Print this page
Harry and Marion Allen inherited about eight acres of beautiful wooded property on the edge of the Village of Birmingham on the north side Southfield and Maple Roads in 1926, and set about planning a grand new home. They engaged architect Rupert Koch, a local architect from Detroit who had designed high end residences and public buildings in southeast Michigan. The Allens wanted to incorporate the 1856 red brick schoolhouse on the site into the new Colonial revival design that sprawled along Maple Road. They added a large front porch, upper story, two wings, and all the modern conveniences that the new Village attorney Harry Allen and his young family could want. Koch also included a garage on the east end, a forward-looking design reflecting the growing importance of automobiles. The house perched on a rise overlooking the stunning Rouge River valley, with numerous doors and windows that opened to every side, and the house itself was likewise visible from the local neighborhoods. Over Marion's objections, Harry ordered an expensive custom front door suited to the family's standing and the large and prominent home, which can still be seen today.
The children got their own house, modeled after the main house. A scaled down 'play' house was built just east of the big house, at a location that would later become the final home of the John West Hunter House. The children, 9-year old Jim and 7-year old Peggy, never did play in the small building; it is impossible to be sure if Jim's contracting polio in the summer of 1926 was the reason they never used it. Learn more about the impact of Jim's polio and how he is believed to have caught the virus. Meanwhile, Harry's political and legal career continued to grow, eventually resulting in his running for Village Commission in 1929 and then spearheading the effort to become a city, writing its charter, and becoming its first city mayor in 1933. Harry's contribution to shaping the new city and its financial well-being even during the depths of the Depression was celebrated by city officials when he left public office in 1949.