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08.25.16 – Luncheon Notes

SPOKES Notes written by Roger Morgenstern

Fellow Rotarian Michael Loughman enlightened us to a national treasure tucked among the Heritage Hill historic area near downtown Grand Rapids. Since 2004, Loughman has been a volunteer docent at the Meyer May house, a 1910 dwelling designed by “America’s greatest architect” Frank Lloyd Wright. The home, built for Grand Rapids clothier Meyer May, was one of 400 structures Wright designed and 31 buildings, primarily private homes, in Michigan.

Constructed and furnished in 1910 at a cost of $33,000 ($750,000 in today’s dollars) the home at 950  Madison SE was occupied by May and his family until May’s death in 1936. The home came during Wright’s “prairie period.” The architect was known to “reinvent himself” and his designs about every 10 years, Loughman said. The home features 108 stained glass windows. The house has been completely restored by Steelcase, which purchased the property in 1985. While also used for Steelcase corporate functions, the house has been open for tours three days a week since 1987. More than 12,000 visitors come through its doors each year.

The house only had a couple of owners after the May family. One feature that took some extra restoration work, a Niedecken mural, was covered under six layers of paint. It is the most completely restored of any of Wright’s homes. The restoration, a gift from Steelcase to the community, helped spur the revitalization of the Heritage Hill area, Loughman said.

The house was designed for privacy, with the “front” door actually in the back in the house. Unlike today’s homes, Wright paid very little attention and design on the kitchen and bathrooms of his homes, including the Meyer May home.

More information on the home can be found at www.meyermayhouse.steelcase.com

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