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Dover Rd., 1615: Paul Rood House

Designed by Alden B. Dow

The Alden B. Dow Home & Studio

Kalamazoo has its fair share of modernist-inspired houses (designed c.1932-1960) that reflect the influential spirit of Frank Lloyd Wright and the European architects associated with the International Style. Many of these forward-looking homes were built near, or in the Winchell Neighborhood. One of the lesser known creations is the Paul Rood residence, designed in the late 1930’s by Wright devotee, Alden B. Dow. It sits, relatively obscured from view, at the end of Dover Road, a dead-end street off Oakland Drive overlooking the Kleinstuck Preserve. Built in 1940 for Western Michigan University professor Dr. Paul Rood, this chic example of the modernist style shows Dow experimenting with material elements.

From the Alden B. Dow Home & Studio

“In the seven years after Alden B. Dow opened his practice in Midland, he built 13 houses using unit blocks, which became a kind of trademark.  In the interest of flexibility and economy, he began exploring the use of frame and panel materials for textural contrast.  This new expression of the principles of composition is evident in the Paul Rood residence in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Mr. Rood wrote to the architect in July of 1937 from Ann Arbor.  He was about to move his family to Kalamazoo, where he had taken a teaching position at Western Michigan University.  Over the next several months, Mr. Dow and the Roods worked over the plans, trying to resolve the conflict between cost and desire.  The final design resulted in a flat-roofed house of brick and homosote panels divided by vertical wood battens.

Situated on a gently sloping lot, Mr. Dow placed living and dining rooms, play room and porch upstairs to take in the best views; three bedrooms, a maid’s room, and an “Owner’s Room” are downstairs on the lower level.  On the interior, ornamental texture is provided by the exposed wood beams in the living room and the row of brass lights evenly spaced between the beams over the fireplace.

As in so many of the houses he designed, Mr. Dow had very specific ideas regarding color schemes, furnishings and other aspects of interior design.  In a letter to Mrs. Rood he noted, “I am glad that you have ordered the red carpet and the dining room furniture from Herman Miller.”  He continued by suggesting that two arm chairs be covered in apple green, a large lounge chair and ottoman be covered in striped chenille, and a sofa “in a very light fabric with a small bright pillow for color.”

The celebrated architect was later chosen to design the Kalamazoo Valley Community College campus (Texas Township) buildings in the late 1960’s.

 

Written by Ryan Gage, Kalamazoo Public Library staff, March 2023

Sources

Books

Alden B. Dow: midwestern modern
Diane Maddex, 2007
H 720. 973 D744M

The architecture of Alden B. Dow
Sidney K. Robinson, 1983
H 720.973 D744R


Articles

“Rood residence has modernistic designs of Dow”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 18 May 1940

“Rood residence has attractive, modernistic lines”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 25 May 1940


Local History Room Files

Name File: Dow, Alden B.

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