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August 23, 2010

The second part of my recent Michigan trip took me to Midland to see the work of Alden B. Dow. I had a grand tour of town and his work with Craig McDonald of the Dow Home and Studio, but when I woke up on Saturday it was less clear what I'd do. Thanks to the power of ye olde Twitter, though, I was able to link up with the folk at Steelcase to get a wonderful tour of the Meyer May house in Grand Rapids. Steelcase did a major restoration of the 1908 Frank Lloyd Wright design in the late 80s and it is now in fine repair. Docent Don Dekker showed me around, and boy am I glad I made that two-hour morning drive from Midland to see the place. Have a look at the photos I took along the way.

I couldn't leave Midland without getting a look at its architectural symbol. Not an Alden B. Dow building, mind you, but a tripartite bridge over the Tittabawassee River. The Tridge was actually quite cool and as a pedestrian connector not a bad little pi
I couldn't leave Midland without getting a look at its architectural symbol. Not an Alden B. Dow building, mind you, but a tripartite bridge over the Tittabawassee River. The Tridge was actually quite cool and as a pedestrian connector not a bad little piece of design. Craig McDonald of the Dow home and studio told me that it's due for some refurbishment so don't lean too hard on the handrails.
1 / 11
That's me with the Tridge in the background. As I stood on the thing and looked down at the murky Tittabawassee, I had no desire to jump in for a swim despite the considerable morning humidity, I thought to myself of the lazy, hazy stream: I'm on a Tridge
That's me with the Tridge in the background. As I stood on the thing and looked down at the murky Tittabawassee, I had no desire to jump in for a swim despite the considerable morning humidity, I thought to myself of the lazy, hazy stream: I'm on a Tridge over bubbled water.
2 / 11
After my stroll along the Tridge I wandered back to this funny pavilion that houses the Midland, Michigan, farmer's market. I could see it from my hotel room and without all the cars it looks rather like a flying saucer. I poked my head in to get some of
After my stroll along the Tridge I wandered back to this funny pavilion that houses the Midland, Michigan, farmer's market. I could see it from my hotel room and without all the cars it looks rather like a flying saucer. I poked my head in to get some of the vaunted Amish pastries I'd heard about the day before. I had a small loaf of pumpkin bread that was utterly delicious. And it only cost $1.50. Amish deals abound!
3 / 11
After a Twitter conversation, phone call, and a two-hour drive into Grand Rapids, I arrived at the Meyer May house. It's a Frank Lloyd Wright design from 1908, a contemporary of the Robie house in Chicago. Meyer May was a prominent clothier in Grand Rapid
After a Twitter conversation, phone call, and a two-hour drive into Grand Rapids, I arrived at the Meyer May house. It's a Frank Lloyd Wright design from 1908, a contemporary of the Robie house in Chicago. Meyer May was a prominent clothier in Grand Rapids at the vanguard of early forms of advertising and marketing. Docent Don Dekker speculated his taste for forward-looking architecture was tied up in his prescient business sense.
4 / 11
Here's a detail from the facade that I really liked. The house has a very lateral orientation and is a fine example of Wright's Prairie Style. It was hard to get a full photo of it from the street, though seeing all massive Georgian, Federal, and Victoria
Here's a detail from the facade that I really liked. The house has a very lateral orientation and is a fine example of Wright's Prairie Style. It was hard to get a full photo of it from the street, though seeing all massive Georgian, Federal, and Victorians around it the place really stands out. It's in a posh part of town called the Hill District, which in a comically apt twist of fate, is just off Wealthy St.
5 / 11
The living room downstairs is perfectly Wrightian with nice organic details in the joinery and windows. The house feels nestled in the landscape, a far cry from the towering spots across the street.
The living room downstairs is perfectly Wrightian with nice organic details in the joinery and windows. The house feels nestled in the landscape, a far cry from the towering spots across the street.
6 / 11
One of the amazing details in the Meyer May house is a quartet of lamps at each corner of the dining table. They create quite an intimate glow and encourage the diners to huddle in. The table itself was quite large, though once the leaves are taken out it
One of the amazing details in the Meyer May house is a quartet of lamps at each corner of the dining table. They create quite an intimate glow and encourage the diners to huddle in. The table itself was quite large, though once the leaves are taken out it would have been cozy enough for the Mays, a family of four when the house was built.
7 / 11
Another great detail is this mural that wraps around a wall that faces both the foyer and dining room. The Steelcase restorers found it under layers and layers of paint and found a concurrent work by artist George Niedecker on which to model the retouchin
Another great detail is this mural that wraps around a wall that faces both the foyer and dining room. The Steelcase restorers found it under layers and layers of paint and found a concurrent work by artist George Niedecker on which to model the retouching.
8 / 11
This recliner is up in the Mays' sitting room. Have a look at the chain detail on the back. There are four settings for the chair and you move the back further and further down by fixing the latch onto the various metal hooks.
This recliner is up in the Mays' sitting room. Have a look at the chain detail on the back. There are four settings for the chair and you move the back further and further down by fixing the latch onto the various metal hooks.
9 / 11
This clothes rack in the hall closet pulls out thanks to a mechanism May used in his store. Wright was such a tyrant when it came to alterations of his design, but as this is an original fixture it looks like the architect made a concession to May's displ
This clothes rack in the hall closet pulls out thanks to a mechanism May used in his store. Wright was such a tyrant when it came to alterations of his design, but as this is an original fixture it looks like the architect made a concession to May's display techniques. It pulls quite far out, a necessity as the closets are very deep and May himself was a rather diminutive 5'4".
10 / 11
A final stop on the tour was May's son Richard's room. I love the simplicity, the small bulb on the wall, and the scale of the room. It's quite light, but particularly large. It connects to another bedroom, belonging to Richard's sister Harriet.
A final stop on the tour was May's son Richard's room. I love the simplicity, the small bulb on the wall, and the scale of the room. It's quite light, but particularly large. It connects to another bedroom, belonging to Richard's sister Harriet.
11 / 11
I couldn't leave Midland without getting a look at its architectural symbol. Not an Alden B. Dow building, mind you, but a tripartite bridge over the Tittabawassee River. The Tridge was actually quite cool and as a pedestrian connector not a bad little pi
I couldn't leave Midland without getting a look at its architectural symbol. Not an Alden B. Dow building, mind you, but a tripartite bridge over the Tittabawassee River. The Tridge was actually quite cool and as a pedestrian connector not a bad little piece of design. Craig McDonald of the Dow home and studio told me that it's due for some refurbishment so don't lean too hard on the handrails.

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