Michigan has made lots of contributions to midcentury modern architecture. Seminal figures like Eero Saarinen and Minoru Yamasaki designed some of their most famous works here. There’s numerous noteworthy homes, skyscrapers, and office buildings in the region.
But one city in Southeast Michigan is rarely thought about when comes to midcentury architecture: Southfield. There’s a few notable buildings, including the stunning Yamasaki-designed Reynold Metals Great Lakes Regional Sales Office.
That lack of recognition, however, may change very soon.
Northland Gardens, just north of Eight Mile Road near M-10, and Plumbrooke Estates, north of Nine Mile Road and west of Evergreen Road, are in the process of getting on the National Register of Historic Places for their abundance of midcentury modern homes. Applications were approved by Michigan’s State Historic Preservation Office and are currently being reviewed by the U.S. Department of the Interior. The designations are expected to be awarded sometime in the near future.
An article in Metromode details the effort and describes the area’s history and architecture. The preponderance of homes in the neighborhoods are midcentury ranches—single-story homes, commonly in an L-shape, with large living rooms and an open floor plan. The neighborhoods, just a little over a mile apart, have maintained the integrity of the homes to an impressive degree.
The area also tells a story of migration. It was a frequent landing spot for Jews and African Americans after the abolition of racially restrictive covenants in 1968
“A lot of the people who bought these early houses were Jewish, and it’s part of a migration story that extends to the early 20th century when Jewish people started to move from Black Bottom and Paradise Valley in Detroit,” Ruth Mills, historian with Quinn Evans Architects, told Metromode.
African Americans soon followed. Motown artists like Smokey Robinson, Bobby Smith, Eddie Holland Jr., and Otis Williams also had homes or studios in Northland Gardens.
Stay tuned since the designations could be awarded any day.