The Dow name might be commonly associated with the chemicals and plastics of the Dow Chemical Company, but architecture buffs will think of one man: Alden B. Dow. An architect from Midland, Michigan, Dow is largely responsible for the Michigan Modern style of architecture. With an architecture degree from Columbia University and a successful stint working with Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin, it's little surprise that Alden B. Dow became such an influential and prolific architect.
If you visit Midland, Michigan, there's a good chance that you'll spot several of his buildings without even trying. While there are many, many structures worth seeing in Midland and beyond, the first on your itinerary should be the Alden B. Dow Home and Studio. Fortunately, there is an organized tour for this property, allowing an in depth view of the architect's family home as well as his workspace.
Construction on the Alden B. Dow Home & Studio began in 1934, although it took several more years until the entire home was complete. The design features his rhomboid block and his now iconic unit block system. It incorporates the natural surroundings and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1989.
Much of this tour is within the building itself, but the weather will impact what you see and what kind of photographs you can get. On the day of our tour, it was raining. This meant we only briefly went outside as part of the tour. On dry days, there are more opportunities to head outdoors - specifically out near the pond.
Be aware that there are no bags and coats allowed on your tour of the Alden B. Dow Home & Studio Tour. Bags/purses can be locked up during your tour, and coats need to be hung in a closet at the entrance.
There is no interior photography allowed on the tour itself. This is strictly enforced! However, it's worth bringing a camera with you. You can take exterior shots before and after the tour, and there are a handful of opportunities to take photos on the tour as you step briefly outside or onto the screened porch.
While the Alden B. Dow Home & Studio Tour is worth a trip to Midland on its own, this also happens to be a great spot for an unexpected getaway.
Where to Stay in Midland
While there are a handful of hotels and motels in the area, the best pick is undoubtedly the H Hotel. It's owned by Dow Chemical, and it's home to two great restaurants. (We didn't eat at Table, the more upscale of the two, but breakfast at Cafe Zinc was phenomenal). While it's a bit higher-end than Midland might need, it's a nice retreat for a night or two. The white, minimalist decor of the H Hotel is definitely more contemporary than mid-century, even if the exterior isn't much to admire. The extensive fitness center and pool were a nice touch, and the warm cookies at turndown were greatly appreciated.
What to See in Midland
Midland is perhaps best known for its Tridge, a three-way bridge that spans the merging Chippewa and the Tittabawasee Rivers. Renovations during the summer of 2017 mean that it is open to the public and absolutely worth a visit. As a bonus, it's also just steps from the H Hotel's parking lot.
Also right next to the Tridge is the Midland Farmer's Market, which is open on Saturdays. This is also a point on the Pere Marquette Rail-Trail, which runs alongside the river. We meandered along the trail on a Friday evening, and there were lots of cyclists, joggers and walkers enjoying the scenery.
If you're in town specifically for Dow's architecture, then you'll probably also want to be nosy and spot as many structures as possible. A couple that caught our eye are shown below:
The best option is to buy a map of Alden Dow homes from the gift shop at the end of the Home & Studio Tour. The map is just $3, but it is packed with residential homes, municipal buildings and commercial structures designed by Dow. You'll find addresses, dates of construction and even details like whether the home has been remodeled since construction. You can easily spend an hour or two driving around Midland and admiring the incredible architecture, and this map makes it so much easier. (The map image shown below is deliberately low quality and unusable - please support the Dow Studio and buy a copy from them.)
If you're exploring all that Midland has to offer, take time to see the Dow Gardens. This is just next to the Dow Home & Studio, and it is open seven days a week.
After all that exploring, you may be in need of a beer. Just a short walk from the H Hotel is the Whichcraft Taproom, which was a delightful place to spend a Friday night. Great beer, wine and food - and an emphasis on local and Michigan-made produce.
If you're a fan of all things Alden Dow, Midland is a must-see destination. If you have any questions or need tips about your upcoming trip, feel free to contact us! You clearly have great taste, so we would also love to help you find mid-century modern furniture in our shop.