Compared to forbiddingly expensive real estate hot spots like Los Angeles, New York and Seattle, where starter homes easily top a million or more bucks, your real estate dollar tends to go a long way in places like in the state of Michigan. Designed by venerable architectural firm Smith, Hinchman & Grylls, which was established in Detroit in 1853, this house located in the wealthy suburb of Grosse Pointe — some might call it the Beverly Hills of Detroit — has a degree of grandeur most of us only experience while watching “Downton Abbey.” And it can all be yours for $4.75 million, a lot of dough by any standard, but much less than it would cost in other locales.
Prominently positioned on approximately two manicured acres, the stately mansion, which hasn’t changed hands in 42 years, has carved limestone trim work, a slate roof and a classically symmetrical floorplan. If you believe there’s no such thing as too many crystal chandeliers and have an abiding appreciation for a heavily gilded lily, then this place is for you. Evocative of California’s over-the-top Hearst Castle, it’s a house that wants the money to show, and any bare spot that can support a carving, a mural, urn, or a fleur-de-lis wall treatment has been dutifully attended to by a skilled artisan and/or maximalist-minded decorator. The walls of the sweeping curved stairway in the foyer are covered with ivory jacquard silk. There are several carved limestone fireplaces throughout the house, and the flooring is a heady mix of marble, walnut and maple. At 14,547 square feet, the residence includes opulently appointed formal living and dining rooms, ample family spaces, five hotel-suite-sized bedrooms and five full bathrooms plus four powder rooms.
The original owner, attorney Hal H. Smith, loved libraries — in fact, he wrote a book about them — and the most glorious, painstakingly imagined spot in the whole huge house is the library. A cavernous, two-story, 1,000-square-foot gymnasium-sized room fashioned out of walnut, the library features a ceiling mural worthy of Tiepolo and is equipped with a steel fire door that, in the event of an emergency, seals the room off from the rest of the house. A study of the seven deadly sins, the ceiling painting is populated with adorable cherubim trailing pink ribbons across a pale blue sky, and is one of three ceiling murals in the house by Andrzej Sikora, a Polish artist who settled in Detroit in 1990. (The murals are not original, but were added by the current owner.)
One bedroom features marble pillars, an inlaid ceiling and a plush lounge while the third floor, which adds an additional 5,000 square feet to the baronial shebang, houses a blandly contemporary theater, along with a separate viewing space for art. (There’s an elevator you can hop in to get up there if you don’t feel like the hassle and effort of climbing the stairs.)
A tree-lined cobblestone driveway leads to a circular motor court along with a garage that will accommodate six cars and a carriage house. And, in the park-like backyard, there’s a greenhouse and a swimming pool, of course, but there’s also your own personal lake! Situated on the banks of Lake St. Clair, which is part of the Great Lakes System, the estate presides over 200 feet of prime lakefront footage with a placid view that stretches all the way to Ontario, Canada, which sits on the opposite shore.