Grand Rapids, Michigan is favored with the possession of a national treasure. The Meyer May Home, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1908 and loving restored by funds from Steelcase, proudly awaits visitors and pilgrims seeking fine architecture. The Meyer May home at 450 Madison, SE reflects the prairie style of house, indicative of Frank Lloyd Wright design. It features arts and crafts and art deco design elements.
Frank Lloyd Wright was a visionary architect whose structures are as unique and exciting now, 120 years later, as they were in 1890 when Frank Lloyd Wright first began designing buildings. Frank Lloyd Wright designed over 500 homes and buildings, each with some signature FLW details. In the first decade of the new century was undoubtedly the busiest for Frank Lloyd Wright. That decade saw nearly 200 Frank Lloyd Wright structures.
The early part of the 20th century was an exciting time to live in Grand Rapids. Men like Meyer May were making their fortune in the furniture industry, clothing and textiles and department stores. Grand Rapids, Michigan possessed no less than two Frank Lloyd Wright houses: the Meyer May home built in 1908 and the J.A.Ambley in 1909. As time passed many of the lovely homes in the Heritage Hill and Gaslight district of Grand Rapids fell into disrepair. Additions were built, rooms partitioned off, elements of design painted over and boarded up. This was the fate of Meyer May’s home.
For decades, she sat, like Miss Haversham, forgotten and decaying. Then in 1985, something wonderful occurred. Like a long lost suitor, the Steelcase Foundation arrived to rescue the home. Restoration began on a scale not often seen in such detail and accuracy. Painstakingly and lovingly artisans worked to bring the Meyer May home back to it’s Edwardian opulence.
When Frank Lloyd Wright designed a house, he decided upon every element: lighting, paint, furniture, trim, fabric, wall covers, landscaping. To bring the home back required to use of some lost technologies. The addition was removed. Under layers of paint, an original fresco was discovered, painted directly on the wall (a common Frank Lloyd Wright detail). The garden and large outdoor concrete planters were filled with period foliage. The stained glass windows were restored. Everything, down to the gold leaf binding on the books was redone.
Come visit this piece of history in Grand Rapids Michigan and hear her story. The Meyer May House is open year round for public viewing on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m and Sundays from 1-5 p.m. Admission is free.