The Earl Stein House in Midland, Michigan, was designed by Alden B. Dow in 1933-34. The house is nationally significant because it was the first house designed through the Taliesin Fellowship program, which was established by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1933. The Stein House is viewed as an important interpretation of Wright’s Prairie Style. The interaction of Wright with the young architect Alden B. Dow can readily be seen in the successive drawings for the house.
Dow brought his early sketches to Taliesin with him, and reworked them under the guidance of Wright. On June 30, 1933, Alden Dow wrote to Earl Stein and explained “I have been talking with Mr. Wright about your house and he is very much interested in it. He suggests that I do the job alone and handle it here with the help of the Taliesin Fellowship.”
A 1936 article in Architectural Forum summed up the major characteristics of the house: “In plan the elements are well disposed, and the exterior shows a clear articulation of the major space units. The plan is worth careful study for its skillful combining of indoor and outdoor living spaces, and for its knowing handling of wall and window areas to produce an effect of spaciousness. A house designed in this manner has twice the apparent space of the tightly enclosed residence of a more conventional type.”
Dow was committed to carrying the organic qualities of the house into the surroundings and the building site. Several other prominent features aid this transition. A patio framed with two intersecting roof planes and two intersecting garden walls extends from the house at the junction of the living and dining rooms. Easy access to this space, and the natural light provided by its windows make the patio an integral and genuine extension of the house.
The most dramatic room in the house is the living room, sitting at the far corner of the house and serving as a transitionary space between the two wings. Windows at the outside ends of the room in each of the wings bathe the area with light. The most prominent feature is the brick fireplace with its copper hood and its rake pattern.
It was during this period of apprenticeship to Wright at Taliesin that Dow developed his principles of architecture and put them into practice. Many of the elements of the Stein House are found in his later work, reworked to meet the needs of the client and reapplied so the house fits the building site.
The Earl Stein House was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on December 4, 1989, as part of the Residential Architecture of Alden B. Dow in Midland, Michigan, 1933-1938 Multiple Property Registration nomination.
Dow, Alden B. 1970. Reflections. Midland, MI: Northwood Institute.
Dow, Alden B. 1973. Way of Life. Midland, MI: Northwood Institute.
Maddex, Diane. 2007. Alden B. Dow: Midwestern Modern. New York: W.W. Norton.
Robinson, Sidney K. 1983. The Architecture of Alden B. Dow. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.
To learn more about Alden B. Dow, visit the Alden B. Dow Home and Studio.