-changing architectural scene, which is particularly evident with his design for the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, and two of his residential projects in Grosse Pointe. *Image is courtesy of Pinterest.com
Kapp’s work in Grosse Pointe began in 1925. After fire destroyed the clubhouse at the Country Club of Detroit, Smith, Hynchmann and Grylls were commissioned to design the new building. Based on information from Ann Arbor District Library, it is possible the firm handed the project to William Kapp to create the design for the new clubhouse (opening in 1927). You can read the full story of the Country Club(s) of Detroit by clicking here.
In 1936 Kapp designed 157 Merriweather. It is a 3,461 sq ft designed in a colonial style, and is a particularly striking design.
Several years later, in 1950, he designed 33 Beacon Hill. It is designed using a more modern colonial approach, and is 4,515 sq ft in size. The home was set on an estate like setting, and features a large 33’ x 18’ sq ft living room, a narrow 7’ x 21’ sq ft kitchen, and five bedrooms, including maid’s quarters.
Despite having created a limited number of projects in Grosse Pointe, it is exciting to think that a designer of William Kapp’s caliber, and creator of some of Detroit’s more prestigious buildings left his mark on the community.
Written by Katie Doelle
Copyright © 2018 Higbie Maxon Agney & Katie Doelle
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(For more historical information on Grosse Pointe, visit Grosse Pointe Historical Society).