Tuesday, March 26, 2013

W. Hawkins Ferry House


In keeping with the William Kessler theme, the other know Kessler designed home in the Grosse Pointes is the W. Hawkins Ferry house on Lakeshore Drive in Grosse Pointe Shores.  W. Hawkins Ferry was a major force in modernist art and architecture in metro Detroit and the nation.


Photo by: Joseph Messana

Mr. W.H. Ferry was the grandson of Dexter Ferry Sr., the founder of what has today become the Ferry-Morse Seed Company.  Dexter Ferry Sr. was one of the founding board members of today's Detroit Institute of Arts and was a significant benefator to the construction of the original DIA building as well as a benefactor for the purchase of significant art collections at the museum.

Photo by: Joseph Messana
W.H. Ferry likely began his education in modern art and architecture while attending the newly created Cranbrook School for Boys where Mr. Booth and Mr. Eliel Saarinen were creating the ground breaking work that is the Modernist masterpiece of the Cranbrook Educational Community, which brought Modernism to the U.S. and the world.  W.H. Ferry continued his modernist education at the Harvard Design School, the same school William Kessler later studied at, where he studied under modernist pioneers Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer.

Photo by: Joseph Messana


W.H. Ferry's parents were the benefactors for the Grosse Pointe Public Library's (GPPL) first building built specifically for the library. Up until that point, the GPPL had been using adapted space in schools, city halls and commercial buildings. After his family donated land and money for the new library, W.H. Ferry was able to convince his father, Dexter Ferry Jr., in 1951 to select his former professor Marcell Breuer as the architect of the new Grosse Pointe Public Library building on Kercheval.

Photo by: Joseph Messana

W.H. Ferry, like his father and grandfather before him, became a trustee of the Detroit Institute of Arts Founders Society in 1960.  W.H. Ferry played a lead role in the expasion and aquisition of the museum's collection of modern art.  He was also a signficant and prominent collector of modern art himself and his personal collection was featured in DIA exhibitions in 1966 and 1987.

Photo by: Joseph Messana
In addition to being educated in and influencing modern architecture, W.H. Ferry also wrote about architecture.  In 1968 he wrote The Buildings of Detroit: A History, still one of the most referenced architecture books on Detroit, and in 1970 he wrote The Legacy of Albert Kahn, being the first person to write a book solely about Albert Kahn's architectural legacy.

Photo by: Joseph Messana
W.H. Ferry was a person with access to the nation's and world's top architects and designers.  When it came to his own home, he selected Grosse Pointe's own Willian Kessler to design a home that reflected his love of modernism.  The home is situated on a beautiful location overlooking Lake St. Clair. The home was featured in Home Beautiful magazine, which has numerous outstanding photographs of the home, shortly after in was completed in 1969.  The home features well designed large glass curtain walls, wood paneling, staircase, lighting and is surrounded by now well established landscaping.  As one would expect with W.H. Ferry, not only is the home a work of art, the home itself is designed to showcase his world class collection of modern furniture and art work.

Photo by: Joseph Messana
In addition to his DIA work, W.H. Ferry was involved in other notable area art projects, including the People Mover Art in the Stations project and the University of Michigan Museum of Art.
Photo by: Joseph Messana
 Mr. W. Hawkins Ferry passed on January 28, 1988 at his home.  His legacy lives on through the works he donated during his life and at his passing to the DIA and the Smithsonian, through funds he set up at the DIA and the University of Michigan Museum of Art, the books he wrote, as well as the fine buildings he played key roles in during his life.
(28450) Portraits, Writers, W, Hawkins Ferry, Detroit, 1960s
Portrait of W. Hawkins Ferry by: Tony Spina - Courtesy: Wayne State University

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