Last week we presented the story of Rathbone Place – the historic street has some of the finest one-of-a-kind residences in Grosse Pointe. With the first property completed well over 100 years ago, this private street is recognized as a noteworthy historic district.
This week we head to 61 Lochmoor Boulevard. The 3,659 sq ft brick built French Colonial property was designed and built by Walter H. Mast, in 1942.
61 Lochmoor was built as a speculative home. It was originally listed for sale by the architect/builder Walter Mast. The definition of a speculative home is – ‘a residence built without a particular buyer in mind or under contract but designed to appeal to the maximum market possible’. Speculative homes were particularly popular in Grosse Pointe during the 1920’s and 1930’s, many were designed by notable architects during this era. In October 1942, businessman Donald A. Noble purchased the property, maybe the last chance to buy a new home before wartime restrictions and shortages curtailed new construction. Photo courtesy of Katie Doelle.
The property was completed when French Colonial architecture was arguably at its peak of popularity in Grosse Pointe during the late 1930’s and 1940’s. It is a style that was favored by many of the noted architects who were designing homes in the community at this time. Some of the defining characteristics of a French Colonial Home are a low-pitched roof, tall windows on the first floor, and arched sections above the windows on the second floor that interrupt the roof line.
During this period Lochmoor Boulevard had an abundance of newly built French style properties. The street left a lasting impression on a young boy named Richard Orton. In 1942, Richard’s grandfather, Donald A. Noble purchased 61 Lochmoor. Mr. Noble and his wife had three daughters, Donnie, born in 1921; Harriet, born in 1931; and Sally, born in 1933. Richard Orton was Donnie'seldest son. Richard and his older sister Nancy would often visit their grandparents at their comfortablehome. Richard recalls how visiting Grosse Pointe often gave him the feeling that he was visiting ‘an enchanted land’. Richard was an architectural fan even as a child, ‘he appreciated the architecture of the houses in Grosse Pointe far more than in Birmingham where he lived’. Richard describes how ‘you could feel the pedigree of the French heritage on the whole community’. Richard also recalls how ‘he loved the way the streetlights looked on the foggy nights on Lochmoor’. The historic photo below is of Richard, his sister Nancy and their mother. Courtesy of Richard Orton. The information above also came from Richard Orton and is published with his permission.
When 61 Lochmoor was completed in 1942, there were vacant lots on both sides, however, this soon changed with the completion of 55 and 67 Lochmoor, both in 1947. Richard recalls the ‘neat gadgets’ that made his grandparents’ home a ‘magical place’ for him and his sister– including the buzzer by his grandmother's bed that rang in the maid's room over the garage, the buzzer located under the carpet by his grandma's chair that rang in the kitchen, and a power garage door opening. The 5-bedroom brick-built property, with a wood shingle roof, also featured some fine architectural elements including blond oak paneling in the 10’ x 14’ sq ft library, a large bay window in the 12’ x 14’ sq ft dining room, and a screened terrace that was accessible from both the dining room and the 16’ x 22’ sq ft living room. There was thick wool carpeting everywhere and Richard recalls one more detail that reflects how well the house was built. ‘The interior doors were solid slab doors, but it impressed him, even though he was only ten years old, that they closed and engaged the latch with such precision.’ The two-car garage was attached to the house with rooms above, a bedroom and private bath for the maid.
The designer and builder of 61 Lochmoor was Walter H. Mast. Builder/architect Walter Mast was associated with an array of architectural styles. During his career Mast, a registered Civil Engineer in the state of Michigan, designed and/or built many homes throughout the affluent neighborhoods in Metro Detroit. His work included over fifty homes throughout the Grosse Pointe community over a period of around 30 years – from the 1930’s through to the late 1960’s. Walter Mast was very fond of the French Colonial style – evident in many of his projects during the 1940’s. He was also associated with designing and/or building several extremely attractive ranch homes during the 1950’s. Mast often collaborated with prominent architects on a project – they would design the home and he would build it. One such prominent collaboration was 824 Lake Shore, an attractive Mid-Century modern home created for Mr. Anthony Motschall, in 1948. The property was designed by J. Ivan Dise and built by Mast. You can read the full story of this home by clicking here.
Other homes designed and/or build by Mast include:
- 572 Lakeland – 1941
- 799 Sunningdale – 1953
- 850 Bedford – 1938
- 1045 Bedford – 1950
- 1145 Bedford – 1941
- 324 MacMillan – 1935 (a collaboration of eight local builders)
- 390 Merriweather – 1938
- 310 Merriweather – 1938
- 712 Balfour – 1941
- 1005 Bishop – 1941
- 232 Stephens – 1950
- 790 Washington – 1938
- 524 Barrington - 1935
We will be featuring more of Walter Mast’s projects in the coming weeks.
From our files we understand Mr. and Mrs. Donald Noble resided at 61 Lochmoor until 1958, when it was listed for sale. It is not clear who purchased the property; however, we understand Joseph P. Kaiser bought the home in 1977. Mr. Kaiser was an avid rower and won the national championship for the Detroit Boat Club in 1940. He also served in World War II from 1942 – 1946, as a captain in the U.S. Army Air Corps, spending two and a half years in the South Pacific.
During the late 1970’s or early 1980’s Richard Orton, now living in California, recalls how he wrote to the Kaiser’s to ask if he could visit the house with his sister Nancy, while he was visiting Michigan for the holidays. The house had obviously undergone some changes since his grandparents resided there, but many elements remained the same. Nancy, who was born blind, was very excited to visit the property. Richard explains, ‘Nancy who was very musical, asked if she could hear the doorbell. Richard and Nancy rang it a few times. Mrs. Marguerite Kaiser mentioned they were going to change the doorbell and offered to send Nancy the old doorbell when it was removed. They wrote down her address and put the paper in the mechanism of the doorbell itself on the wall and sent it to her about 6 months later. Nancy had it installed in her own house and was delighted’.
61 Lochmoor is a superb example of a French Colonial home, designed during its peak of popularity. As Richard Orton so tastefully explains ‘pedigree of the French heritage throughout Grosse Pointe, is something that makes the community an ‘enchanted land’. And we would certainly agree.
With thanks to Richard Orton for contacting us, sharing his historic photos, editing the post, and for his personal accounts about his grandparents’ former home.
*Photos courtesy of the Higbie Maxon Agney archives unless stated.
** Research, information, and data sources are deemed reliable, but accuracy cannot be fully guaranteed.
Written by Katie Doelle
Copyright © 2021 Higbie Maxon Agney & Katie Doelle
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