Crafstman touch adds heft to ritzy westside home tour

This year, there’s some eastside solidity in the country-club, old-money frou-frou of the mother of all Lansing home tours — a rare peek into five of the biggest and most lavish homes in the city.

The homes were built between 1916 and 1929 along a two-mile stretch of Moores River Drive and Cambridge Road on the city’s west side.

Expect to see sprawling gardens, maids’ quarters, epic staircases and many touches peculiar to each home’s first owners, like the purple Pompeiian bathroom in Lansing’s biggest mansion, the 10,000-square-foot Harper home owned by Brian Huggler and Ken Ross at 1408 Cambridge Road, and plenty more eye candy.

So, where’s the grit? Watch for hammer-toting builder and restorer Dave Muylle, one of the tour’s hosts. Muylle’s usual habitat is the city’s more modestly scaled east side, where he’s constantly restoring old Craftsman style homes or building tiny cottages. Normally, you’d have to fold a map of Lansing in half to get him over to the west side of town, but the Rozeboom home at 1607 Moores River, one of the five homes on this year’s tour, is something of a talisman for him.

“I really appreciate being in this particular house,” Muylle said. “It’s serious architecture outside the realm of the rich, a simple house for a simple life.”

This is the house’s centennial year, and it’s had a succession of interesting owners, including Howard Finch, or “Uncle Howdy,” on-air personality and general manager of WJIM-AM. Freeman McClintock, who ran a Packard dealership and the long-running McClintock Cadillac dealership from the 1930s to the 1980s, also owned the home.

But Muylle is most interested in attuning visitors to the solid workmanship and unpretentious American integrity of the Craftsman style, and he’ll never have a better exhibit to draw upon than the Rozeboom house. “It’s got everything — the low-profile roof, low overhangs and brackets, ganged-together windows, the large covered porch,” Muylle said. “They called these bungalows ‘airplane bunga lows’ in California because they look like small airplanes.”

Unlike the other houses on the tour, this is primarily a home and not a showcase for newly acquired wealth — but it’s no pre-fab kit, either.

Accustom your eyes to the house’s low lines and dark materials, and the house exudes a uniquely American integrity and quietude, seldom noticed in the hustle to make and show off wealth.

“Look for the hand of the craftsman in the joinery,” Muylle said. “Where two pieces of wood come together — pay close attention to that. A fine line means craftsmanship. There’s a lot of quarter-sawn oak, which brings out the medulla rays, a more interesting pattern in the oak.”

Visitors will likely stop in their tracks when they get to the kitchen to admire a gorgeous 1947 GE Liberty stove that is still in use.

“It’s like a classic car, almost the star of the whole show,” Muylle said.

Adding the Rozeboom house to the tour and drawing on Muylle’s expertise helps to further the Historical Society of Greater Lansing’s goal of teaching people about the city’s history — even as they gawk at rich people’s stuff. “We want people to treasure these houses,” Muylle said. Also on the tour is the Knapp’s home, built in 1926 at 1435 Cambridge for the founder of Knapp’s Department Store; a Georgian Colonial Revival mansion built at 1908 Moores River for Wallace and er; and a Dutch Colonial Revival home at Harriet Olds — R. E. Olds’ older broth- 2011 Moores River, built by Theodore and Margaret Foster, a successful real estate developer.

“Historic Home Tour” 1-5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 17 $20 lansinghistory.org

(517) 282-0671