Architect: Clarence E. Day
Landscape Architect: Bryant Fleming
The unique Norman revival is a well preserved example of a forgotten era.
(image © 2007, Leslie Pielack)Wildwood Farm, 1950 (© 2005, Orion Historical Society, Arnold Scholz Collection).
Wildwood Farm, Est. 1916 – William E. Scripps heir to the Detroit News, founded Wildwood Farm as a land reclamation project to make overfarmed land productive once again. He eventually acquired 3830 acres and relocated earlier pioneer barnhs to a site on Joslyn Road, adding other farm buildings, manager housing, and a school for the farm’s children. He developed one of the foremost stockbreeding enterprises in America, and developed a strain of disease-resistant Aberdeen Angus (Black Angus) beef. Scripps also raised purebred sheep, cows, swine, and chickens and had a modern dairy operation. Wildwood also became a wildlife sanctuary, providing protection for endangered waterfowl on their migration.
Today: The original farm buildings are now incorporated into the unique shopping complex known as Canterbury Village. Visitors there can see the intact manager cottages, an original Hadrill family farmhouse, and the remains of several barns—including the large dairy barn—now converted to shops. Much of the farm’s land and lakes are now parks, and continue to provide for local wildlife— Orion Township’s Civic Center Park, Oakland County’s Orion Oaks Park, and Bald Mountain State Recreation Area.
The Estate Residence, 1926-1927— Ten years after establishing the farm, Scripps and his wife Nina Downey Scripps began building a country retreat on part of the estate.(Their permanent residence was in Detroit.) Scripps engaged his talented brother-in-law, Clarence E. Day, to design the Norman revival style mansion with all the modern amenities available at the time. The result is one of the most artistically important American country estate homes of the era. However, Guest House’s mission was a private, not a public one, and the house’s historic importance passed out of public awareness.
Today: After William Scripps died in 1952, the estate was subdivided, and Guest House, Inc. became the owner of the house and a little over 100 acres of grounds in 1956. At the time, the newly formed non-profit needed the right facility to begin its progressive treatment facility for alcoholic priests. The former Scripps house was ideal as a quiet place for clients to begin their recovery. In 1993, the priests moved to a facility in Minnesota, and the Orion Township site became a facility for women religious recovering from addictions. This year (2007), a modern treatment center has been built on the grounds for the clients. The house will continue to be used for treatment, but will be more accessible to the public for programs and tours.
The Gardens, 1928— As the house construction was underway, Scripps sought a landscape architect for the estate’s gardens, and settled on renowned American estate designer Bryant Fleming. Fleming’s designs for the grounds included formal walls, walks, and fountains, and sculpture-lined allées as well as informal pastures, parks, rock terraces, and water features.The landscape design is historically and architecturally significant in itself, apart from the house.
Today:Eighty years later, the original landscape is still recognizable and beautiful. Original plants have matured, been replaced, or disappeared, but the garden’s architectural features remain intact. The changing seasons, however, are hard on stone walls, paths, and gates. The study and full restoration of the Scripps gardens will be a major undertaking.
One of the stained glass panels restored with funds from public tours (image © 2004, Leslie Pielack).
Orion Historical Society Annual Tours, 2003— Late in 2002, Dan Kidd, CEO of Guest House, Inc. invited the Orion Historical Society to visit the house and shared what was known about it at the time. The importance of preservation and restoration of the building was obvious, and the funds needed very sparse. OHS’ Andrea Ordakowski and Sara Van Portfliet brainstormed with Kidd and developed the idea of an annual public tour and festival to raise additional funds. “Art, Autos and Architecture at the Scripps Mansion” was born, and netted approximately $40,000 total in 2003, 2004, and 2005. Among the first projects undertaken at the house has been the restoration of the stained glass, which was designed by the famous Detroit Stained Glass Works.
Today: A fire in one of Guest Houses residential buildings elsewhere on the grounds resulted in a major re-building project during 2006. This prevented the annual public event last summer. A new, modern treatment facility has been designed to meet the needs of the clients more effectively. The estate residence will continue to be used to provide residential treatment, but will be more accessible to the public in the years to come.
National Register of Historic Places & Scripps Heritage Days, 2007— While Guest House was busy with its new building, it was also busy planning for the future of the house. Local preservationist and OHS member Leslie Pielack began working with Guest House, Inc. to conduct research and write the application to nominate the estate to the National Register of Historic Places. In May of 2007, it was formally approved, with listing on the National Park Service’s published register expected later this summer.But the listing is only honorary, providing no actual funding for the estate, although some grants will now be available. Guest House hopes to intensify its grant seeking for the house and grounds. In addition, the Art, Autos & Architecture fundraising event will be reborn as the Scripps Heritage Days weekend, and will take place in 2007 from September 21-23. The goal is the same—to raise public awareness of this local historic treasure and provide an opportunity for the community to help in preserving it.
The Scripps family crest and motto, from a stone carving at the estate. “Prospicio” is Latin for “far-sighted” or “looking ahead”, an appropriate theme for the Friends group. (Image © 2007, Friends of William E. Scripps Estate)