ALEXANDER MCCOLL HOMES FROM ENGLISH TUDOR TO MODERN
PAM VANDERPLOEG COPYRIGHT 2017
The name Alexander McColl is a familiar one to many Grand Rapidians. McColl lived from 1891 to 1967, and his output of gracious, high-end homes was amazing really. This slide show includes just a sampling of his work. So far I have documented approximately 80 plus homes, although this number does not include the homes built near Frankfort on the ground at Crystal Downs Country Club, and a few homes recently identified as McColl designs in Frankfort.
MCColl's daughter, Anne Forslund, passed away on March 8, 2017. I was lucky enough to interview her a few years ago, and to gain some insight into her father's life and work. Forslund admired him very much, and shared his trademark design philosophy with me. He was dedicated to building what the client wanted, and whatever the style, he did extensive research to create the most authentic and beautiful design to match the client request.
McColl graduated from the Engineering Department, University of Michigan, in 1921. He was a member of the American Institute of Architects and Michigan Society of Architects. His home and office was located at 2814 Woodcliff SE, and he worked steadily until he passed away quiet suddenly at age 76. Forslund remembered him being on job sites right until the very end of his life. McColl is known for his large English cottage style homes and others designed in a variety of historic styles including French eclectic, mediterranean renaissance, and colonial revival homes. These homes are found in East Grand Rapids, the Ottawa Hills neighborhood and Riverside Gardens off Plainfield Avenue northeast. Although McColl had originally worked in an office downtown, he later made the family's home on Woodcliff in East Grand Rapids his office.
In 1937, McColl designed one of his most iconic homes, a moderne house at 739 Plymouth SE in East Grand Rapids, designed in what has been described as the International style, for a well-known area physician of the time, Dr. Leon DeVel. The house is still very original with its white stucco exterior, metal wrap-around and glass block windows and rounded features. The interior has a dramatic curving staircase, black and white marble floor and many built-ins, including the bookshelves surrounding the fireplace in the library. McColl built at least one other similar style out in the country, on Belding Road, northeast of Grand Rapids. That home appeared to be in disrepair over the past few years but was recently listed for sale.
After World War II, McColl designed several stylish mid-century modern ranch homes in East Grand Rapids and on the north side of Grand Rapids. One of these homes is an extraordinary, expansive ranch home on Meadowfield NE, designed for C.B. DeKorne and filled with beautiful mahogany paneling and ceilings. It borders the golf course at Kent Country Club. The story of that home will be featured on the website in the next week or two.
We continue to make new discoveries because Alexander McColl was a very busy and successful architect. If you know of a McColl home not included here, please let us know http://grandrapidsbuildings.com/contact .
Sources: 1) Obituary, Grand Rapids Press 2) Biographical file, Grand Rapids Local History Department3) Interview with McColl’s daughter Anne Forslund. 4) AIA Historical Directory.