Gallery & Offices

Walk down the intricate Gallery Hall and peak inside the home office spaces of Alfred and Matilda Wilson.

“Cards gave us something to do. You have to remember that we didn’t have television back then. Dad had a radio in the den (Alfred’s study) and we’d listen to the radio and play cards maybe for an hour… We’d listen to “The Shadow,” “Inner Sanctum Mysteries,” “Gang Busters,” “The Lone Ranger”… - Barbara Wilson

Though Alfred and Matilda each had studies, they did the majority of their work in rented office spaces in the Fisher Building in Detroit. Alfred’s Study became a gathering space for the family to relax, listen to the radio and play card and board games. Another favorite activity was storytelling using the carved wooden frieze, which offered humorous images of Alfred’s life as the son of a Presbyterian minister, a graduate of Beloit College (look above the door for an image of his professors) and a lumber broker.

Alfred shared fun stories from his life, which are illustrated in caricature around the top of the wall paneling. The caricatural quality of the carvings helps convey Mr. Wilson’s sense of humor, which is most evident in the scene of the Wilson marriage above the fireplace mantel where the divergent heights of Alfred and Matilda are so exaggerated. These woodcarvings were produced by the firm of Irving & Casson.

Concealed by the paneled wall opposite the fireplace are two doors. One opens to an elaborate carved stone secret stairway. Hidden between the walls, this spiral stone stairway goes from the Game Room on the lower level to Mr. Wilson’s Study on the main level, up to Mr. Wilson’s bedroom on the second level and on up to the attic on the third level.

The other door leads to a “gentleman’s pantry” equipped with refrigerator and sink for preparation of refreshments and snacks.

This is the only room in the house that isn’t fully made by American materials; instead Alfred opted for English burled oak paneling.

Each morning before going to her Detroit office, this is where Matilda managed her household business, many interests and Meadow Brook farm groups.

Here, beneath an antique Waterford crystal chandelier, Matilda directed her large staff. Concealed in the flawless pine paneling are cabinets that held her typewriter and adding machine with which she personally maintained the household accounts. There is also storage space for firewood.

The harmonious proportions and beautiful scheme of woodwork were inspired by the Hatton Garden Room (c. 1730) that is now at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, England. That room, however, used pine with knots in it; “flawless” pine is made from the interior of pine trees and displays no knots.