VanDusen Mansion

Designed by noted Detroit architect Alvin Harley and built in 1924 for Charles VanDusen, the treasurer of S.S. Kresge Company (which became K-mart), this 10,000 square foot house in Palmer Woods boasts both Pewabic Tile and Flint Faience Tile bathrooms, two walk-in “Roman Showers,” a Pewabic tile solarium and reception area.

Here’s the ornamental plaster ceiling in the living room. 


This is the reception.  Walnut paneling and Pewabic tile floor.




A Pewabic Tile guest bathroom.


A Flint Faience Jack and Jill bath, with walk-in Roman Shower.  Flint Faience was founded by AC Spark Plugs in Flint, MI in 1921, as a way to keep the kilns warm when spark-plug orders weren’t sufficient (wear and tear on the kilns accelerated with frequent firing-up and down.  They hired expert ceramicists and designers.  General Motors closed the operation in 1933.

The green and brown multi-colored glaze and the border are examples of typical of a Flint Faience bathroom.  As for the yellow tile I won’t jump to conclusions, but it is found frequently in Palmer Woods, including two more bathrooms in this house.


Oh, here’s a view of the slate roof from the landing between the second and third floor. When examining the main roof from an attic opening, the roof is built on 2x14s spaced 12 inches apart.



The main stairwell had significant water damage on the wall and the paneling from the fifth stair all the way to the windows in the landing.  We disassembled the paneling, which was constructed in three sections, and about 100 pieces, replaced 7 water damaged panels, matched the stain and finish, and repaired the section of damaged wall.



Our next project was the manager’s office.  Significant water damage caused by a damaged pipe in the bathroom above, we repaired the walls; stripped, stained and coated the “figured” maple; rebuilt the windows and replaced the 1 1/4 quarter-sawn oak floor that was pet-damaged.





Several sections of the original base and chair-rail were missing and replaced with mismatched pine trim.  We had the maple milled at Public Lumber on Seven Mile in Detroit.


The laundry room is all original built-in cedar-lined cabinets and drawers.

We stripped all the maple except for the cabinet doors and drawers, as we could do these at a later date.  We replaced a couple sections of missing baseboard, which were milled to match the original, (also by Public Lumber).


Solid nickel hardware. A couple days in the crock-pot and some steel wool.  Sadly, in a few rooms, it was replaced, probably because it wasn’t “shiny” enough.









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