Main Floor Living Spaces
Learn about family’s main floor living spaces at Meadow Brook Hall, including the Living Room, Sun Porch, Organ Alcove and Library.
The Living Room is the largest room of Meadow Brook Hall. At 1340 sq. ft., it is the size of many average homes, but doesn’t feel that way because of the carefully-placed conversation circles.
This room hosted the family wedding ceremonies (accompanied by the organ in the next room) and their Christmas tree.
Note the photograph of Matilda and Alfred Wilson on the table before continuing into the Organ Alcove.
It cost almost $4 million to build and furnish Meadow Brook Hall, but the Living Room hints at some of the Wilsons efforts at frugality. Instead of purchasing all new furnishings, the Wilsons moved in old furniture, reupholstered sofas and cut down draperies to be reused in lesser rooms.
Watch this video of Matilda explaining some of the furnishings in the room. Excerpt from "American Treasures," which includes a personal tour Matilda Wilson gave of Meadow Brook Hall in 1967, two days before her death at age 83. The full video is for sale in the Museum Store.
The brilliant days of spring and summer found the Wilson family on the lawns surrounding the Sun Porch. They rode horses, threw toys for the pet dogs and challenged each other in croquet.
Meadow Brook Hall’s 4,600 pipe Aeolian organ was originally ordered on July 10, 1919 by John and Matilda Dodge for use in the large mansion they were building on Lake Shore Drive in Grosse Pointe. When the mansion wasn’t completed because of John Dodge’s death in 1920, the organ was put into storage until it was installed at Meadow Brook Hall.
The organ itself was made by the Aeolian Company (Boston, Mass.) and is a three-manual, 76 rank pipe organ, model #1444, with 4,600 pipes. It may be played either manually or mechanically with player music rolls.
Judy Johnson (Matilda’s granddaughter) has fond memories of playing “Chopsticks” on the organ. Even though she didn’t know many songs, her grandmother enjoyed it because it wasn’t often that anyone played the organ.
Some particularly outstanding examples of Meadow Brook Hall’s fine woodwork are found in the Library.
Relief carvings of Elizabethan scholars set the scene for visitors entering through the doors to the Library. Above the paneling with “linen fold” design is a frieze of carved portraits of artists, philosophers, writers and composers, including those of Mark Twain, Rembrandt, Beethoven and Aristotle.
Hidden in the paneling on either side of the fireplace are doors which conceal a file cabinet on the left side and a staircase leading to a small book storage and catalogue room on the right side.
The fireplace in this room has a stone mantel carved with seals of American colleges and universities, including Beloit University, Alfred’s alma mater, and Michigan State University, with whom Matilda was closely tied. Over the mantel is a portrait of John F. Dodge done posthumously in c. 1928 by Arkansas artist Louis Betts.
It was on the large antique refectory table in the center of the room that Matilda and Alfred signed the papers for their largest and most visionary gift. In 1957, they donated their 1,400-acre estate and all of its buildings, including Meadow Brook Hall, and $2 million to found what is now known as Oakland University.
Proceed up the grand staircase, or return to the elevator for floor BR. Turn right when you get to the bedroom level.