Meadow Brook Hall has been host to many parties over the years with guests like Henry Ford, Tommy Dorsey, and Frank Sinatra. Of all the greats who have come to Meadow Brook Hall, Master Architect Minoru Yamasaki is one man whose honorary dinner party in 1974 at Meadow Brook was an unforgettable event.
Minoru Yamasaki was born in Seattle, a first generation son to Japanese immigrants. In 1945 the Smith, Hinchman & Grylls architecture firm – the same firm that designed Meadow Brook Hall in 1926 – recruited Yamaski to be their head designer.
He is best known as the architect behind the famous World Trade Center in New York that featured the twin towers, which were the tallest buildings in the world at the time of completion in 1973.
As a Japanese-American during the 1940s, Yamaska was faced with restrictive covenants that prevented him from renting or buying property in many Metro Detroit communities. He settled with his family in Troy in a house they lived in for 25 years.
In 1974, the Meadow Brook Art Gallery at Oakland University opened an exhibit of Yamasaki’s work including photographs, drawings, and models of his buildings and designs.
Yamsaki was given an honorary dinner at Meadow Brook Hall where then Oakland University President Donald O’Dowd congratulated Yamasaki on his designs that showed innovation in the relationship between people and structures.
The grandeur of the English Tudor mansion was on display to the world renowned architect and the 190 guests in attendance who mingled in the Great Hall until they were served a beef wellington dinner in the Ballroom.
At the Meadow Brook dinner, Yamaski spoke to his attendees and called architecture, “the greatest of arts because it touches our lives everyday. We see it, use it, and live in it.” During his life, Yamasaki created many buildings that shaped the Detroit cityscape and the world, including Wayne State University’s College of Education building in 1960, the Rainier Bank Tower located in Seattle in 1977, and most notably the ill-fated World Trade Center in New York.
Meadow Brook has been host to princes and singers, educators and aristocrats. As an enchanting event venue, the Great Estate has impressed even the greatest of architects like Minoru Yamasaki.
Historic photos provided by Oakland University Archives.
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