The Peters “Pat” Oppermann Residence by Alden B. Dow
Alden B. Dow began the drawings for a house for his lifelong friend, Peters “Pat” Oppermann, in 1957. Mr. Oppermann was a business leader in Saginaw and owner of Radio Center, an early radio shop that grew with the times into a full-service television and audio equipment business. The Oppermann and Dow families owned cottages on Higgins Lake and were frequent traveling partners. Both men had many shared interests from scale model trains to movie-making, with Mr. Oppermann the featured player in two of Mr. Dow’s most humorous home movies, “Little Beach Blossom” and “Pat’s Bath”.
The job files for the Oppermann residence contain no specifications, contract, or general contractor information. However, a statement dated June 1959 lists a contract cost of $66,284. What was first sketched as a house with a conventional roof eventually became a one and a half story house with a flat roof on two levels. Ten inch wide cedar boards are shaded by overhanging eaves. Perpendicular to the main structure is a wide covered carport.
The entrance is highlighted by a bold trellis with three columns that rise to the level of the upper roofline. Once inside, the living room is straight ahead and two steps down. It has a raised ceiling and wall of windows that overlook a terrace and the back yard. A brick fireplace extends upward to a recessed skylight. To the left of the living room and two steps up is the dining room with its mirrored ceiling framed by a wood light fixture. The kitchen includes an adjacent bedroom, bathroom, and utility room. Through a separate door off the dining room is Mr. Oppermann’s “To Do Room,” a work space for his audio equipment and “organized clutter.”
To the right of the entrance are stairs leading to the upper level, where the master bedroom, bath, and a study overlooking the living room are located. Also to the right of the entrance is the stairway to the lower or basement level, which includes the third and fourth bedrooms and a shared bath. After living in the house for a year or two, Mr. Opperman later recalled, “we were discussing living in a modern house and how when we went into a conventional home we had the feeling that we were going into a place that had a lot of little cubicles. In our house you moved into the whole environment. Everything was open and accessible, yet still with the privacy you needed and this feeling of great spaciousness.”