DEWEY HOUSE IN "THE VILLAGE" IN ROCKFORD, MICHIGAN
TEXT AND PHOTOS BY PAM VANDERPLOEG AND MELISSA FOX COPYRIGHT 2016 WEST MICHIGAN MODERN
Sara and Jon were looking for a mid-century modern home in the greater Grand Rapids area when this iconic home came on the market. In Sara's words
"When a friend sent us the listing for this house I wanted to see it immediately. I was afraid someone would snatch it up before we had the chance to even see it. When we did get the chance to go through it, we were astounded by how amazing it is. We made an offer right away....while still there in the house. I was so afraid we would lose our chance at our dream house. We have lived there now for just over a year. I still look around and think I can't believe I get to live here. Everyone that steps foot in our house falls in love with it and is just amazed at how unique and beautiful it is. I feel so blessed that I get to live here!!!!"
The Dewey house is sited on a quiet cul-de-sac in Rockford in The Village, a quiet little enclave of mid-century homes built in the early 60's down the road from the city of Rockford, home of Wolverine Worldwide, the famous shoe manufacturer.
What makes the Dewey House unique is the unusually long and low-pitched front gable roof, spanning the width of the house. Officially known as “The Woodsman" model, the home was designed by E. John Knapp, AIA, for Albert Builders in 1959, and was the first house in The Village development. E. John Knapp celebrated his 100th birthday this summer. He was a partner in the firm of O'Bryon and Knapp and designed over 300 developer houses for Albert Builders, a firm based in Grand Rapids. Many of these designs were built on the south end of East Grand Rapids; several formed the housing stock of "The Village" in Rockford, Michigan.
Knapp remembers when the Alberts were planning the Village development. He drove out there with Obie (partner CharlesO'Bryon) andHarold Albert to look at the land. It was farmland, not many trees, but there was some variation in slope, though not hills. Roads and utilities were already in place, so they were able to drive into the area. Albert wanted basic plans that could be altered to suit the particular taste of the clients. Knapp’s design work was perfect for Albert’s request, as he used a modular system based on four foot modules, so the building plans could be easily adapted and parts interchanged and customized for individual clients.
Similar to the neighborhoods Albert Builders developed in East Grand Rapids, such as Heather Downs, The Village includes cul-de-sacs, a nice variation in home designs, and a neighborhood pool. Knapp fondly remembered Albert Builders because they were fun to work with and there was a congenial give and take to their relationship.
Knapp’s signature post and beam construction is best experienced in the home's lovely dining room that features floor to ceiling windows and a two-sided fireplace.
The house is a generous 4,400 feet. There have been several owners and they have added to the house including an lovely family room with a glass curtain wall with views to the large elevated lot and beautiful original trees and shrubs. The vaulted ceiling in the family room has decorative beams that mirror the original post and beam construction.
Also added later is the huge master bedroom, on the other side of the dining room, with ensuite and views to the backyard. Another area that adds a lot of living space is the enormous basement decorated using a variety of styles and high-end woods. It was used by a former owner as a place to meet clients and showcase his cabinetry business.
Sara and Jon's wish list is long. New cabinet doors were added recently to update the large kitchen located at the very front of the house and equipped with a center island and a separate bar area. There is a large wall opening into the dining room for serving meals. One can easily imagine a cocktail party here, with friends floating around that central hub of the home, between kitchen, family room, and dining room, always with easy views to the outdoors.
Some of the original features of the house, such as the front entrance and foyer are slated for eventual restoration. Sara's husband Jon explained, "To live in a house where the designer/architect are still living is one of the coolest feelings. I love the lines he created in the house, the clean look, etc. … our goal is to stay in the house and slowly bring it back to its glory."
One of the high points of July 2015 was the visit to the Flying Wing by E. John Knapp's children, Marcia and Eric. They could easily see that Knapp's signature modular design, cool roofline and sense of bringing the outdoors in still make this home a unique modern design and a great place to raise a family.