A photographic guide to Frank Lloyd Wright extant structures
348 – Wetmore Auto Service Station Remodeling, 23459 Woodward Avenue, Ferndale, Michigan
Photographed on July 2, 2009. This is one of the most curious Wright project. I consider it to be one of the smallest and least significant of Wright’s works – but how did it turn out that way?
The service station remains in operation today, and I visited with the station’s staff. They are aware of their role in architectural history, and receive a couple visitors a month. The current manager’s family has owned the business since 1975, and lore has been passed down among the company’s owners and staff. Apparently Roy Wetmore’s daughter was dating one of Wright’s apprentices. Wetmore ran a service station and Packard dealership, and wanted to totally renovate his facilities. Plans were drawn up, and the original drawings are still in the Wetmore company’s possession (but not at the station, and I was unable to view them).
As the manager tells the story, Wetmore was as hard-headed as Wright, and they had a falling out after some minor renovations had been completed. The final project never went through, so all we have today is a long wall with Wright woodwork. It extends from a small customer service area and into the main garage area. The brickwork is not part of Wright’s renovations; only the wood is. I am showing an exterior shot as well; Wright’s work was limited to the interior.
Wetmore Auto Service is a local landmark, known for the cars on its roof. Plans are underway for a new Wetmore website that will include the history of the building and Wright’s involvement. Keep an eye on www.wetmores.com for the eventual launch of that site. As of July 2, 2009, the website is being held by a place marker, and has no content.
A quick note about Woodward Avenue – it is the main north/south artery from the Detroit riverfront to the northern suburbs. It is the separating line for the east side/west side, and is the scene of a huge classic auto dream cruise every August. For Wright fans, it is also a main artery for Wright’s Detroit-area projects. The Turkel House (#388) is on Seven Mile Road just west of Woodward. Wetmore’s is on Woodward, just south of Ten Mile Road. The Affleck House (#274) is north of here at Long Lake Road (roughly 17-1/2 Mile Road), and the Melvyn Maxwell Smith house is about a mile west of Woodward near Lone Pine Road (approximately 16-1/2 Mile Road). There are two additional Wright projects on Beck Road in Plymouth, but otherwise all of Wright’s Detroit-area projects are along this 10-1/2-mile stretch of the Woodward corridor.
Exterior view; the open door under the entrance sign takes you to the Wright renovations
Only the wood is Wright’s; this includes the shelf above
Underside of the shelf has a distinctive 1950s Wright look
All photographs and content by James N. McNally & © James N. McNally, P.O. Box 13, St. Clair Shores, MI 48080-0013 USA
The numbers refer to the chronological order of design as shown in the second edition to William Allin Storrer’s excellent guidebook, The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright – A Complete Catalog
Many of the photographs are raw and unedited