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Brookby

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Speaking of places around here on the National Register of Historic Places, I'm sure there's some Aquinas alumns and other folks who've been to events and parties at the residence. Does anyone have any good pictures of the house or grounds? I've been curious as to what lies beyond the gates (besides Sam Cummings' robe and slippers)...

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Grand Rapids Magazine shot a fall fashion feature inside Brookby in September 2005. The issue contains five full page photographs taken inside the house and on the grounds, spotlighting the foyer, library, solarium and gardens. If you're like me, you've got your back issues lined up in chronological order at your desk at work, so it should be a breeze for you to find it. ;)

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If you're like me, you've got your back issues lined up in chronological order at your desk at work, so it should be a breeze for you to find it. ;)

:lol:

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Actually, I was discussing this with a friend on Saturday. He has written a paper for his Master's degree on the estate.... He has been working with the owner, and I actually saw a number (~10) of photos from its construction in the '20s on Saturday. I mentioned having him put 'em here, so hopefully! :) There are also some other black and whites that appear to be from the sale in 1988, but not certain....

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Although Frederick Law Olmstead died in 1903, his firm designed the grounds for Brookby. Sam framed the rendered site plan and has it hanging in his conference room.

FLO is known has "the father of landscape architecture, designed Central Park in NYC and was a champion of the city beautiful movement.

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I'm the guy Dodgeboy referred to who just wrote a little paper for my Master's on the life of the Blodgetts, and of Brookby. It started off as a small project for class, and just kept getting bigger. I have spent quite a bit of time now reading about Brookby and John Blodgett Sr., and can try and answer any questions anyone might have. I don't have all the answers - in part because John Sr.'s wife Minnie died in NY in 1931, just three years after completion of Brookby. Therefore Blodgett Sr. lived there alone until his own death 20 years later, and with a son in Oregon, and a daughter in NY, understandably there wasn't a lot of "family" happenings going on there.

I've been asked, and probably will present some of the info this fall at a local history conference. Then it's on to the Water's family. :D

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I'm the guy Dodgeboy referred to who just wrote a little paper for my Master's on the life of the Blodgetts, and of Brookby. It started off as a small project for class, and just kept getting bigger. I have spent quite a bit of time now reading about Brookby and John Blodgett Sr., and can try and answer any questions anyone might have. I don't have all the answers - in part because John Sr.'s wife Minnie died in NY in 1931, just three years after completion of Brookby. Therefore Blodgett Sr. lived there alone until his own death 20 years later, and with a son in Oregon, and a daughter in NY, understandably there wasn't a lot of "family" happenings going on there.

I've been asked, and probably will present some of the info this fall at a local history conference. Then it's on to the Water's family. :D

Here's a question.. what's your masters in? Is this kind of research something you plan to do as a career?

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and can try and answer any questions anyone might have.

Are you sure Bruce Wayne doesn't live there? And if he doesn't, are you sure Sam Cummings isn't Batman?

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Great question! I'm a Government and History teacher at an area high school. My Master's was to be in history, but with GVSU's program, it's now Secondary Education with an emphasis on History. One of my Grad classes was titled Archival Techniques in Local History. We had to choose a local subject, and then research the heck out of it.

Because of a deep interest in local history, I started a project on my own of researching various influential families, their impact on GR, and their homes at the turn of the 19th into the 20th century. Trying to figure out just how much of a "high society" GR had a 120 years ago... at the time of the Rockefeller's, Vanderbilts, etc.... The timing was perfect, because it coincided with the class I took. Not sure if it will be done in time for my Thesis, but I would like to take all this work, and form it into a local history class for my own students down the road, as well as publishing some of the work in various magazines.

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Great question! I'm a Government and History teacher at an area high school. My Master's was to be in history, but with GVSU's program, it's now Secondary Education with an emphasis on History. One of my Grad classes was titled Archival Techniques in Local History. We had to choose a local subject, and then research the heck out of it.

Because of a deep interest in local history, I started a project on my own of researching various influential families, their impact on GR, and their homes at the turn of the 19th into the 20th century. Trying to figure out just how much of a "high society" GR had a 120 years ago... at the time of the Rockefeller's, Vanderbilts, etc.... The timing was perfect, because it coincided with the class I took. Not sure if it will be done in time for my Thesis, but I would like to take all this work, and form it into a local history class for my own students down the road, as well as publishing some of the work in various magazines.

Sounds likek w/ you and GRGridGirl we've got some good history sources around here.

Personally, I want to see some picture of Brookby.

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Sounds likek w/ you and GRGridGirl we've got some good history sources around here.

Personally, I want to see some picture of Brookby.

Many do. And no one has asked yet, but I will NOT be posting any of my pictures on this website, mostly just to protect privacy. However, from an historical aspect, if anyone has questions about the Blodgett's or the estate, I can try and find answers.

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Many do. And no one has asked yet, but I will NOT be posting any of my pictures on this website, mostly just to protect privacy. However, from an historical aspect, if anyone has questions about the Blodgett's or the estate, I can try and find answers.

Are there no pictures in the libary that are public record?

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Are there no pictures in the libary that are public record?

Unfortunately, not that much. You will find pictures in older copies of GRM, the Press, and various architectural articles, as well as a photo here and there of the family taken at John Sr.'s 80th birthday, either on the terrace, or inside.

However, shockingly, there is no John Blodgett Collection at the GR Library's 3rd floor Archive room. Now, there are some collections I am still sifting through, but it's like a needle in a haystack. If you come across something, you're happy. But hey, thats part of being a historian...the hunt.

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Unfortunately, not that much.

Well then.. what cool stuff can you tell us about the estate and the high rollers of the time? :D

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I attended one of Sam's Christmas parties there some years back (as a friend of a friend of Sam's, ex-wife's brother :P ) It's absolutely gorgeous.

I recall the fantastic entry, the Christmas tree being huge with those beautiful high ceilings, the doors to the kitchen which blended into the walls, and what appeared to be a smoking room in the attic.

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Well, since I just started all my research last fall, I have only focused so far on the Blodgett's. Like I said, my next project starting soon will be probably the Waters or Widdicomb's. So as far as high society stories go, thats a work in progress.

As I noted above, it's actually a tragic story that the Blodgett's only shared 3 years together before Minnie died. After that, it was John Sr., his gardener, butler, maid, chauffer and gatekeeper, and a 41 room, 11,000 sq. ft. empty home (only the maid and butler lived in the main residence, the others had their own homes on the property).

One interesting piece of trivia regarding John Sr's influence and ability, and perhaps his most notable act. At the outbreak of WWI he was vacationing with his family in France. Instead of fleeing alone with his family, he drove his Packard (he only owned Packards) to Switzerland, where he chartered the steamship Principessa Mafalda with his own money to bring back as many American's as possible before it would be too late to leave, or too dangerous to stay, in Europe. In today's $, it cost just over 3.5 million, and he had no guarantee that any passengers would be able to pay him back. He was thanked with a phone call from Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, and letters from almost every American who returned, including many who were not well off, and otherwise would not have had means to return to America.

The man was very, very generous, something many GR citizens today don't really know about. In fact, in an unofficial survery I did, not one adult could name how the Blodgett's earned their fortune. In case people reading don't know either, they were Lumber Barons.

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Many do. And no one has asked yet, but I will NOT be posting any of my pictures on this website, mostly just to protect privacy. However, from an historical aspect, if anyone has questions about the Blodgett's or the estate, I can try and find answers.

May I ask whose privacy you are protecting? Is it yours, Sam Cummings or the Blodgett's?

What can you tell us about the construction of this estate, cost, time it took to build, etc? Who was the architect, and where the Blodgett's involved in the design process?

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Are you sure Bruce Wayne doesn't live there? And if he doesn't, are you sure Sam Cummings isn't Batman?

:lol: How did I miss this? I think this question should be seriously considered.

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Who would Robin be then? There's room for Bruce Wayne for sure, if Sam Cummings doesn't happen to be Batman! The multi-car garage is situated in such a way that it is very bat cave-y!

I had an opportunity to see a little of the main house back in 1998. The vastness of the space was very impressive. There wasn't much in the way of furniture in the home yet. What I remember most was the size of the kitchen - high ceilings, tall cabinets, and the space off the main kitchen - like a prep area (I know there's a proper name for this type of space in an older home) with TONS of storage for dishes, linen, etc.

My overall impression, "Wow, just Sam and his wife live here?!"

The history of this beautiful property is intriguing. Thanks, Weallneedhistory for sharing what you've discovered through your research.

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As far as privacy goes, I don't like the idea of being invited into someones home, having pictures or information shared, and then taking those items and posting them all over the internet. At least without the owners consent, and not before the project is finished. Now, if I am able to get some of this published, as is my goal this fall, then I could possibly share a few images.

As for your other questions, some quick bits of info. from my own research.

Brookby, named by Mrs Blodgett for the small brook running through the property, was built between 1926-1927. Blodgett moved into the estate in 1928, a year before the Great Depression. It was the time of great prosperity, the market kept rising: it was the era of Gatsby, and the home slightly reflects that. Brookby was designed by the firm Walker & Gillette out of NY, and buit by Owens-Ames-Kimball out of GR. Although they still exist today, the formal gardens, as well as the property itself, were the main draw when the home was first built. They were designed by the Olmstead Brothers, who did Central Park and the Capital Grounds in D.C. as well. Mrs. Cumnock-Blodgett would give tours in the short time she was alive, and the proceeds would go to fund Camp Blodgett. After her death, John Sr. spent much of his time gardening (thats what he attributed his long life to), and even won an award in 1943 for the top garden in the state. He gave all the credit to his gardener.

One interesting note: When first built, John Sr. had these massive trees moved from Grandville to the property to give the home an "aged" look.

And one more thing. Google Coe Hall if you want to see more work done by the same architectural firm and landscaping company. They were both considered the best at the time (at least I know that Olmstead was, and believe W & G were used by quite a few high society members as well.) Coe Hall was built by the man who married one of the daughters of Standard Oil. A beautiful place

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As far as privacy goes, I don't like the idea of being invited into someones home, having pictures or information shared, and then taking those items and posting them all over the internet. At least without the owners consent, and not before the project is finished. Now, if I am able to get some of this published, as is my goal this fall, then I could possibly share a few images.

Totally respectable. Plus, who wants to be on Batman's "list"? :whistling:

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:lol: How did I miss this? I think this question should be seriously considered.

My hubby and i always use this story when we drive by there and friends ask about it and this proves my theory even more:

a 41 room, 11,000 sq. ft. empty home (only the maid and butler lived in the main residence, the others had their own homes on the property).

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There are fundraisers done at the estate every once in awhile (read: twice in my memory, but recently so there were probably more) and I'd be surprised if snapshots weren't taken then. Now you've piqued my curiosity... surely someone here has photographs?

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I think there were two fundraisers to benefit either the GR Symphony or the GR Ballet Company there.

I think John Green would be Robin then....

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