Last week we introduced you to 17620 E. Jefferson, the former home of nationally recognized architect Frank C. Baldwin, built in 1907. In 1911 Dr. Fred T. Murphy purchased the house, and subsequently hired influential Grosse Pointe architect Robert O. Derrick to make extensive alterations, adding a large two-storied library to the property.

This week we stay with Robert O. Derrick’s work and visit the home he designed for Sidney T. Miller Jr., in 1949, 187 Irvine Lane.

Sidney T. Miller Jr. was a prominent attorney in Detroit. A Harvard Law School graduate he was the third member of the Miller family to work for the prestigious firm of Miller Canfield. Having joined as an associate in 1921 he made partner in 1923. The firms name was then changed to Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone, as it is known today. Prior to living at 187 Irvine Miller lived at 248 Provencal Road, a house he also had Robert O. Derrick design.

Robert O. Derrick was no stranger to designing grand homes in Grosse Pointe. Much of his work in the community occurred during the 1920’s, and embraced many architectural styles, and displayed superb attention to detail. The majority of his commissions were large residences for prominent clientele who were looking for ‘spectacular’, and for something a little out of the ordinary. 187 Irvine Lane came towards the end of Derrick’s career and was one of the final masterpieces’ he would create in Grosse Pointe.

187 Irvine Lane is a wonderful contemporary and traditional 4,602 sq ft home, built by prominent local builder Hilary Micou. The striking two story high bow window on the front elevation makes the design particularly distinctive. Derrick also included many wonderful Georgian inspired details that featured on much of his work - large windows on the first floor, a distinctive entrance, and masonry blocks (quoins) on the corner of each wall. Photos courtesy or

Inside the home a two-story circular staircase dominates the center entrance going to an upper level sitting room/den combination. The first floor also features a living room (25’ x 16’), a large formal library (17’ x 29’) that adjoins a glassed heated porch (22’ x 16’). The 12’ x 18’ kitchen contains a butler’s pantry, along with a dining/sitting room complex for servants. The spacious second floor includes two master suites (22’ x 14’, and 18’ x 19’, with fireplaces), and an adjoining servants wing with two bedrooms and a bathroom.

Most of the main rooms have parquet flooring, while part of the basement contained a photographic darkroom. The residence also features a three-car garage, a large (14’ x 19’) greenhouse, swimming pool (20’ x 32’), and beautiful formal gardens. Photo courtesy or

Noted landscape architect Eleanor Roche designed the gardens. Born in 1892 Eleanor Roche was a native of East Orange, New Jersey. In 1917 she graduated from Lowthorpe School of Landscape Architecture in Groton, Massachusetts. Early on in her career Ms. Roche went to work for Ellen Biddle Shipman in New York City. Shipman, a pioneer in landscape architecture, completed over 400 projects, including several prominent gardens in Grosse Pointe. Her associate Eleanor Roche, having worked for Shipman for several years, opened her own practice in New York in 1926, and subsequently became a member of the American Society of Landscape Artists. She specialized in residential work, in particular gardens for small and moderate-sized homes. Source: The Cultural Landscape Foundation (

By 1934 she was working regularly in Grosse Pointe, and moved to the community in 1935. She worked on several distinctive projects including the Virginia Brush Ford Memorial Rose Garden at Christ Church, and the trial garden at the Grosse Pointe War Memorial. Roche continued to reside in Grosse Pointe until her death in 1975, aged 83. 

Eleanor Roche was one of several noted female landscape architects from New York who came to Grosse Pointe to create beautiful gardens for wealthy clientele. The other leading female designers included Ellen Biddle Shipman (who worked with Charles A. Platt on the gardens at Alger House ((the Grosse Pointe War Memorial)), along with several noted homes, and Ruth Bramley Dean, who worked on 180 Ridge, the home of William Ledyard Mitchell. You can read the full story of Ruth Bramley Dean by clicking here. 

187 Irvine is a stunning property, and one of many Robert O. Derrick created that still exist in the Grosse Pointe communities today.

*Photos courtesy of the Higbie Maxon Agney archives unless stated.


Written by Katie Doelle
Copyright © 2018 Higbie Maxon Agney & Katie Doelle


If you have a home, building or street you would like us to profile please contact Higbie Maxon Agney – - we will try and feature the property.

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