The Robbie Robinson Residence by Alden B. Dow
The Robbie Robinson residence is one of the 13 unit block houses designed by Alden B. Dow and built during the 1930s and early 1940s. Mr. Robinson owned the Robbie Robinson Company, a Detroit firm that supplied a number of building products used by Mr. Dow over the years. In February of 1941, the architect wrote in a letter to Mr. Robinson, “Here are the sketches as we developed them here in the office. It gives you a swell house.”
The 2,560 square foot, two-story structure has a flat roof and a deep projecting eave that shades a row of second floor windows. The flat unit block façade is bisected by a 40-inch tall horizontal wood parapet that stands out above a band of tall ground floor windows below it. The parapet wraps around one side of the house, creating a covered walkway that connects the single-car garage to the home’s entrance. It was this projection, along with the use of unit blocks, that caused one neighbor to challenge the structure’s compliance with local building restrictions.
On the interior, the large living room extends the entire front of the house. A fireplace at one end is flanked by built-in seating; a linoleum-topped window bench runs under the windows. Off the far end of the living room is the dining room with its attached glass “Flower Room.” A kitchen and a study with doors to the outside complete the simple layout of the first floor.
A central stairway leads up to the four bedrooms on the upper level, one in each of the four corners of the house. Instead of standard wood doors, the bedrooms have accordion-type folding doors. Floorplans show a large game room, a trunk room, and the usual utility spaces on the basement level.
Writer Jeffrey Eugenides, who grew up in Grosse Pointe, includes a brief and slightly humorous description of the Robbie Robinson house in his 2002 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Middlesex, coincidentally the name of the street on which the home is located.