Historic Structures

Judge Samuel Dexter House, Dexter Michigan

Date added: May 11, 2011 Categories: Michigan House Greek Revival

The following article was published in the Detroit News December 1, 1931.
GREEK ARCHITECTURE IN PIONEER HOMES
Perhaps Judge Samuel Dexter had seen Thomas Jefferson's famous home, "Monticello", in Virginia, when he chose the site for his country seat near Dexter, Mich,, for the two have many features in common. Occupying as the Dexter house does a commanding position at the top of a gently sloping hill several hundred yards from the main road, with its two-story portico and pediment, it is not unlike "Monticello", which, it will be remembered, rests at the summit of a good-sized mountain and has its front entrance protected by a hospitable, high-columned porch.

Then, too, there was presidential influence connected with the project, since one of the designers and builders for Judge Dexter was no less than Calvin Fillmore, the brother of the President. With him as a partner was his son-in-law, Sylvester Newkirk, father of Judge Newkirk, now mayor of Ann Arbor. These two designed and constructed many a fine house in the surrounding district over a period of several years, and numbers of these still remain as convincing proof of the inherent good taste in architecture of the times.

When Mrs. Dexter attached a queer, tower-like structure to this lovely old dwelling in the seventies (1870s), however, she well-nigh ruined it architecturally.

Contrary to popular belief that the Greek revival in architecture started in Europe, it is now well recognized that President Jefferson, who, in addition to his many other accomplishments, was a distinguished architect, first conceived the idea of using the Greek temple form for secular buildings. Judge Dexter*s house is typically a Greek revival expression, comfortable and hospitable, more or less sprawling, but dignified and beautiful, unusually well-suited to its first owner, who was a man of culture and refinement, a leader and pioneer organizer, and the first judge of Washtenaw County.