During a recent trip to Grand Rapids, Michigan I had the opportunity to visit the Meyer May House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The house was commissioned in 1908 by Meyer S. May and was built between 1908-1909 by Wright. It is considered an example of Wright’s Prairie School era work. In 1985 Steelcase, a Michigan based furniture company, purchased the Meyer May house and worked to restore the house to how it looked when the May family moved in 1910. The house is operated as a historic site by Steelcase and is open to the public for free tours.
My visit to the house was fantastic – it included watching a video about the restoration process and an hour long guided tour of the house itself. The video of the restoration process can be found in clip format on the Meyer May website. The video highlighted the archival research that went into finding documentation on the original exterior design, furniture, and interior decorations of the house. It discussed how photographs were used to supplement blueprint and textual records about the house. The video also showcased the work of conservators, artisans and experts that went into reconstructing things like paint colours, murals, carpets, and light fixtures that were designed by Wright.
The docent who led my group was extremely well informed about the architectural styles, Wright’s influences, and the house itself. The tour docents are all volunteers and I was blown away by their professionalism and expertise on the house. It was interested to learn about how the family lived in the home, the impact the family’s personalities had on Wright’s design, and the restoration work that has gone into preserving this history. I was also a bit surprised by how busy the site was. There was around 15 people in our tour group and there was at minimum three or four other tour groups running at the same time.
I would highly recommend this tour to anyone interested in built heritage or the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. We scheduled an extra day in Grand Rapids just so we could take the tour and it was well worth the effort.