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Detroit Mansions & Great Estates

 

rotating_4Overview

Many of Detroit's early 20th century automotive barons built impressive residences in the city, a number of which are located in neighborhoods now designated as historic districts (see the Experience Detroit Historic Neighborhoods Tour  for more information).  While some of these industry moguls were content in their Detroit homes for many years, others built spectacular retreats in rural areas outside the city (such as Meadow Brook Hall pictured at left).  Today, most of these once-rural areas are now bustling suburbs, but the estates themselves are no less grand than when they were built.

 

Below we feature seven majestic Detroit area mansions built by major industrial power brokers.  To be on the safe side, count on roughly four hours for each destination which includes drive time and allows for a tour of the estate.  Therefore, we recommend picking two and making a full day of it.  The number of estates you choose to visit is optional.  Having fun is not!

 

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Henry Ford EstateHenry Ford Estate -- Fair Lane [A]

4901 Evergreeen Road, Dearborn

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This National Historic Landmark was the home of Clara and Henry Ford for over thirty years.  Construction began in 1914 with between 500 and 800 masons, wood carvers, and artisans working under the direction of architect William Van Tine to complete the estate.  Tour the 31,000 square foot, 56-room residence, where the Fords entertained some of the world’s most influential people, including President Herbert Hoover, the Prince of Wales, aviator Charles Lindbergh, and lifelong friend Thomas Edison.  Explore the spacious rooms with original furnishings and eight intricately designed fireplaces.  View the six-level working powerhouse, research laboratory, and 12-car garage with some of Ford's personal vehicles.  And follow Ford’s favorite walk down to the pond hidden in the woods.  The meadow and cascade were designed by renowned landscape designer Jans Jensen and are acknowledged to be two of the greatest examples of landscape in America.  Last but not least, do not forget a bite to eat in the mansion's unique swimming pool room.  An unforgettable piece of Automotive Heritage!

 

 

 

Hecker HouseHecker-Smiley Mansion [B]

5510 Woodward Avenue, Detroit

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Built in 1888 by one of Detroit's most well-known and wealthiest citizens, the Col. Frank Hecker House occupies a prominent position on Woodward Avenue just north of the Cultural Center.  Louis Kamper designed this 21,000 square-foot masterpiece based on Chateau de Chenonceaux near Tours, France.  Hecker hosted elaborate society parties at his home where he entertained Presidents McKinley and Hayes.  In the late 1940s, the home was sold to the Smiley Brothers Music Company and became the birthplace of Detroit's Chamber Music Workshop and Women's Symphony.  The mansion was recently rehabilitated and today serves as law offices.

 

The WhitneyThe Whitney [C]

4421 Woodward Avenue, Detroit

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OK, this one wasn't built by an automotive mogul, but not too shabby for well-to-do lumber baron David Whitney Jr. who constructed the home in 1894.    Whitney employed the services of Detroit architect Gordon W. Lloyd who designed the exterior in Romanesque style and utilized a rare variety of pink granite, giving the outside of the house a rose hue.  Visitors enter through the stunning Great Hall with a grand staircase inviting them to explore the rest of the 21,000 square foot, 52-room mansion.  In 1986, The Whitney became an upscale restaurant also featuring bar and lounge areas on the third floor (see the Experience Detroit Restaurants page).  Make a reservation for dinner, relax with a drink and some music in the lounge, or simply drop in and spend some time exploring this Detroit gem.

Fisher Mansion

 

Fisher Mansion [D]

383 Lenox Avenue, Detroit

 

In 1927, Lawrence Fisher, founder of Fisher Body and Cadillac, employed more than 200 European craftsmen to build his lavish home on the Detroit River.  It was modeled after William Randolph Hearst's San Simeon castle with a Mission-style exterior, Italian marble fireplaces, and 24-karat gold-leaf ceilings.  The mansion was purchased by Henry Ford's grandson in 1975 and subsequently donated to the Hare Krishna religion.  The home now operates as a cultural center that offers tours, a fascinating collection of Asian and Indian art, and a vegetarian restaurant.

Ford

Edsel & Eleanor Ford House [E]

1100 Lake Shore Road, Grosse Pointe Shores

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The Edsel and Eleanor Ford House is the former private residence of Henry and Clara Ford's only child, Edsel, his wife Eleanor, and their children.  Open to the public since 1978, the 87-acre Albert Kahn designed home sits on the picturesque shoreline of Lake St. Clair.  Inside the home is a museum showcasing the Fords' collection of original antiques and art.  Outside the home are lush gardens designed by landscape architect Jans Jensen.  Public tours of the house, gardens, and grounds are available most days.

 

Cranbrook

 

Cranbrook House & Gardens [F]

380 Lone Pine Road, Bloomfield Hills

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Cranbrook is an internationally acclaimed center of education, art, and science located in the exquisite suburb of Bloomfield Hills.  The centerpiece of this 319-acre cultural complex is Cranbrook House, former residence of founders George and Ellen Booth .  The mansion was designed by Albert Kahn in English Arts and Crafts style and is the oldest surviving manor house in metro Detroit.  On display are ten first-floor rooms, centuries-old tapestries, hand-carved woodworking, and antiques.  Outside, visitors can stroll 40 acres of breathtaking gardens, fountains, and sculpture.

 

rotating_7Meadow Brook Hall [G]

480 South Adams Road, Rochester

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Often described as "an American castle," Meadow Brook Hall is the fourth largest historic house museum in the United States and is listed on both the state and national registers of historic places.  Construction of the hall began in 1926 on the 1,500-acre family farm of Matilda Dodge Wilson (widow of Dodge Brothers Motor Car Company founder John Dodge).  The hall served as residence for Matilda and her second husband, lumber broker Alfred G. Wilson, for 38 years.  Meadow Brook Hall was opened to the public in 1971 for many to enjoy the fine craftsmanship and exquisite architecture of this 88,000 square foot, 110-room mansion, its extraordinary collection of furnishings and art, and lush gardens and grounds.

Tour Map

Number of Destinations:  7

Distance:  69 miles

Overall Tour Time:  1 day for 2 estates or 3 1/2 days for all estates

Great Estates

 

 

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Related Tours

Architectural Tours

Automotive Heritage Tours

Bloomfield Hills, Cranbrook, & Franklin

Cultural Center

Grosse Pointe & Nautical Mile

Historic Neighborhoods

Restaurants

Riverfront

Resources & Links

Henry Ford Estate

Hecker-Smiley Mansion

The Whitney

Edsel & Eleanor Ford House

Cranbrook House & Gardens

Meadow Brook Hall

 

 

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