Meadow Brook Hall, located in Rochester, plays a prominent role in Michigan’s architectural history. The stately manor’s site had humble beginnings, purchased in 1908 by automobile magnate John Dodge as a 320-acre farm and country retreat, and originally dubbed Meadow Brook Farms. John and his brother Horace Dodge rose to prominence in the fledgling automobile industry beginning in 1902, with a contract to build transmissions for the Olds Motor Company, followed by a long-term association with Ford Motor Company.
In 1914 the brothers created their own automobile manufacturing company with the first Dodge Brothers vehicle being produced in 1917. Both brothers died tragically as a result of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. John was first to succumb in 1920 at the age of 55 years. Horace’s death followed some months later in that same year. The brothers’ widows sold their interest in the young auto company in 1925 for a staggering $146 million, an amount that equates to $2.6 billion in 2023 dollars.
In 1925, John’s widow, Matilda Dodge, married lumber baron Alfred G Wilson, and the couple wasted no time making plans to construct a great country estate at Meadow Brook. They toured stately English manors while on their honeymoon and returned with inspiration to construct Meadow Brook Hall in the Tudor-revival style.
Meadow Brook Hall is renowned for exquisite detailing and superb craftsmanship. The stately manor was designed by the architecture firm Smith, Hinchman, and Grylls between 1923 and 1929 and cost nearly four million dollars to construct. The 110-room mansion boasts a staggering 88,000 square feet and includes ornate plaster ceilings, carved wood and stone, custom hardware, and fine art. Matilda saw to every detail, incorporating multiple historic styles while including modern amenities such as elevators, electricity throughout, and a sophisticated central heating system.
Matilda Dodge-Wilson lived at Meadow Brook Hall until her death in 1967. Prior to her death, Matilda and her family made the generous bequest that the Hall, its over 1400 acres of land, and two million dollars would be used to establish an institution for higher education. Michigan State University established a branch campus at the site in 1959.
In 1970, the college was granted autonomy and renamed Oakland University. Oakland University continues to operate Meadow Brook Hall to this day. The mansion was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2012 and is open to the public for tours and special events.
For more information: https://meadowbrookhall.org