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16 September 2020

An Online Chronicle of the Douglas House

Now that owners Michael McCarthy and Marcia Myers have meticulously restored their Douglas House on Lake Michigan, they’re seeking to preserve it for posterity.

The home is considered a masterpiece of late-20th-century architecture. During the summer of 1972, with project architect Tod Williams on site and Richard Meier in his New York studio, the pair traded initial sketches back and forth.

Later, Williams would send drawings to the studio, where Meier, Sherman Kung and John Colamarino would work on the home’s further evolution. The four architects would create a residence that some call Meier’s best.

“It was the beginning of postmodernism, but with an emphasis on the ‘modern,’” says Williams.

The home has had its ups and downs since Jim and Jean Douglas commissioned it, then sold it in 1981. Its second owner carpeted and wallpapered the stairway, painted a bath red, green and blue and added Early American furniture.

Closed up during the winters, the home deteriorated swiftly. In 1985, it was sold to Paul Beitler, a Chicago real estate developer, whose reaction to the alterations was succinct: “This guy had no clue what this house was all about.”

By 2007, it had fallen into disrepair again, when McCarthy and Myers bought it and began a heroic, painstaking renovation. This writer covered their efforts in a cover story for Dwell magazine in October, 2011.

McCarthy and Myers now intend to establish a foundation that will take care of the house in perpetuity, and allow others to benefit from its pristine architecture. “We’ve thought about an endowment for the last couple of years, and now we’re looking at the mechanics of how an operating foundation will work,” McCarthy says.

The couple wants to ensure that the Douglas House is available for study by architects and students worldwide. They’ve purchased an adjoining property with a structure that will provide space for staff and a library.

Their first step, however, has been to create a website dedicated to the design, history and restoration of the house – with images and art direction by Detroit-based photographer James Haefner, editorial consulting from ArchNewsNow editor Kristen Richards, website development by Kevin Atiyeh and words by the editor of Architects + Artisans.

It can be found at www.douglashouse.org.
Like the Douglas House itself, the new website is a work of art.
For more, go here.

This article by Mike Welton was previously published September 14, 2020 on Architects + Artisans. We thank Mike and photographer James Haefner for allowing us to publish it here again.

Posted 16 September 2020