The James T. Pardee House in Midland, Michigan, was constructed in the spring and early summer of 1937 and is a major early work of nationally known architect Alden B. Dow (1904-1983). The house was built for James Pardee, a prominent executive of the Dow Chemical Company.
Pardee was a college classmate of Herbert Dow at Case Institute of Technology (modern day Case Western Reserve University) in Cleveland, Ohio. Upon graduation with Dow in 1888, Pardee joined the Civil Engineer’s Office in Cleveland, and worked there most of his life. When Herbert Dow organized the Dow Chemical Company in 1897, Pardee became one of the original eleven people on the board of directors, and he remained on the board until August 1941.
When James Pardee became chairman of the board in 1935, he and his wife Elsa decided to construct a house in Midland, Michigan. The Pardees commissioned Herbert Dow’s son Alden to design the house. Since 1985 the James T. Pardee House has been owned by the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation. The Gerstacker Foundation has restored it as a memorial to the Pardees.
The Pardee House is a strongly horizontal, T-shaped, two-story structure of cinderblock construction with copper trim. The surface and planes of the exterior façade are punctuated by larger windows with vertical wooden mullions, copper awnings, a course of glass block, and are capped with a narrow course of windows.
The rhythmic patterns of the unit block provide strong continuity and integrity throughout the structure. The horizontal character of the house is further emphasized by the strong overhang of the roof eaves. The unit block stairs leading to the entrance wrap around at the corner and taper away. The house gradually dissolves into the yard and driveway. A two-story addition, designed by Dow in 1953, maintains the essence of the original design of the 1936 residence.
The Pardee House was listed in the Michigan State Register of Historic Sites on March 19, 1987, and was also 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.
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.