The Residences of Edwin Hewitt Brown – Part 2
October 16, 2018
Posted by Darby Moran on Tuesday, October 9th, 2018 at 11:31am.
Last week we introduced you to 300 Lincoln, one of the magnificent homes in Grosse Pointe that was once owned by Mr. Edwin Hewitt Brown, and his wife Olive, a prominent family in the community.
This week we continue with the story of the Brown family and the two other residences they resided at – 4 Lake Court (built 1926) and 380 Neff Road (built 1928).
Having commissioned George W. Graves, in 1915, to create an impactful home at 300 Lincoln it appears Edwin H. Brown set upon a new residential project in Grosse Pointe, close to the shores of Lake St. Clair – 4 Lake Court. Having already worked with a high caliber architect Brown turned to another stellar designer, one of Grosse Pointe’s finest, Robert O. Derrick.
Much of O. Derrick’s work centered on creating large residences for prominent clientele who were looking for ‘spectacular’, and something a little out of the ordinary. In creating 4 Lake Court O. Derrick certainly lived up to his reputation and in doing so created arguably one of his most impactful residences in Grosse Pointe. The French-styled mansion presents O. Derrick’s immense versatility as a designer. During the 1920’s he tended to focus on producing fabulous Georgian inspired residences, filled with intricate architectural details. However with the Brown residence at 4 Lake Court he took a different path and created a sublime French inspired home.
The 7,629 sq ft home has all the integral elements you would expect from this architectural approach – a mansard roof (characterized by two slopes on each of its sides with the lower slope, punctured by dormer windows, at a steeper angle than the upper – source: Wikipedia), French windows, a round tower with a conical roof, and wrought iron work. Photo courtesy of realtor.com
Inside the home the French theme continues. High ceilings, carved doors, arched shaped entranceways and doors, beautiful wood paneling and detailing are key features to many of the rooms. Thanks to an article in the Detroit Free Press, by Judy Rose (October 26, 2014) we know that much of the hardware came from Maison Fontaine Hardware in Paris, which opened in 1740 and is now a museum across from the Louvre. In 1926, the hardware apparently reached this house because the Mr. and Mrs. Brown sailed to Paris to buy it. Source: Michigan House Envy, by Judy Rose, Detroit Free Press. Photos courtesy of realtor.com
The home was filled with an abundance of light, aided by the 22 glass French doors which were located in many of the rooms on the first floor, that opened out to the grounds.The formal French inspired gardens were spectacular. Linden trees provided a passage to the front entrance, while crabapple trees; along with boxwood filled the garden at the rear. Source: Detroit Free Press. Photos courtesy of realtor.com
It appears, in 1928, Mrs. Edwin Hewitt Brown (Olive) went from being a client of Robert O. Derrick’s, to a co designer - she was the decorator of the Grosse Pointe Club - one of O. Derrick’s most prominent projects in the community. Source: periodpaper.com
At some point in time the Browns left 4 Lake Court and moved to 380 Neff Road. Sadly in 1932 Olive Marie McIntosh Brown passed, so it is not clear if she ever resided in the Neff Road property.
380 Neff Road was constructed in 1928, and designed by Alfred Wilson Harris – an architect who primarily practiced in Cleveland from 1917-1932, and was considered a most competent designer of English-style homes.The Tudor inspired 6,058 sq ft home also features a round tower with a conical roof on the right hand side of the property. It is not clear what the original floor plan looked like but we understand it now features four bedrooms on the first floor along with a formal dining room, butler’s pantry, living room and a Florida Room. The second floor includes three bedrooms, a living room, a wood paneled library, and a Florida room, while the third floor contains three further bedrooms.
380 Neff Road was Edwin Hewitt Brown’s registered address when he died in 1939. The family had enjoyed living in some of the most magnificent residences found in Grosse Pointe; having worked with some of the best designers Metro Detroit had to offer.
*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 Darby Moran – Darby@higbiemaxon.com - we will try and feature the property.
(For more historical information on Grosse Pointe, visit Grosse Pointe Historical Society.)