This week we stay with the work of Mr. Mason and take a look at one of his earliest projects in Grosse Pointe, 1040 Harvard. As we mentioned last week Mason first appeared in the community in 1882, when the firm of Mason & Rice was commissioned to design ‘Edgmere’ for Joseph Berry. Fast-forward to 1916, Mason now has his own firm and has been commissioned by John W. Staley to create a large home on Harvard.
John W. Staley was one of the best known of the younger bank officers’ in the United States. Born in Danville, Pa. he graduated from Albion College, Michigan in 1892. He immediately took up banking as an assistant receiving teller at the First National Bank of Detroit. By 1908 he had become assistant cashier, and then vice president in 1912. Having worked for the First National Bank for 24 years he took the position of vice-president at the Peoples State bank, in 1917. By 1920 he was elected as a director and senior vice-president. Source and image (above): The Bankers Magazine, Volume 94. Mr. Staley was married in 1907 to Harriet E. Bewick, and together they had one child. Harriet was the daughter of shipping magnate Charles Bewick, who was the first person to sail the Great Lakes in an iron-hulled steamer, The Brunswick, in 1881.
The Staley’s new home on Harvard was completed in 1916. It is a stately colonial situated on a multiple lot site. The photos below, from 1918, show the stunning symmetrical home that Mason created. Constructed of brick the 5,000 sq ft residence contains all the classical features of a colonial home from that era – the dominant entrance, with a portico leading to the main door on the front and rear elevations, an abundance of windows, (including the large window on the second floor at the rear of the home), along with the small dormers set into the roof – three on the front and two on the rear. Image courtesy of the Grosse Pointe Historical Society. Black and White images are courtesy of https://digitalcollections.detroitpubliclibrary.org
The interior featured a large 10’ x 30’ ft entrance hall, a grand 16’ x 32’ living room (with fireplace), a 16’ x 18’ dining room, two butlers pantries, and a Pewabic tiled 13’ x 20’ sun room. There were also two terraces. The second floor contained four large bedrooms along with a 13’ x 21’ sq ft sitting room, which was located on the wing of the home. The third floor included three additional bedrooms for maids, along with service stairs. From our files, we believe the garage was built in 1924. This included a one-bedroom apartment that was offered for rent, during the 1950’s, for $65 a month (around $600 today).
In 1941, after John W. Staley’s death, it appears Mrs. Staley listed the property for sale for $35,000 (around $600,000 today). In 1957 the lot size was 193’ x 134’ sq ft, however, by 1999 this had been reduced to 118’ x 134’ sq ft. From our files we can conclude that 75’ of the lot, which was formerly part of the grounds, was sold.
After completing 1040 Harvard, Mason went on to organize George D. Mason & Co. in 1920. It was during this period of his career that Mason created some of Detroit’s most recognizable buildings including: the Trinity Methodist Church (1922), the Detroit Yacht Club (1923), the Masonic Temple (1926), and the Central Woodward Christian Church (1928). A number of Mason's works, either by himself or as part of Mason & Rice, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, while 1040 Harvard has been recognized by the Grosse Pointe Historical Society and is amongst their recipients of a bronze plaque.
Having arguably had one of the greatest influences on the architectural scene in Metro Detroit George D. Mason died in 1948. As a result of his dedication and natural talent in his profession we are left with some truly wonderful homes and buildings.
*Photos courtesy of the Higbie Maxon Agney archives unless stated.
Written by Katie Doelle
Copyright © 2019 Higbie Maxon Agney & Katie Doelle
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