Meadow Brook History
Learn about the history of Meadow Brook Hall, its Tudor-revival architecture, people and much more.
Meadow Brook History
A National Historic Landmark, Meadow Brook Hall is a museum, cultural center and wedding and events venue.
Built in 1929, Meadow Brook represents one of the finest examples of Tudor-revival architecture in America, and is especially renowned for its superb craftsmanship, architectural detailing and grand scale. From exquisite décor to practical details, the 88,000-square foot, 110-room mansion is sure to enchant visitors.
Meadow Brook Hall was the home of Matilda Dodge Wilson, philanthropist and businesswoman and widow of automobile pioneer John Dodge, and her second husband, lumber broker Alfred Wilson. Together, Matilda and Alfred Wilson donated the 1,400 acre estate, historic mansion and $2 million to found Oakland University.
Meadow Brook Hall is located in Rochester, Mich. on the campus of Oakland University.
Meadow Brook Hall is a National Historic Landmark for being the best Tudor-revival house in the country.
Tudor-revival or English Revival is a style of architecture that was a popular revival style particularly in the Mid-west. It is based on examples of English country homes from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. The use of natural building materials blends nicely with the natural setting.
Meadow Brook Hall exemplifies the characteristics of this style which include: asymmetrical facades, steeply pitched roof made of clay tiles, patterned brickwork, leaded glass windows including Tiffany insets, stone lintels, parapets, half-timbers and massive chimneys.
Watch Matilda talk about the chimneys in this 1967 interview. 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 chimneys are one of the most remarkable features of this home. There are 39 chimneys in 14 groupings. Their design was based on the favored home of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Hampton Court, and Compton Wynyates. The chimneys enhance the homes design by adding balance and verticality to the large horizontal structure.
The landscape picture is one of solitude and restraint, revealing the grand scale and architectural detailing of the house. Casting their shadows on the velvety turf were tall vase shaped elms; most were decimated due to the Dutch Elm disease of the 1970s, and the final one was lost in 2017.
Watch Matilda talk about the beginnings of Meadow Brook Hall and how she and husband Alfred Wilson sought inspiration from estates in England.
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.
In 1908, the year after they married, Matilda & John Dodge purchased the first 320 acres of Meadow Brook.
In 1908, John and Matilda Dodge bought a 320 acre farm that would become a country retreat for their families. The farm was expanded to include additional acreage, a clubhouse with indoor pool, 9-hole golf course, greenhouse, root cellars, farm and tenant buildings and pedigree stock. John also planted 700 fruit trees. It was during these weekend retreats from bustling Detroit that John and Horace designed their motor car company, even test-driving the first cars on the rolling hills.
In a 1967 interview with Shelby Newhouse, Matilda explains why they chose the rolling farmland of Meadow Brook for their country retreat. 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.
“It used to take an hour and a half to get to Detroit. [Matilda] remembers there was no paved road until you reached Highland Park; ‘It was cedar blocks and mostly broken up.’ Far from being lonely though, there was always the business of beef cattle, butter and eggs, plus consultations with Michigan State agricultural experts. Riding was always fun and so was ‘talking to the Shetland babies.’” From “Portrait of a President,” published in The Villager, the newsletter of The Village Woman’s Club in Bloomfield Hills, June 1963
Fresh Air for All
The Dodge Brothers Motor Car Company held picnics for their employees each summer at regional parks and beaches, and a couple times at Meadow Brook Farms. Employees and their families would be transported out of the city for a day of fun and games.
John wanted the fresh air of Meadow Brook Farms to benefit Dodge Brothers employees, allowing any ill or injured workers to rehabilitate there, still earning a paycheck but away from the dirty and noisy factory.. Matilda hosted the Dodge Brothers Girl’s Athletic Association at the farm and clubhouse pool, encouraging exercise and teaching healthy eating habits.
Matilda and Alfred Wilson built the 110-room jewel of their estate, Meadow Brook Hall, right in the middle of their working farm. To them, preserving the agricultural way of life was a vital part of the construction and the Tudor roots of their country home.
When The Hall was completed in 1929, Meadow Brook Farms was a thriving business. Livestock included Guernsey and Hereford cattle, draft horses, and pigs, with many barns, a granary, milk-house, smithy and riding rings. Matilda played an active role in the management of the Farms and was proud to note that its livestock, not formal gardens, could be seen through her living room windows.
Visitors originally entered the estate from the Gate Lodge, located on Adams Road, and traveled down Maple Lane passing several lakes, meadows, a small brook, farm buildings and the Dodge Golf Course. Distant glimpses of the gardens and the architecture of the house could be seen along this scenic drive.
“The Residence is located… in a secluded spot, overlooking the surrounding rolling, wooded area; it is almost out of sight of the public highways. It appears to be in a lowland, but it is actually on a knoll commanding a lovely view in all directions.”– Matilda Wilson