Rose Terrace (1934)

12 Lake Shore Drive, Grosse Pointe, Michigan

Completed in 1934, for Anna (1871-1970), the widow of Horace E. Dodge, and her second husband Hugh Dillman (1885-1956). It was designed by architect Horace Trumbauer as an expanded version of one of his earlier projects, Miramar. Named for the terraces - abundant with roses - that dropped down from the house to Lake St. Clair, it replaced the Jacobean-Revival, Albert Kahn-designed "Red House" built in 1910 by Anna and her first husband. Covering 42,000-square feet with 75-rooms, Rose Terrace was among the 100 largest houses in the United States. It was built to house one of the country's most important collections of French 18th century art and antiques and was described as, “unquestionably Grosse Pointe’s most regal residence.” But, just six years after Anna's death, it was brought down by a wrecking ball.... 

This house is best associated with...

Anna Thomson Dodge

Mrs "Anna" Christina (Thomson) Dodge, Dillman

1871-1970

Hugh Dillman

"Hugh Dillman" McGaughy, Actor & Real Estate Agent, of Palm Beach, Florida

1885-1956

Horace E. Dodge was, "a gifted mechanic and an inveterate tinkerer" who invented the first dirt-proof ball-bearing in 1897. His brother, John, was a natural businessman and not only did they make a great team, but the two were also inseparable. In 1903, they began building engines for Henry Ford and John became Vice-President of Ford before the brothers set up on their account in 1913, creating the Dodge Motor Company. Just seven years later, both brothers fell victim to the Flu Pandemic and in 1926, shortly before a merger with the Chrysler Group, their widows sold their shares for $146 million.

In the same year that she became one of the richest women in the world, Anna went shopping for a new home on Palm Beach. Not only did she come back as the owner of the largest house there (Playa Riente), she also came back with a new husband - her realtor - Hugh Dillman... 14-years her junior. But, returning north after their honeymoon in Europe, Anna found the dark mahogany interiors of the "Red House" increasingly ill-suited as a backdrop to her growing collection of French 18th Century art and antiques.

Trumbauer & Gréber

In 1931, Anna bought the Country Club of Detroit and knocked it down along with her and Horace's "Red House" next door, giving her a blank canvas of 8.8-acres on which to build anew. Hiring arguably the leading neo-classical architect of the Gilded Age, Horace Trumbauer, and fresh with ideas from her tour of Europe she chose to build an expanded version of Trumbauer's Miramar in Newport which he in turn had modelled on the courtyard façade of L'Hôtel Cassini in Paris. As he had done at Whitemarsh Hall and Lynnewood Hall, Trumbauer collaborated with the celebrated French landscape architect Jacques Gréber, the same man who ten years before had rejuvenated the gardens at the very same L'Hôtel Cassini for the colorful Franco-New Yorker, Count Cecil Pecci-Blunt.

Seeking Perfection

Although Trumbauer's name and influence is firmly stamped on Rose Terrace, the task of drawing up the plans and working with the client (Anna) fell to his long-suffering assistant, Julian Abele, the first professional African-American architect in the country. Abele had a passion for recreating the Old World in the New, but he had a hard job trying to keep his domineering client from over-ruling every aspect of his work here.

In 1931, after the works had started, Anna docked her 257-foot yacht Delphine on Lake Saint Clair at the foot of the gardens and took her first look up at what would become her palace. Far from being pleased she immediately declared, "it won't do!" and the frame was taken down and work was started again. Despite their various disagreements, even Abele admitted at the end that Anna succeeded in getting the proportions perfectly.

Antidote to the Great Depression?

In the 1930s America was in the grip of the Great Depression and while other millionaires were being careful to pull back on their extravagances to show solidarity with their fellow man, Anna took a different approach. Whether entirely for her own benefit or with a mind to helping those on the breadline, the building of Rose Terrace came as a welcome relief to Detroit's beleaguered building trade: the steel mills re-opened to build its fireproof frame; marble and stone quarries started up once more; and, hundreds returned to work.

However, what is often glossed over is that almost all of the hired-hands responsible for building Rose Terrace were not American, being deemed incapable. Except for at most a handful, all of the artisans who brought the house into fruition were imported from Europe and lived with their families in the basement while the works carried on above.

The Making of "Madame Pompadour"

For two of the years while the house was being built, Anna based herself predominantly in England at her son's home, St. Leonard's, near Windsor Castle. From there, under the watchful eye of Joseph Duveen she accumulated what would become one of America's most important collections of French 18th Century art and antiques. She poured over books about French monarchs and the Grandes-Dames who'd ruled society, notably Louis XV's mistress, Madame de Pompadour, for whom Le Petit Trianon was built.

So, entranced did Anna become with Madame Pompadour that Duveen introduced her to the portraitist Sir Gerald Kelly R.A. In 1932, he painted her in a blue silk gown that she had made especially - woven from 30 yards of silk - and identical to that worn by Ms. Pompadour in her famous portrait by Boucher in the Wallace Collection. Measuring a staggering 7.8-by-4-feet, this portrait of Anna would not only dominate the Library at Rose Terrace, but some would say her mind too. Those close to her noticed that the girl from working class Dundee now began to see herself as a modern-day Marie-Antoinette or Madame Pompadour, and even staff and family referred to her as "The Queen".

"Grosse Pointe's Most Regal Residence"

In 1934, three years and $7 million later, Anna's Rose Terrace was complete. Grosse Pointe's late architectural historian, W. Hawkins Ferry called it, “unquestionably Grosse Pointe’s most regal residence,” and to take stock of it by numbers it contained: 15-fireplaces, 40-French Doors, 37-sofas, 615-silk lampshades, and more than 100-tables.

The first to be invited to see the newly finished house was a small group of Anna's closest friends. Given a private tour followed by an intimate dinner, as a souvenir to mark the occasion she gave each of them a jade tree she'd brought back from the Orient. The official unveiling of Rose Terrace followed soon after and was celebrated by 1,200 of Detroit's finest. They were given a feast of 50-glazed and decorated Turkey Galantine while - with echoes of Marie-Antoinette before 1789 - a third of the city's less fortunate starved on the other side of its gilded gates, still locked in the icy grip of the Great Depression.

The estate was entered via a magnificent pair of wrought irons gates on Jefferson Avenue. The oval driveway curved up towards the front of the house, drawing to a halt on a balustraded forecourt. Tall, glass doors interlaced with intricate ironwork opened up into the marble entrance hall, modelled after that at Le Petit Trianon in Versailles - but ever the Scot, despite her millions, Anna so admired the regal carpet that covered the marble steps that she instructed her grandchildren to walk on the sides, so as not to wear it out!

Out of its 75-rooms, all the reception rooms had ceilings that reached up 18.5-feet. These included a Grand and Petit Salon, ie., formal and informal Drawing Rooms; a 62-x-32-foot music room/ballroom; and, a formal Dining Room that was panelled with an aged, mellow cypress wood crafted in France but said to have been taken from - slightly incredulously - 900 Greek shepherd's huts. There was a hand-carved oak panelled library where she received her guests, a card room, a breakfast room with a solid marble table, and attached to the men's drawing room a bar - the antiquated floorboards of which were removed from a French inn. The pipe organ salvaged from "the red house" resonated throughout the house, from the basement up into the servant's quarters on the 3rd floor, and even her personal elevator was panelled, mirrored, and lined with embroidered Chinese silk.

Anna's turquoise bedroom was part of a suite of 8-rooms on the second floor of the west wing. In her bathroom, her toilet was covered by an elegant wicker chair and her bath was cut from a single piece of green Belgian marble lined with porcelain and finished with a pair of elaborate gold taps. The rest of the second floor was given over to guests: 8-bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms, and a guest sitting room. The third floor - concealed from the eye at ground level by a balustrade - contained 12-maids’ rooms, an apartment for the housekeeper, the butler's room, and 6-further rooms for male servants.

The kitchens in the basement were equipped to cater with ease for up to 100-guests. Other rooms at that level included the servant's dining room, an ice cream parlor, a flower-arranging room (flowers were regularly flown in from Florida), a wine cellar (her children certainly paid little attention to Prohibition!), a gymnasium and storage vaults - one for silver, one for jade, one for lace, one for furs, one for jewellery etc.

In addition to Gréber's elegant formal gardens, Anna commissioned Ellen Biddle Shipman to design a rose garden beneath the forecourt. Shipman imported 150-year old boxwood hedges from England and, incorporating a pool and statues, designed an elaborate garden - one of her most admired. Outbuildings included an 8-car garage with an apartment for the chauffeur, and of course there was the 20-by-78-foot pier at the end of the gardens that jutted out into Lake St. Clair. There, Anna's 257-foot yacht Delphine was moored, always on hand to whisk her away to Playa Riente or anywhere else in the world at her whim. It had cost $2 million to build and was the largest private yacht in the country with 8 state rooms and a crew of 38. It cost $3,000 a day to run, even when docked.

Duveen & the Dodge Collection

As an art dealer, Joseph Duveen was the undisputed arbiter of good taste to the world's super rich, and as he noted, "Europe has a great deal of art, and America has a great deal of money". But even he felt the pinch of the Great Depression and was therefore only too happy to devote his full attention to the one millionaire who had her foot-to-the-floor in the race to see her palace complete. Indeed, when Anna heard she'd been outbid by Marion Davies for a painting that ended up at Ocean House, she flew into such a rage that she fell downstairs and broke her leg! But, if Anna had found it hard to accept Julian Abele's professional opinions, in stark contrast she positively swooned whenever the debonair Englishman opened his mouth and Duveen was given a free hand at Rose Terrace. 

In 1931, Duveen - an expert in stoking the egos of his clients for his own advantage - wrote to his latest protégé: "There is no great French house in Detroit, so may I suggest that you have here a wonderful opportunity, by indulging yourselves, to show Detroit what such a house would really mean. After all, suppose you do spend a little more time than you intended; does it really matter?" With Anna's money and Duveen's guidance, they employed the French firm "Alavoine" to scour the Royal collections of Europe and succeeded in putting together one of the country's finest collections of predominantly French 18th Century art, porcelain, tapestries, and Aubusson carpets. Each of the rooms at Rose Terrace, and their color schemes, were designed to match her collection.

Anna had a weakness for anything that had belonged to Madame de Pompadour and the pride of her collection was a pair of massive (9-by-11-foot) paintings by Boucher entitled "La Fontaine d'Amour," commissioned by the Grande Dame as a birthday present for Louis XV in 1748. The marble statue in the stairwell of the entrance hall had also belonged to Ms. Pompadour, as well as several tapestries by Boucher and four Fragonards.

Under Duveen's careful instruction, Anna was able to impress her guests by waving a hand towards any number of objects such as a table that had belonged to Louis XVI; a set of four chair's embroidered with Marie-Antoinette's monogram; a piano on which the children of George III had learned to play; two enormous candelabra commissioned for the Palace of Versailles; a writing table and a jewel casket that had been in the bedroom of Maria Feodorovna, Empress of Russia; and, a bureau made for Catherine the Great. Art by the likes of Gainsborough, Van Dyck, Reynolds, etc., were seen throughout, but less talked about was Anna's "unsurpassed" jade collection, for which she had a passion.

Occasionally Duveen found himself admiring a picture with a client that he wanted for himself, and according to which client he was with, he always knew precisely which buttons to press to ensure their rapid loss of interest. So when Anna bought a 15th century Italian painting from Colnaghi's Gallery in London and invited Duveen to Rose Terrace to admire it, she bristled when he commented, "it's a lovely picture but I wouldn't have it on my walls". Anna demanded why not: "Because the relationship with the artist with the models for those puttis (chubby boys) was so disgusting. I always remember that relationship". Naturally revolted, she couldn't get it off her wall quick enough and almost threw it back at Colnagi... who then proceeded to sell it, quietly, to 'an un-named buyer'!

"La Vie en Rose"

In its heyday, Rose Terrace was maintained by 23 domestic staff, although that number dropped down to 12 as Anna got older and entertained less. Almost all of them came from New York where they had been previously trained in houses similar to Rose Terrace. The original staff constituted: a butler; a housekeeper; a second butler who was primarily charged with keeping all the silver polished; four footmen; Anna's lady's maid, valet, and chauffeur; two housemen; three chamber maids; two parlor maids; a hall maid; two female cooks; two kitchen maids; and, a "useful maid," filling in wherever she was needed!

Anna may have been happy surrounded by antique furniture, but the older she got there was one thing that she simply couldn't abide, and that was antique people! On one occasion, she spotted a stooped figure in the garden and pointing a finger demanded, "fire that man, he's too old". She was no less forgiving of old women: dress designers would sometimes bring models with them to the house, but if one looked too old, they were dismissed. In later years, Mrs Dodge joked, "there's no-one in this house older than 39!"

Even in the 1960s, the housekeeper would still consult with Mrs Dodge every morning, offering her two menus from which she'd choose one for the day. While she preferred roadhouse frogs legs and macaroni cheese, a typical dinner for a guest would usually involve either French cuisine, Turkey Galantine, Florentine steaks, Maine lobster, double chops, and/or of course Beluga caviar. Lunch or dinner could be served on any number of dinner services that included Napoleon's own (emblazoned with his coat-of-arms), plus the more "run-of-the-mill" porcelains of Lowestoft, Meissen, Sèvres, etc.

By the 1960s, the antiques in Rose Terrace were valued at about $7.5 million and Anna's jewellery was valued at $6 million. Needless to say, each room in the house had it own lock and key, but beyond that Rose Terrace concealed a myriad of hidden cabinets and secret spaces behind the panelling, each of which also required its own lock and key. In one room alone, there might have been ten different keys for ten different locks, and the many safes often required two keys to be opened. When Mrs Dodge was away, it was not unusual for her secretary to receive a call in code - using flowers such as tulip, rose, dalia etc. as codewords - before requesting changes to various safe keys!   

Her Gilded Cage

Anna and Hugh Dillman separated in 1940 and divorced in 1947, when she took back the "Dodge" name. As a parent, Anna fell into the oldest trap laid for the newly rich: Determined to ensure that her two children would never have to sully their hands with work or trifle about how their next bill was to be paid, they grew up spoilt, directionless, and held little regard for money or others. Both her children predeceased her, caused by the excesses of indolence: Delphine was married 3-times and died aged-44 in 1943; Horace Jr., "the only Dodge that runs on alcohol," was married 5-times and died aged-63 in 1963.

After Horace Jr. died, Anna lost her zeal for life. She kept his 28-room villa in the south of France, but she never went there and now confined herself entirely to Rose Terrace. Nonetheless, a strict standard of etiquette was maintained and even if it was just her and a friend for dinner, they were waited upon by a butler and two maids. It was only when she broke her hip at the age of 97 that she retreated to her rooms on the second floor.

The last days of the woman who'd once been perhaps the wealthiest woman in the world were spent eating macaroni cheese and ice cream in front of her television - some say three televisions all going at once - and visitors were only admitted during commercial breaks. Despite her millions, when one TV began to go, she refused to buy another. When bed-ridden, she sang along to her favorite hymns or listened to the albums of Guy Lombardo. She died at home in her plain hospital-issue bed in 1970, just months before her 100th birthday. But, as it had been a milestone she had so hoped to achieve, the kindly servitor who reported her death gave her age as 103 - keeping up an illusion to the end.

The Guillotine Drops

The fate of Rose Terrace was in many ways as swift and barbaric as the guillotine that severed the heads of Marie-Antoinette and her cohorts - those who Mrs Dodge had striven so hard to emulate. With a minimum upkeep cost of $125,000 a year (which included the price of 55,000 gallons of oil needed to heat it in winter and 600 gallons for cutting the lawn), not even the $100 million she left to four of her grandchildren could justify maintaining it. It went on the market for $1.25 million, but there were no takers. 

Before Anna died, she considered gifting the whole estate and its collection to the Detroit Institute of Arts. But, when they asked for an endowment of $10 million to ensure its preservation - a not unreasonable sum and only 10% of her fortune - her Scottish blood boiled up within her, and she snatched back her offer. They were left $1 million and the contents of the Music Room, whereas the City of Detroit was left $2 million with which to build a fountain in memory of her husband and son, now seen in the Philip A. Hart Plaza.

In 1971, Christies of London auctioned off the majority of the treasures kept here - including some of the rooms in their entirety - achieving $4.7 million. But, having exhausted all options for the mansion itself, it was demolished in 1976. One of the original workmen brought over from Europe to build Rose Terrace forty years before, Gustave Van Den Brandt, was invited to remain after its completion as the retainer. He knew the story behind every antique in the house, better even than Mrs Dodge herself. He was the only person to witness both the first brick laid, and the last swing of the wrecking ball.

Among all the artefacts and masterpieces that made it out of Rose Terrace was an old, faded children's book printed by the Presbyterian church. Inside, in a child’s handwriting was scrawled, "Anna" and the address a 2-room tenement on Peddie Street, Dundee.

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Contributed by Mark Meredith on 08/06/2019 and last updated on 25/09/2021.
Main image assumed to be from the Grosse Pointe Historical Society; Architecture in Michigan (1982) by Wayne Andrews; Duveen: A Life in Art (2005) Meryle Secrest; Undiscovered Dundee (2011), by Brian King; Mrs Dodge and the Regal Rose Terrace, The Detroit News; My Favorite Heiresses: Anna and Delphine Dodge, by Conrad Hanson; Rose Terrace, by Darby Moran for HigbieMaxon; Home of Mrs Horace E. Dodge, "Rose Terrace" by Katie Doelle; Mrs Dodge - The Best of Fine Jewelry at Auction, Barneby's Magazine; Zach, Old Long Island

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