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James Inglis House, 1927

James Inglis House, 1927 image

2301 Highland Road

James Inglis House, 1927
Creator: Woodworth, Lilburn

This imposing residence, near the University of Michigan Arboretum, was built in 1927 for James Inglis as part of an exclusive subdivision on the eastern edge of town. It was situated on the rear acreage of a farmstead that had been in the Inglis family since 1901. It reputedly cost $250,000 to build and was designed to resemble a French Chateau. Nestled away from the bustle of town, the Inglis House today is owned by the University and is used as a guest house and reception center for visiting dignitaries.

The four story residence is Ann Arbor's only true "country estate," an architectural as well as a social landmark. It has 12 rooms plus servants' quarters, a caretaker's cottage, a three-car garage, a greenhouse, a workshop, and a pumphouse. It was designed by Lilburn "Woody" Woodworth, at the time a young architect and friend of the family whose only other building had been the Arch Diack residence at the bottom of Geddes Heights. Unusual features when it was built included electrically operated garage doors, separate wash bowls for the parents in their bedroom, tennis courts, a golf course, and a panelled library, filled to the ceiling with fine volumes.

Today the French Chateau style building, with its steeply pitched slate roof, irregular brick and stone, and elegant accoutrements, sits amidst the lush foliage of the original gardens. It elicits praise from many of the world famous scientists, musicians, government leaders and kings who have wined, dined and lodged there. In 1986 it was featured on the Ann arbor's Women's City Club House Tour and in 1988 was designated as a significant historic building by the City of Ann Arbor.

James Inglis, a successful Detroit industrialist, owned the American Blower Company. In 1901 his sister Kate and her husband Frank Smith, had purchased a farm in the "country" near Ann arbor in order to live a simpler life. Kate's niece, Carol Inglis Spicer, remembered her aunt's grapevines strung along Geddes Street as well as the farm's apples and pears and chickens. The farm house still stands at 2105 Geddes.

In the 1920s the farmlands were subdivided for development and the "back seven acres" with the best view was chosen by James Inglis as the site of his grand country home. With his wife Elizabeth, who designed the elaborate formal gardens, they created a country estate almost fit for royalty. As Mrs. Spicer described it "... it was truly a 'creation"... building that house... and most particularly that garden, where there had been before only long grass and wild blackberries... In my aunt's later years... in California... it has been the garden... that looms in her memories of those halcyon days."

James Inglis died in 1950, leaving the house to his wife for her lifetime and then to the University of Michigan. In 1951 Mrs. Inglis moved to Kalamazoo and donated the house to the University. Mrs. Inglis' gardener, Walter Stampflei, remained to tend the gardens, living in the caretaker's cottage until his death. After some years of inattention, University horticulturalist Charles Jenkins put the gardens back into shape, restoring them to their former glory. This only adds to the splendor of the estate and makes it a real hidden treasure in Ann Arbor.

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Photos used to illustrate Historic Buildings, Ann Arbor, Michigan / by Marjorie Reade and Susan Wineberg.