In our last post we shared the story of our very own office - 83 Kercheval. The roots of Higbie Maxon Agney can be traced back to 1929, to the Maxon Brothers Real Estate firm, started by Paul and Richard Maxon. The Maxon Brothers office was originally located at 16914 Kercheval, in The Village. During the early 1940’s the brothers moved to their new office on the Hill, located at 83 Kercheval where Higbie Maxon Agney remains located today.
For our first post in 2022, we would like to present the story of Frank D. Wilberding, a prolific builder of fine homes in Grosse Pointe. In the space of 25 years, from around 1950 through to the 1970’s, Mr. Wilberding helped design and build over one hundred homes in the community. The majority of the “Wilberding Homes” are classically styled center entrance Colonial style properties - one of the most popular architectural styles found in Grosse Pointe.
We often mention prominent builders who have left their mark on Grosse Pointe – the craftsmen who collaborated with some of Detroit’s finest architects to build multiple homes throughout the community. Builders that have influenced trends such as the Mid-Century Modern model ‘Holiday Homes’ that were designed and built by Cox & Baker. The builders who specialized in developing multiple subdivisions within a specific area, such as Richard M. Kimbrough. And the builders that specialized in building multiple homes in a particular architectural style such as Frank D. Wilberding, and Wilbert Calhoun who also had a stellar reputation (during the 1930’s and 1940’s,) for building classically styled center entrance Colonial Revival properties in Metro Detroit.
Many of these noted builders were particularly active in Grosse Pointe for long periods of time, especially during the 1950’s through to the 1970’s. This was the era when many of the grand estates were sold with the land subdivided and developed to create new neighborhoods. Several of these builders were also prominent figures in real estate, including Frank D. Wilberding.
Frank D. Wilberding was born in Detroit in 1920. He attended the University of Notre Dame. During World War II he served in the U.S. army in Hawaii and Saipan. After the war, during the late 1940’s, Frank Wilberding sold real estate in Grosse Pointe before transitioning into becoming a prominent builder. Based on the obituary on legacy.com we understand, ‘in 1950 he started his own home building company, for the next twenty-five years he helped design and build many of Grosse Pointe’s finest homes, over one hundred in all’. ‘He was also involved in subdividing several Lake Shore estates into custom built communities’. Mr. Wilberding’s projects came to be known as “Wilberding Homes”, often included in the description of the sales listing for the properties when they come onto the market.
Some of the homes he built in Grosse Pointe include:
376 Moross – 1951
This custom-built Colonial is possibly one of the earliest homes built by Frank Wilberding in Grosse Pointe. Image courtesy of Realtor.com
The properties on Winthrop place were created to form a prestigious cul-de-sac as part of the Blair subdivision. These elegant properties were created in an array of architectural styles including French, Colonial, Farm Colonial, and Georgian. They are between 3,000 sqft and 4,800 sq ft in size.
- 23 Winthrop Place – 1966
- 24 Winthrop Place – 1966
- 25 Winthrop Place – 1966
- 26 Winthrop Place – 1966
- 28 Winthrop Place - 1967
- 29 Winthrop Place – 1971
- 32 Winthrop Place – 1967
- 35 Winthrop Place – 1965
It is possible that Winthrop Place was once part of the “Elsinore” estate (283 Lake Shore) - what’s left of the estate now has the address of 8 Carmel Lane – you can read the full story by clicking here. The “Elsinore” estate was originally 14 acres in size and was sub-divided around 1965. If anyone has any further information, we would love to hear from you.
Roosevelt Place – numbers 280, 286, 292, 300 - completed around 1972.
It is believed these properties were built as speculative homes by Frank Wilberding, constructed in the Williamsburg architectural style. They were listed for sale in 1972, for $55,000 (around $365,000 today).
34 Waverly Lane – 1980
This striking 3,513 sq ft property was Frank Wilberding’s own home. The property features floor to ceiling windows, two first floor mast bedrooms (one with a vaulted ceiling), a family room (also with a vaulted ceiling) and a heated sunroom with a wall of windows.
Deming Lane is one of the pretty dead-end streets that can be accessed from Grosse Pointe Boulevard. When the six Deming Lane properties were constructed (five by Frank Wilberding) the street was located close to 111 Lake Shore, the estate known as “Cherryhurst”. Completed in 1907, “Cherryhurst” was one of the earliest year-round residences to be constructed in Grosse Pointe. It was built for engineer, and financier Paul Harvey Deming. Despite being listed on the National Register of Historic Places (in 1996) and being a designated Michigan State Historic Site, the home was demolished in 1997. You can read the full story about “Cherryhurst” by clicking here.
- 35 Deming Lane - 1964
- 37 Deming Lane – 1965
- 39 Deming Lane - 1967
- 41 Deming Lane – 1964
- 43 Deming Lane – 1964
45 Deming Lane was completed in 1941 – it is not a Wilberding Home.
Please click here to view the images of these homes.
Frank D. Wilberding was a prominent member of the Grosse Pointe community. A member of several clubs he was also a longtime benefactor of Bon Secours Hospital, St. Paul Church Grosse Pointe, and the University of Notre Dame. He was married to Donna Wilberding (Touscany) and together they had six children. During the latter part of his career Mr. Wilberding spent close to 20 years developing commercial projects and condominiums in Macomb County, Aspen, Colorado and Stuart, Florida. In the early 1980’s Frank Wilberding set up F&D Wilberding, Inc. with his son Dan, in Stuart Florida - building homes in waterfront and country club communities in Palm Beach County and St. Lucie County. Frank Wilberding retired in 1989. Having enjoyed an incredible career and with over 100 homes to his name in Grosse Pointe alone, Frank D. Wilberding passed in Stuart, Florida in 2016, aged 95.
*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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