Last week we introduced you to 665 Lake Shore, a lost home that was located on the corner of Oxford Road and Lake Shore. The Regency Moderne style property was completed for prolific inventor, Robert Pauli Scherer, in 1951. It was designed by architect Hugh T. Keyes who considered the property to be one of his more significant works.
This week we turn our attention back to Oxford Road and two grande dames that exist on the first block – number 30 and number 40. Having recently featured their once close neighbor 22 Oxford Road (a property that was razed in 2006), we wanted to continue the story of this prestigious street.
The origins of Oxford Road appear to date back to the ribbon farms of the 18th Century – the long narrow strips of land that ran down to Lake St. Clair. We understand from the Grosse Pointe Historical Society that one of the earliest owners of this piece of land was Benjamin Streeter Warren, a well-known attorney in Detroit. Mr. Warren purchased the original 107-acre “gentleman’s farm”’ on Lake Shore Road in 1907. The land, at the time, included barns and a racetrack. Mr. Warren extensively remodeled the existing farmhouse to create a large mansion known as “Fairlawn” (located at 655 Lake Shore), one of the earlier mansions on Lake Shore. During the 1920’s part of “Fairlawn” was subdivided. This cleared the way for several new properties to be constructed, including the area now known as Oxford Road which began to be developed during the late 1920’s.
It appears much of the new Oxford subdivision was handled by realtor and developer Arthur J. Scully. This included the structure at the entrance to Oxford from Lake Shore that is still in place today. It is reported the stone-built structure was once a bus stop shelter for staff who worked at the houses on Oxford Road. Images courtesy of Google.com
Two houses that were developed by Arthur J. Scully are numbers 30 and number 40, located in the first block off Lake Shore. Both homes were designed in 1930 by two of Metro Detroit’s finest architectural firms – Smith, Hinchman & Grylls, and Herman & Simons.
30 Oxford was completed in 1930, by nationally recognized firm Smith, Hinchman & Grylls for Thomas W. Palmer Livingstone, director oft the Great Lakes Engineering Works and president of The Dime Savings Bank of Detroit.
The property is a grand 8,466 sq ft brick built Tudor home located on a sizeable 198 x 295 lot. It has all the classic traits one would expect from a house of this grandeur – an asymmetrical configuration, intricate brickwork, a steep slate roof, tall windows with multiple square-shaped panes (with leaded glass), and decorative limestone trim around the entranceway and the widows. Arguably the defining feature on the front elevation are the two gables, located over the entranceway and to the left in the section that is the location of the stunning two-story window.
The first-floor features beamed ceilings, five fireplaces, a 18’ x 30’ sq ft oak paneled living room, a pine paneled 13’ x 16’ sq ft library and a huge 16’ x 25’ sq ft dining room with a large bay window. The second floor includes four main bedrooms (the master suite has a 14’ x 18’ sq ft sitting room and a fireplace), a gun room (as per the description in 1956), a siting room and three additional smaller bedrooms for maids.
In 1939, It appears Mr. Livingstone listed the house for rent at $400 a month (around $8,000 today). In 1942, it appears the property was purchased by Mrs. C. Hayward Murphy. She would own 30 Oxford for only a few years until it was purchased by Clifford M. Sorenson, president of the Continental Die Cast Corporation. He sold 30 Oxford in 1956, for $120,000 (around $1.2 million today).
The architects of 30 Oxford, Smith, Hinchman & Grylls, during the early twentieth century, had established a stellar reputation in Detroit for designing large commercial and civic projects. At the time, the firm employed some of the finest architects of the era. Aside from creating a multitude of grand residences throughout Metro Detroit they were also responsible for designed iconic buildings such as –
- Crowleys Department Store (Detroit 1906)
- Hudsons Department Store (Detroit 1911)
- The Bankers Trust Company Building (Detroit 1925)
- The Buhl Building (Detroit 1925)
- Guardian Building (Detroit 1928)
40 Oxford was designed by prolific Grosse Pointe architects Herman & Simons for Charles F. Becker in 1930. The 7,796 sq ft brick-built property was an imposing brick built English Tudor located on three lots (the far lot was located next to 30 Oxford). The design of the house is dominated by the magnificent three-story high limestone clad central gable that is the location of the main entranceway. As one would expect, the interior is filled with superb architecture details including beautiful wood paneling throughout, a sunken living room, and four large natural fireplaces. The main floor features an 18’ x 16’ sq ft foyer, a 20’ x 30’ sq ft living room, a 24’ x 15’ sq ft library along with along a large terrace. The second floor includes a master bedroom that has a fireplace and a 7’ x 10’ bay window. There are an additional three main bedrooms, along with two further bedrooms for maids.
It appears the original owner, Charles F. Becker passed in 1947. It is not clear how long the Becker family resided at 40 Oxford, or whether it was sold after Mr. Becker’s death. The next owner was Herbet J. Woodall, a prominent Industrialist in Detroit, and owner of Woodall Industries. In 1956, Mr. Woodall listed the property for sale for $100,000 (around $1 million today) - it appears from our files Mr. Woodall was willing to split the lots. At the time the property had a tennis court (located on the far lot closest to Lake Shore) that Mr. Woodall was willing to sell separately. The lot was eventually sold (the date of the sale cannot be confirmed) and it is now the location of 36 Oxford.
The architect of 40 Oxford, Frank Herman (of the firm Herman & Simons) created multiple homes throughout the Grosse Pointe communities between the early 1920’s through to the mid 1930’s. Many of these homes are grand affairs and are quite iconic in their design, including:
- 1041 Lochmoor – 1923
- 405 Lakeland – 1923
- 819 Edgemont - 1925
- 1023 Bishop - 1927
Herman & Simons were also involved with the design of numerous churches, banks, and schools in southeastern Michigan. It is also reported they also designed around 12 homes in Indian Village during this era.
While Arthur J. Scully developed many homes on the first block of Oxford during the late 1920’s and early 1930’s there are several homes (on the even numbered side) that he was not involved with, including –
- 22 Oxford – 1941 – you can read the full story by clicking here.
- 18 Oxford – 1941
- 10 Oxford – 1941
Many of the odd numbered homes were developed much later, presumably after the Benjamin Warren estate had been sold and the remaining land subdivided (during the late 1960’s), when 655 Lake Shore was constructed (you can read the full story by clicking here):
- 7 Oxford – 1969
- 11 Oxford – 1971
- 17 Oxford – 1972
- 23 Oxford – 1970
- 27 Oxford – 1953
- 45 Oxford – 1953
The first home Arthur J. Scully developed on the odd number side was number 53, completed in 1936 for James A. Lafer. This land was also originally part of the original “Fairlawn estate” owned by Benjamin Warren.
We will be continuing the story of the Arthur J. Scully homes on Oxford Road over the coming weeks.
*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 © 2022 Higbie Maxon Agney & Katie Doelle
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