Hugh T. Keyes
|Hugh Tallman Keyes|
Trenton, Michigan, USA
|Known for||Significant houses in Grosse Pointe and Bloomfield Hills, Michigan|
Hugh Tallman Keyes (1888 – 1963) was a noted early to mid 20th-century American architect. He designed grand estates for some of “Detroit’s most important clans” and industrialists (such as Ford, Hudson-Tannahill, Bugas, and Fisher), and is considered “one of the most prolific and versatile architects of the period.”
Keyes studied architecture at Harvard University and became an associate to Detroit architect Albert Kahn (“the foremost industrial architect of the United States”). After serving 2 years in the Navy during World War I, Keyes opened his own office in Detroit in 1921. During a career that lasted into the mid-century modern period, Keyes’s style ranged from Tudor Revival (the most ubiquitous style in the early 20th-century metropolitan area) to rustic log chalets, but he is most noted for the Georgian/Palladian and symmetrical bow-fronted wings and hipped roofs of the related Regency style of architecture. Keyes’s designs often sit along rolling hillsides, and utilize the features for light and garden landscape.
Commenting on the technological and aesthetic trend in modern architecture, Keyes has observed:
|“||The World today is being made over to fit a new tempo of life, and it is unthinkable that Detroit, leading the country in the advance of industrial design, should be content to live in homes of the past.||”|
Keyes was married to Faye Elizabeth Keyes, and had two daughters and two sons. He lived most of his adult life in Birmingham, Michigan.
At the end of his career, Keyes identified his “principal works” as the John Bugas Residence (Wildwood Manor), the Max Fisher Residence, the Louis Goad residence, the Robert Hudson Tannahill Residence, the Benson Ford Residence (Woodley Green), and the Hidden Valley Ski Lodge (though there are other notable works considered to also belong in this group).
Vaughan Rd., Bloomfield Hills
Secluded far beyond its high split-stone walls, groves of spruce and birch, and private winding drive, Wildwood Manor is one of the last and the most published of Keyes’s houses. The Regency manor house features French (Second Empire) elements such as a copper hipped and mansard roofline and Keyes’s signature symmetrical bow-fronted wings. Pedimented gables and extending portico-connected wings also evoke the Palladian style, while the house’s elegant mansard, white painted brick construction, leaded oval glass front windows and soaring central window interrupting the roofline are distinctive markers of the more French-influenced Regency Moderne style (then popular in Old Hollywood homes by Jack Woolf). It sits on a wooded knoll overlooking the country estate’s expansive ornamental gardens and orchards and adjacent Eliel Saarinen-designed Cranbrook Kingswood (called by The New York Times “one of the greatest campuses ever created anywhere in the world”). Over the years, some renowned designers have contributed to Wildwood’s “pedigreed architecture”: Eliel’s son Eero Saarinen was at the time renovating his own Victorian house nearby on Vaughan road and assisted Keyes with Wildwood’s flowing layout, glass walls and horizontal lines; William Hodgins, “one of the deans of American interior decoration,” later made additional and notable Regency interior modifications; and French designer Andrée Putman rebuilt all of the bathrooms with antique Italian glass mosaic tiles and added an enormous spa. Wildwood has been the home of a succession of prominent Michigan businessmen: John S. Bugas (local FBI head and second in command at Ford Motor Company behind Henry Ford II—hence the Ford-built, detached industrial power house serving the main house, similar to those of Henry’s and Edsel’s houses), for whom it was originally built; (real estate heir) Robert S. Taubman, whose extensive renovations were featured in Vogue magazine; and (hedge fund manager) Mark W. Spitznagel, its present owner.
Fairway Hills Dr., Franklin (1956)
Fisher House is “a white-brick Georgian with a sprawling garden that borders the eighth fairway of the Franklin Hills Country Club.” The gracious and understated mansion is Keyes’s most undeniably Palladian-inspired work. Over the Tuscan-colonnaded and entablatured front portico is Keyes’s central triangular pediment with ornate cornices. A tall transom window tops the front door. The house’s simple symmetry and proportions are broken up by a large garage to one side. Low lanterned walls of matching construction to the house frame the front of the property. It was built for Max M. Fisher (Forbes 400 member and “oil and real estate magnate”) as his main residence. (Fisher and fellow Keyes client John Bugas “were the closest friends amongst Detroit’s business elite.”) The house contains a “glass-walled garden room” (a common Keyes element) where Fisher conducted his business at home, overlooking the pool and golf course to the south. Fisher was a major supporter of Israel (its “most successful fund raiser” and “the single most important lay person in the American Jewish community”) and close Middle East advisor to Republican Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, G.H.W. Bush, and G.W. Bush—and for many years the estate was guarded by an FBI security detail ordered by the White House. Fisher passed away in his house in 2005.
Lone Pine Rd., Bloomfield Hills (1955)
Down evergreen-lined Lone Pine road from Albert Kahn’s Cranbrook House, and within view of historic Christ Church, is Goad House. The house is a fraternal twin to Keyes’s Fisher House, from its clean white brick facade with contrasting French shutters to its layout and proportions to its Palladian, Ionic colonnaded and pedimented front portico with spiral volutes. The house incorporates Keyes’s signature symmetrical bow-fronted wings. The south sloping grounds have an unusual oval, stone, and “terraced garden and wooded section which lead to a stream,” a tributary of the River Rouge. The house (as well as Christ Church) was a filming location for The Ides of March (as the senator’s “swanky mansion”). The estate was built for Louis Clifford Goad (Executive Vice President of General Motors Company)—who passed away there in 1979.
Hudson Tannahill House
Lee Gate Ln., Grosse Pointe Farms (1947)
Keyes’s late distinctive Regency style that would become his signature is well represented in Hudson Tannahill House: white brick construction (with brick pilasters), strong symmetrical facade, a hipped roofline partially concealed by a parapet (giving the appearance of a flat roof), a dormered (garage) wing, and low walls of matching construction. The house has a motor courtyard behind electric gates and overlooks adjacent Lake St. Clair. The estate was built for Robert Hudson Tannahill (a foremost art collector, patron, and scion of J. L. Hudson’s department store fortune). Tannahill had one of the most extensive and “peerless” private late 19th and early 20th-century European art collections in the world. Tannahill built his home on Lee Gate Lane specifically to accommodate his sprawling collection—and he looked hard to find an architect to match the quality of his art. (Tannehill and his close first cousin Eleanor Clay Ford, wife of Edsel, had a long relationship with recently deceased Albert Kahn, and Tannahill’s choice of Keyes as Kahn’s successor is a testament to Keyes’s eminence at the time—despite Keyes, like Tannahill, remaining relatively unknown today.) When Tannahill was having the house designed and built in the 1940s, he was becoming increasingly “reclusive and protective of his art.” The house “was like a museum”—though “he seldom showed his collection”—with major works of art as well as many small, elegant pieces. His 5-foot-tall Woman Seated in an Armchair (which he called “the mistress of the house”), as well as a parade of other Picassos, dramatically adorned the house’s stairwell, a Renoir nude adorned the living room, and a Matisse still life hung over the dining room table. “Tannahill was loath to lend art he kept in his home, preferring to be surrounded by their beauty. Still, he enjoyed entertaining friends and family there,” which “evoked the atmosphere of the great French salons.” He donated almost 500 pieces of art to the Detroit Institute of Arts during his life, and upon his death in 1969 he bequeathed another 557 pieces (ranging from Impressionist masterpieces to African miniatures) as well as a large acquisition endowment. (Tannahill’s gifts, valued at around half-a-billion dollars, “have become among the most recognizable and highly prized paintings” in the museum’s world-class collection—all of which he notably restricted from sale and thus protected from creditors.) Tannahill had the house “built like a bunker, meant to stop the spread of fire” in order to protect his art, using “stout walls and ceilings” made of “a lot of cement” (and the parapet exterior wall extending above the roof was commonly used as a fire wall). Ironically, the house was destroyed by a roof fire on November 14, 2014 during renovations by a new owner.
Hidden Valley Lodge
Otsego Ski Club, Gaylord (1939)
Style: Swiss Chalet
Built in 1939 by Detroit-area steel magnate Donald McLouth (of McLouth Steel) as a Tyrolian-style ski resort for Detroit industrialists (including the families of Henry Ford, William Durant, Walter Briggs, C. Thorne Murphy, Alvan Macauley, David Wallace, Gordon Saunders, and Lang Hubbard), Hidden Valley Resort was the first private ski club in North America. Keyes incorporated bow-fronted, symmetrical Palladian wings into the design of his “Hansel-and-Gretel-look lodge.” The log lodge inspired an alpine theme throughout the nearby village of Gaylord.
Lake Shore Dr., Grosse Pointe (1934)
Woodley Green, considered “one of [Keyes’s] finest houses,” is another important work in the Regency and Neo-Palladian style, with a stone pediment front portico with Ionic columns, a parapet and copper hipped roof, and a red brick facade with Keyes’s expected symmetrical bow-fronted flanking wings. Overlooking Lake St. Clair at the end of a long, looping gravel driveway “in the midst of beautifully landscaped grounds on Lake Shore road, it has the appearance of some venerable English country seat.” Woodley Green was formerly the lakeside estate of Benson Ford (grandson of Henry Ford), for whom Keyes also made renovations. (It is also known as the Emory W. Clark House after the president of the First National Bank of Detroit.)
Other notable works
Whitby Hall Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit (1955)
Style: Colonial Georgian
Keyes (with the assistance of Hilary Micou) was chosen by the Detroit Institute of Arts to design the elaborate interior rooms of Whitby Hall, the centerpiece of its American Decorative Arts Gallery. The interiors “were completely redecorated with a new background formed by panelling from Early American Colonial houses. The alterations made to Whitby Hall were quite comprehensive.” New ceilings, fireplaces (including a design with elaborate Doric frieze carving in the parlor), windows, air supply equipment, wiring and lighting “presented a number of problems which were successfully solved.” Whitby Hall was an 18th-century Pennsylvania country house, the farm acquired in 1741 and the house enlarged in 1754 by James Coultas (merchant, shipowner, and high sheriff of Philadelphia from 1755 to 1758). The original house featured a steep pedimented gable with cove cornices, and a three-story, pedimented stone entrance and stair tower. Much of the architectural ornament of Whitby Hall is originally attributed to Samuel Harding (who designed the interior of Independence Hall in 1753, the inspiration for Whitby’s stair tower). The interiors were removed from Whitby Hall in the 1920s and installed at the DIA (where, “ironically, the facade is of white clapboard, a far cry from Whitby’s actual stately gray stone”).
Lake Park House
Lake Park Rd., Bloomfield Hills (1937)
As the center of industrial wealth in the region began shifting from Grosse Pointe to Bloomfield Hills, so too did Keyes’s projects. Max M. Gilman (president of Packard Motor Car Company) hired Keyes to design Lake Park, his “huge house in Bloomfield Hills” which represented a departure from the huge Grosse Pointe house of (Gilman’s long time predecessor) Alvan Macauley (whose son Edward also owned a Keyes Grosse Pointe house). Lake Park marks the beginning of Keyes’s more restrained and increasingly French-influenced Regency style, with a large, clean white brick facade, French shutters, a unique colonnaded copper front portico, and a steep, hipped roof broken up with curved dormers. In the back, copper awnings frame the windows, a two-story windowed vestibule with more columns overlooks the sloping garden, and a lower wing extends to the side (which was later removed when the large estate was subdivided) where an iron-railed patio is concealed above an open garden pavilion. The wooded end of the garden rolls sharply down to an inland lake (Quarton Lake, along the same tributary as Goad House).
Hudson House Lothrop Rd., Grosse Pointe Farms (1937)
Hudson House is one of several Regency style houses built by Keyes in Grosse Pointe in the thirties containing many Neo-Palladian and Jeffersonian (sometimes labeled as Georgian) architectural details. The broad, imposing red brick mansion has symmetrical wings flanking a central triangular pediment tympanum with circular stone relief, a Ionic-columned stone portico, arched brickwork, and a flat, parapet roof. An iron fence frames a circular drive in the front and intricate gardens and fountains in the back. The interior features arched doorways, a loggia and two-story sweeping staircase. The estate was built for Doctor J. Stewart Hudson.
Gail Stevens Hunting Lodge Metamora (1931)
Keyes’s rustic hunting lodge (specifically for horseback fox hunting common in Metamora) of full log construction, with a massive stone fireplace and ornate murals, referenced the 19th-century Great Camps and Swiss chalet style of architecture.
Provençal Rd., Grosse Pointe Farms (1929)
Style: Tudor Revival
Arched chimney caps dot the roofline of Keyes’s stately brick Tudor, Mennen Hall, that sits along a private, guarded road. It was built for (real estate tycoon) Henry P. Williams and his wife Elma C. Mennen (heiress to the Mennen personal grooming products fortune), whose eldest son was G. Mennen “Soapy” Williams (a six-term Governor of Michigan and Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court).
Lake Shore Rd., Grosse Pointe Farms (1928)
Style: French Normandy
Built for the widowed daughter of a Michigan lumber baron and grain merchant, the French Normandy style house was the first in the area wired for telephones (and, until recently, there was a circuit panel in the garage through which all the neighborhood phones were wired). The house was built from limestone and the roof from slate with a copper flat top, and an intricate stone-carved pediment frames the front door. The estate’s garden backs onto Lake St. Clair, originally with a dock extending over 100 feet into the lake. The house and grounds have been the filming location for several movies.
William P. Harris House Windmill Pointe Dr., Grosse Pointe (1925)
Style: Tudor Revival
The “sprawling palace on Windmill Pointe with its groomed grounds, coffered ceilings and limestone arches” was originally designed by New York model farm architect Alfred Hopkins in an extravagant Tudor style for William Pickett Harris (an investment banker, expert on squirrels, and curator of mammals at the museum of zoology of the University of Michigan). Just four years after the house’s completion, Keyes was hired to double its original size in order to accommodate Harris’s growing family—which included his daughter Julie Harris (the stage, screen, and television actress—“the most decorated performer in the history of Broadway”). Keyes incorporated original architectural details, windows and doors into his outward and upward expansion, including additional bedrooms, a basement game room, and a sunken rose garden.
Lewiston Rd., Grosse Pointe (1924)
On a sloping ridge surrounded by giant oak trees lies Ridgeland, a rambling country villa in the Italianate style made of tawny bricks (rather than Italian stucco). “Designed by Keyes during the height of the roaring twenties, it provided a dramatic setting for large parties the wealthy Charles Dean (its original owner) was famous for hosting.” The house informally sprawls backward asymmetrically down the hillside, folding back on itself so that “the house becomes part of the view from its own windows.” With its expansive brick walls, outbuildings, and potting shed, “the house feels like its own enclosed community.” The variously scaled rooms open up through French doors to slate patios, intimate gardens and stretches of lawn. Ridgeland’s Italianate style is an early example of Keyes’s experiments with Palladianism synthesized with picturesque aesthetics: low-pitched and hipped tile roofs, stained glass windows, arched doors and ceilings, loggias and balconies with wrought iron railings, a tower, and walls and beams painted with elaborate 14th-century Florentine motifs. (Ridgeland is also known as the Charles A. Dean House.)
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