Last week we presented an outstanding French Normandy style home in Grosse Pointe Farms, 78 Lake Shore, completed in 1928, by the multi-talented Hugh T. Keyes for Marie Fleitz Dwyer, the widow of Francis T. Dwyer.
This week we stay on Lake Shore, heading north to explore 785 Lake Shore, located opposite the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club. Completed in 1916, it is one of the earlier permanent homes to be constructed in the vicinity of Grosse Pointe Shores.
785 Lake Shore was once located on a large double lot with a perfect view of Lake St. Clair - the main entrance had steps down to the front lawn, overlooking the lake. A real estate listing from 1975, described the house as a “mini castle”. The English architectural style home is constructed from brick with a stucco and timber section on the second and third floors. The property is currently 3,351 sq ft in size, however, it was considerably smaller when it was first completed. We understand, “the house was built with a large front porch with two side doors right next to each other. The first side door entered the main entryway hallway. The other side door accessed a stairway to the basement and a back stairway that led not just to the second floor, but all the way up to the third floor, which, it is presumed, was once the location for the servant quarters”. Source: Drew Kennedy.
Over the years 785 Lake Shore has had several significant owners.One of the earliest residents (and possibly the original owner) was first lieutenant Edwin A. Bayer, he was the registered owner in 1919. During the 1920’s, it is reported, in an article in the Grosse Pointe News (1964), the property was purchased by the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club. The club then sold the house in the late 1930’s, to Peter Jacobs. Our files indicate the house was significantly remodeled by Mr. Jacobs in 1944. It was listed for sale in 1949, for $35,000 (around $429,000 today) however, it wasn’t sold until 1957, when itwas purchased by J. Cullen Kennedy and his wife Katherine.
The article in the Grosse Pointe News (1964) reports when the Kennedy family purchased the home “it was in a run-down condition and required extensive remodeling”. Drew Kennedy confirms “his parents added a sizable addition to the back of the house, doubling the size of the kitchen, with an inclusion of a big dining area, overlooking the spacious back lawn and terrace (put in by the Kennedy’s)”. “The remodel also included adding a family room, along with a sun porch on the second floor”.
“The Kennedy family also took down the “barn” that had been at the back of the property for years, dug up the gravel driveway that led to it, and sold part of the acreage that came with the house” (now the location of 781 Lake Shore, built in 1964). “The back garden was still huge and has a beautiful apricot tree at the far end of the property”. Source: Grosse Pointe News (1964). “Later, a garage was added on the other side of the house, along with a semi-circular driveway”. Source: Drew Kennedy. The interior, post remodel (in the late 1950’s), included a spacious foyer with a circulating fountain, a 13’ x 20’ sq ft living room with a marble fireplace and beamed ceiling. The 14’ x 19’ sq ft dining room also has a beamed ceiling along with a bay window. The main floor once had a large, paneled library, and a 12’ x 33’ sq ft family room, however this was divided (in the remodel) to create a 12’ x 22’ family room and a 12’ x 10’ downstairs bedroom. The second floor is the location of four bedrooms along with a 32’ x 14’ sq ft deck/open porch. The third floor originally contained two bedrooms for maids, however, in 1976, the space was updated to create a separate living space with two bedrooms, and a living room/kitchenette combination.
Attorney J. Cullen Kennedy was a prominent figure in Grosse Pointe. He was recognized as a Pointer of Interest in 1964. Mr. Kennedy, graduated from the University of Michigan. During his studies he met Katherine (from Brooklyn) who was studying for an M.A. degree in Bacteriology. “Upon graduation J. Cullen Kennedy joined the FBI and was assigned to Birmingham, Alabama. He and Katherine married a year later, together they had three sons (Jack, Tom, and Andrew). From 1942 through 1945, the couple resided in Washing D.C. Mr. Kennedy’s station during the war”. Source: Grosse Pointe News. In 1946, the couple moved to Grosse Pointe. It is reported “between 1946 - 1957 the family lived in three different houses in Grosse Pointe, remodeling their homes to suit their needs, moving as their family expanded”. They purchased 785 Lake Shore in 1957. The couple were avid antique collectors, it is reported “most of the downstairs furniture in 785 Lake Shore was Victorian 19th Century American pieces”. Sadly, Katherine Kennedy passed in 1963. Three years later, in June 1966, J. Cullen Kennedy listed the property for sale. It was purchased in April 1967, by businessman Robert C. Brooks who would own the property until around 1974 (he then moved to 44 Willison Rd, a modern ranch home in Grosse Pointe Shores).
At 106 years old, 785 Lake Shore has had a fascinating history. As one of the earlier residences in Grosse Pointe Shores, the “mini castle” stands proudly today on Lake Shore albeit slightly altered from its original form.
We would like to thank Drew Kennedy for contacting us about his parents former home and for providing us with such wonderful information.
*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
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