Monday, August 17, 2015

William A. Fisher 1791 Wellesley Drive Detroit, Michigan

September 21, 1886 – December 1969

     William Andrew Fisher was born in 1886 in Norwalk, Ohio. William was the last of the Fisher brothers to join Fisher Body, arriving in 1915. A year later, he built a house at 111 Edison Avenue in Detroit where he lived until the mid 1920's. Architect Richard H. Marr designed his new home at 1791 Wellesley Drive, in the Palmer Woods area of Detroit in 1925. Bryant Fleming was the landscape architect. 

111 Edison Avenue, Detroit, Michigan

CAPTION: The well known society florists, Dale Morgan and Norm Silk are selling their famous house and buying another well known home in Palmer Woods, the A. William Fisher house at 1791 Wellesley in Detroit. The neglected William Fisher mansion in Palmer Woods will draw a purchase offer from florists Norm Silk and Dale Morgan, who lived nearby. 1993 Press Photo 
    At the time it was built, it was the largest and most expensive home in Detroit. No expense was spared. It had 2 pipe organs including one that was a player. The detail was unbelievable. All kitchen sinks that appeared to be stainless were actually pewter.

    The exterior was red brick and slate with marble inlaid carvings around the windows. The house used many of the same artisans who worked on the Fisher Building. In its heyday, the house boasted Baccart crystal chandeliers and fireplaces with floor-to-ceiling marble, inset with original oil paintings. Even the basement, used as a ballroom, had a marble floor. The grand foyer looked much like the foyer of the Fisher Building, with all kinds of marble and onyx.

    Every window was loaded with leaded glass, and every bit of material used in construction was the finest available. Many of the features had been constructed by artisans brought from Europe, or imported intact from Europe. The mansion encompassed 35,000 square feet. The mansion was known as the Clipper House because of its sailing motif.
Historical Title Residences; William A. Fisher
WSU Virtual Motor City Collection
 Record ID 3265 
The Fisher Family Estate Photo Album
 Lot # : 72
The William Fisher Manor located in the Palmer Woods area of Detroit on 1791 Wellesley. 
The William Fisher Manor located in the Palmer Woods area of Detroit on 1791 Wellesley.

The William Fisher Manor located in the Palmer Woods area of Detroit on 1791 Wellesley.

The William Fisher Manor located in the Palmer Woods area of Detroit on 1791 Wellesley.

The William Fisher Manor located in the Palmer Woods area of Detroit on 1791 Wellesley.

The William Fisher Manor located in the Palmer Woods area of Detroit on 1791 Wellesley.

The William Fisher Manor located in the Palmer Woods area of Detroit on 1791 Wellesley.

The William Fisher Manor located in the Palmer Woods area of Detroit on 1791 Wellesley.
1973 aerial showing William's house at the left and his brother Alfred's house center-right.
    The house’s architectural fraternal twin and former neighbor, the Alfred Fisher mansion, also by Marr, is back on the market for $1.57 million after plans to convert it into a dormitory for addiction treatment patients met pushback and zoning challenges. 

    The Alfred and William Fisher residential block  was bordered by Gloucester, Lucerne, Wellesley, Balmoral, and Lincolnshire. They had a nine-hole golf course in the rear along Lucerne where modern homes currently stand. 

Firefighters battle the blaze at the historic William Fisher in Palmer Woods. The roof collapsed; the interior was a complete loss. 
January 4, 1994
     From 1971 to 1989 it belonged to Louis H. "King" Narcisse. A fire significantly damaged a portion of the 48-room mansion's roof and upper floors during restoration in 1994.

NEOCLASSICAL STYLE CARVED MARBLE COLUMNS, EARLY 20TH CENTURY, SET OF FOUR, H 94":Caramel to white in color, leafy capitals on fluted columns with pedestal bases. Provenance, William Fisher mansion, Palmer Woods, Detroit. Lot 32064

   The homeowner's association declared that vandals were gutting the fire-damaged home and wanted the owner to repair or demolish it. The association charged that marble and other fixtures were being stolen. Soon after the house was demolished. The lot remains vacant today.

Architectural rendering for Grayhaven, a proposed residential boating community on the Detroit River. Printed on drawing: "Grayhaven, Edward Gray, owner; foot of Continental Ave., Detroit; tel Hickory 4585; drawing by M.R. Williams." Resource ID: EB02g007
    Henry Ford had purchased swampland on the east side and planned on building another massive complex. Ford had the canals dredged for his new complex but it never came about.

    Edward Gray was Chief Engineer at Ford Motor Company and bought the land from Henry and developed it. Grayhaven was one of the most exclusive residential developments in the country at that time. Restrictions provide that every home have a drydock in which the owner can keep his yacht safe and clean winter and summer. The Depression ended full deployment.

William A. Fisher's Starboard Lagoon Boathouse under construction at Grayhaven
Record ID 9937 
    Somehow the Fishers got involved and bought the whole strip of land along Starboard Lagoon. Charles & William built on the far east, both of which are gone, and Lawrence on the west

The famous Garfield Wood mansion in the foreground, William's finished home and brother Charles are across the canal.

  Follow THIS LINK to view a post on the Grosse Ile summer home of William Andrew Fisher.

Bishop's Residence
 1880 Wellesley Drive
    The Fisher Brothers, in 1925, built the largest home in Detroit and gave it to Bishop Gallagher to serve as a residence of whoever governed diocese. The Boston church architects, Maginnis and Walsh, designed this Tudor Revival mansion at 1880 Wellesley, tactfully incorporating many religious symbols and much Pewabic Tile. This is a 40,000 square foot mansion, no longer owned by the Catholic diocese.

Few photos exist of all seven of the Fisher brothers together.  This one was taken on August 22, 1927 during a rainy groundbreaking ceremony for the Fisher Building in Detroit. From left are: Alfred, Lawrence, Charles, Fred, William, Howard and Edward Fisher.


  1. What a story! I met a Fisher descendant who lived in Washington, DC and moved to Palo Alto, Ca. Shortly thereafter. John and DeeDee!

    I love your blog and I love your stories!

  2. P.S. How about their matching hats!?! And their mother wasn't even there to make them wear them??!!!!?

  3. That's interesting that your link on Edward Gray goes to my blog. My grandfather worked for Gray from their Oil City days, where Gray was co-owner and manager of Riverside Engine and my grandfather was listed as a 'draughtsman'- draftsman today. He soon followed Gray to Detroit when Gray became Ford's Chief Engineer. Gray left Ford in the summer of 1914 to pursue the building of Grayhaven. Some wondered if there was a falling out between Ford and Gray but there was a letter published by Gray in ads in 1923 where Ford endorsed Gray's 'Grayhaven' concept. I'll be looking into more of the Edward Gray story when visit the Detroit area soon, have an appointment at the Benson Ford Research Center to look at some photos from that time frame.

  4. Just a note- Gray purchased the land from David J. Campau-this and more about Edward Gray- see

  5. W.A. and Lura Titus Fisher were my great grandparents. I am his namesake (Willliam Andrew Fisher III). I was eleven years old when W.A. died and 18 when my great grandmother died. I knew the Wellesley house fairly well as I spent many Sundays with my great grandparents. The "Great Room" always amazed me as my grandfather, W.A. and Lura's only child, Louis Alfred Fisher, would often play that huge pipe organ and fill the house with gorgeous "church" music. Definitely a fun yet mysterious place to play as a kid.
    Should you have any further questions regarding the house or family, please do not hesitate to contact me.

    1. Thanks Drew for sharing! First question would be about the family album shown above. Do you recall ever seeing it? I don't have the date of sale but it sold for $1,888.00. Circumstances of its sale away from the family? I guessed on the photo labeled father and son. Is that Louis with William by the sundial? Second would be about the tunnels that connected the two homes. Did you go through them? Thanks for your time.

    2. Drew, my husband and I are searching for any info on a cousin of the one of the original Fisher family. His name was Michael and was an artist. He was killed (shot) in his studio in the summer of 1954. My husband attended his funeral as a child, but we have not been successful in locating any record of him. If you can help us, please write to John and Julie Sase

    3. Sorry to be so long to respond to your inquiry, John and Julie. I do not know of this Michael. My own age-mate, 2nd cousin Michael, son of A.J. Fisher, Jr., was born in 1958, so he is not the one, but it makes me wonder if the naming of my cousin, Michael, was in honor of the murdered family member. We all know how tight the Fishers were--especially that generation of the "Seven Brothers" and the next. I'll ask around (among other family members) to see what I might dig up.

    4. As to the question from four years ago from HalfPuddingHalfSauce, I saw many family albums--my Great Grandmother was pretty fastidious about saving newspaper clippings. Some of the articles were actually quite jaw dropping, e.g. "Fisher Brothers dominate Wall Street" in the days before SEC regulation, they did some speculative trading based on insider info--not unlike the scenario from the 1983 movie "Trading Places"--and other interesting articles.
      RE the photo that you've titled "father and son," my initial/gut reaction was that that was not W.A. and Louis but could be my father, Bill (William Andrew II), as an early teen with his father, Louis, W.A. son.
      I knew of the tunnels but never used them (the basement as a whole was always a little too scary for me--though I'll never forget cleaning out the wine cellar with my Uncle Louis, Jr., and my father after my Great Grandfather died (December 1969). The door to the wine cellar had been the vault door to the old Detroit Savings and Loan bank--which was totally impressive in and of itself, but I remember the ire of my gourmand uncle at the number of bottles of "priceless" bottles of French and German wine that had to be thrown away cuz they hadn't been "turned" regularly--they'd spoiled.

    5. Hi Drew. My grandfather was William’s chauffeur back in the 60’s and he and my grandmother lived in the house. I used to visit them as a kid. Awesome house. Do you have any info regarding my grandfather’s name was George Robinson. Thanks

  6. Drew, My Uncle George Judson was a banker who lived on Woodston. He was a friend of William and they played cards frequently. One time when my parents were newlyweds, they visited while the Fisher's and my Aunt and Uncle were playing. My Aunt left the game and my Dad took her place. Dad was an hourly worker at the Fisher Body plant in Pontiac. I have always found it amazing that he had casual talk with "Bill". Dad asked why the closed a particular plant, and the answer was there was too many labor problems.

    1. Hello. I'm writing an article for the Cadillac & LaSalle Club about a 1955 Cadillac Fleetwood that was purchased new by William A Fisher and then transferred to George Judson in the 1960s. We currently have the car in our restoration shop and are amazed at the maintenance records kept by your Uncle. If you can provide any insight into this particular car, please reach out to my email address varsitysg (at) gmail . com and we cn exchange contact information. Thanks, Hank Miller - Cadillac Parts & Restoration, Poughkeepsie, NY

  7. Hello, Mr. Fisher. I'm writing an article for the Cadillac & LaSalle Club about William A. Fisher's 1955 Cadillac Fleetwood that was delivered to him on March 8, 1955. It was Black with an Alabaster roof and a green interior. I'd love to gain any insight you can offer about either this car or Mr. Fisher's interest in Cadillacs. Unfortunately, I just stumbled onto this blog and couldn't reach out sooner. I only have until June 19th to complete the article. If you see this, please email me at varsitysg (at) gmail . com and I can give you more direct contact information. Thanks.
    Hank Miller