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Hometown Hero

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Dow Chemical put Midland on the map, but architect and local scion Alden B. Dow made it the most modern town in Michigan.

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  Dow Chemical put Midland on the map, but architect and local scion Alden B. Dow made it the most modern town in Michigan. Dow’s masterpiece is undoubtedly his home and studio in Midland. Designed in 1933 to be built in stages, the spraw­ling manse seems to rise out of a pond, its green copper roof and bright-white, geometric form seemingly birthed by the landscape. It’s a nearly perfect evocation of a guiding Dow dictum, “Gardens never end, and buildings never begin.”

    Dow Chemical put Midland on the map, but architect and local scion Alden B. Dow made it the most modern town in Michigan. Dow’s masterpiece is undoubtedly his home and studio in Midland. Designed in 1933 to be built in stages, the spraw­ling manse seems to rise out of a pond, its green copper roof and bright-white, geometric form seemingly birthed by the landscape. It’s a nearly perfect evocation of a guiding Dow dictum, “Gardens never end, and buildings never begin.”

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  Alden B. Dow and his wife Vada at home in the 1930s.
    Alden B. Dow and his wife Vada at home in the 1930s.
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  A screened-in porch overlooks the pond and sports furniture by both Harry Bertoia and Dow himself.Photo by: Balthazar Korab
    A screened-in porch overlooks the pond and sports furniture by both Harry Bertoia and Dow himself.Photo by: Balthazar Korab
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  The drafting room is austere, though well lit and full of impressive joinery.Photo by: Balthazar Korab
    The drafting room is austere, though well lit and full of impressive joinery.Photo by: Balthazar Korab
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  The Whitman House.
    The Whitman House.
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  St. John's Lutheran Church.
    St. John's Lutheran Church.
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  The Dow Test House (Carras House).
    The Dow Test House (Carras House).
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  The Lower Pond Bridge at Dow Gardens.
    The Lower Pond Bridge at Dow Gardens.
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  Dow designed his home specifically for his wife and three children, including an interior corridor between the children's bedrooms that was inaccessible from the hall. Wealthy families of the era feared a repeat of the Lindbergh kidnapping.
    Dow designed his home specifically for his wife and three children, including an interior corridor between the children's bedrooms that was inaccessible from the hall. Wealthy families of the era feared a repeat of the Lindbergh kidnapping.
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  Dow's idea for his W-Frame house exists in model form (here) at the Down Home and Studio and a variant of the structure was built as the Mills Summer Home.
    Dow's idea for his W-Frame house exists in model form (here) at the Down Home and Studio and a variant of the structure was built as the Mills Summer Home.
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  A deeply spiritual man, Alden B. Dow's personal philosophy is best expressed through the Way of Life Cycle he created.
    A deeply spiritual man, Alden B. Dow's personal philosophy is best expressed through the Way of Life Cycle he created.
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  The Pardee House in Midland is an example of Dow's work with the unit blocks that would define much of his early career.
    The Pardee House in Midland is an example of Dow's work with the unit blocks that would define much of his early career.
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  The copper exterior of the Stein House from 1933 shows a clear debt to Dow's teacher and mentor Frank Lloyd Wright.
    The copper exterior of the Stein House from 1933 shows a clear debt to Dow's teacher and mentor Frank Lloyd Wright.
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  Jump ahead to 1939 and Dow was into the house that he would live in. You can see the lights of the submarine room which sits right at water level. Seats just below the window let the sitter trail a finger in the pond just outside.
    Jump ahead to 1939 and Dow was into the house that he would live in. You can see the lights of the submarine room which sits right at water level. Seats just below the window let the sitter trail a finger in the pond just outside.
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  The Ashmun House in Midland makes use of a strong A-frame. It was designed for a classic pianist on a secluded street.
    The Ashmun House in Midland makes use of a strong A-frame. It was designed for a classic pianist on a secluded street.
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  Here's an interior of the Ashmun house with its floating mezzanine and ample natural light.
    Here's an interior of the Ashmun house with its floating mezzanine and ample natural light.
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  One of Dow's great civic buildings, the Midland Center for the Arts has a grand auditorium and a smashing curtain of his design. In 1969, when the theater opened, a local newspaper claimed that the space had standing room for every resident of Midland.
    One of Dow's great civic buildings, the Midland Center for the Arts has a grand auditorium and a smashing curtain of his design. In 1969, when the theater opened, a local newspaper claimed that the space had standing room for every resident of Midland.
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  St. John's Lutheran Church has a series of clerestory windows cropping up at sharp angles. Viewed from above the structure looks like a Lutheran rose with the spire emanating out of the center.
    St. John's Lutheran Church has a series of clerestory windows cropping up at sharp angles. Viewed from above the structure looks like a Lutheran rose with the spire emanating out of the center.
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  A playful interior of the Midland HQ for Dow Chemical.
    A playful interior of the Midland HQ for Dow Chemical.
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  A geometric bridge connects one of the many outdoor terraces of the Dow Home to green space on the other side of the pond.
    A geometric bridge connects one of the many outdoor terraces of the Dow Home to green space on the other side of the pond.
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  Blocks of color in the stained glass windows and decidedly more sober brick are the dominant materials of the main sanctuary of Midland's First Methodist Church.
    Blocks of color in the stained glass windows and decidedly more sober brick are the dominant materials of the main sanctuary of Midland's First Methodist Church.
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  The Dows loved to host and their massive living and dining room had ample space for parties. Decor came largely from Dow's designs and the treasures they collected on their travels.
    The Dows loved to host and their massive living and dining room had ample space for parties. Decor came largely from Dow's designs and the treasures they collected on their travels.
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  If there's a groovier picture of mid-century modernism I don't know it. This is the living room/indoor pool of the Defoe House Dow designed in Bay City, Michigan in 1941.
    If there's a groovier picture of mid-century modernism I don't know it. This is the living room/indoor pool of the Defoe House Dow designed in Bay City, Michigan in 1941.
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  Here's a view of the entrance to the Dow Home and Studio from the 1930s. Dow loved his tall, unit-block spires, and the Dow children would climb them as they played on the home's roof.
    Here's a view of the entrance to the Dow Home and Studio from the 1930s. Dow loved his tall, unit-block spires, and the Dow children would climb them as they played on the home's roof.
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  Dow's love of nature was boundless. Here an apple tree nicely frames his home.
    Dow's love of nature was boundless. Here an apple tree nicely frames his home.
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  The Bay Service Center was a bit of an oddity in the Dow canon, but the 1961 structure made of Styrofoam and concrete still stands today.
    The Bay Service Center was a bit of an oddity in the Dow canon, but the 1961 structure made of Styrofoam and concrete still stands today.
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  This view of the back of the Dow Home gives a much better sense of the scope of the place and how inviting the landscape into every element of the design was so critical to Dow.Don't miss a word of Dwell! Download our  FREE app from iTunes, friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter!
    This view of the back of the Dow Home gives a much better sense of the scope of the place and how inviting the landscape into every element of the design was so critical to Dow.

    Don't miss a word of Dwell! Download our FREE app from iTunes, friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter!

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