Alden B. Dow Home and Studio Tours Open to Public

The Dow name is a familiar one here in Midland. Alden B. Dow created an entire architectural and design movement, which started right here. That design legacy is available for public and private tours. Reservations for Alden B. Dow Home and Studio tours are now available online, or by phone (1-866-315-7678).

Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989, the Alden B. Dow Home and Studio reflects the imagination of mid-century modern architecture, reflective light, diverging angles, and bright colors. The space is also on the list of “The Top 25 Best Historic Homes in America” in Traditional Home Magazine

Exterior of the Alden B. Dow Home & Studio
Director of the Alden B. Dow Home and Studio, Craig McDonald, says the nearly 20,000 square foot space is kept as it was when Mrs. Vada Dow lived there, until her death in 1991. Alden Dow died in 1983.  “It was Mrs. Dow’s wish, near the end of her life, that everything remain in the structure so that it could be shared and viewed,” McDonald says. 

It was the couple’s hopes that the space would be accessible and serve as inspiration to the hard-working people of the region. The 1.5-hour-long tours provide a walkthrough of bright, bold colors, inviting natural light, and classic mid-century modern interior design styles scattered throughout the two level space. During the warm months, tours include an outdoor pond area, but on Saturdays during the winter, an underground tunnel element is featured. For COVID-safety reasons, each tour is limited to nine guests, accompanied by a staff or volunteer docent guide. 
The architect, Alden B. Dow
Because of the design of the multi-level building, tours are not wheelchair accessible, but McDonald says they offer an alternative to encourage inclusivity. “We do want all people to have access, so we do have the video people are able to watch if they’re unable to go through physically,” he says.

The multi-level component is one that McDonald says adds to the building’s uniqueness. “Dow’s philosophy of architecture was that it emulates nature,” he says. “His idea was that gardens never end, and buildings never begin. One of the elements of nature is change in elevation.”

“When you see the outside of the building, you have no idea what to expect from it. It doesn’t have a definition. He [Dow] always wanted us to give it our own definition, and make it our own experience.That’s one of the nicest surprises, when you walk in that front door, it’s filled with natural light, color, angles, and perspectives. It’s like stepping into a different world architecturally. It engages you instantly.”

McDonald says the train and toy room is a fan favorite of the playful, yet functional building. Providing education and entertainment for the youth is important to the Studio, which also focuses largely on developing educational programming. 

“We at Alden Home and Studio, want to be a resource for all of education,” McDonald says, “to help young people develop critical thinking skills. This enables them to be better, more diverse thinkers to see the world from different perspectives, which gives a greater understanding.”

While some might connect Midland with science or the nature center, McDonald says the area is truly synonymous with design. “We have some really wonderful things here, but one of the most expansive elements of Midland is its architecture,” he says. “We have over 430 mid-century modern designs, and this whole movement was initiated by Alden Dow, who inspired other people to design in that time period. The idea was to think about buildings, how they relate to nature, and how they function for us as humans.”
The space is also on the list of “The Top 25 Best Historic Homes in America” in Traditional Home Magazine. 
The studio has also developed an app and website, Mid-Century Modern Midland, which shows photos of 430+ structures in the area, background info on designers, dates of design and build, etc. “You can see just how much was created in this relatively small town,” McDonald says.

Public tours are available Monday through Saturday at 2 p.m., with an additional tour on Friday-Saturday at 11 a.m. Private tours are available by appointment. Student and senior discounts are available. For pricing and more information, visit the website. 


 

Read more articles by Sarah Spohn.

Sarah Spohn is a Lansing native, but every day finds a new interesting person, place, or thing in towns all over Michigan, leaving her truly smitten with the mitten. She received her degrees in journalism and professional communications and provides coverage for various publications locally, regionally, and nationally — writing stories on small businesses, arts and culture, dining, community, and anything Michigan-made. You can find her in a record shop, a local concert, or eating one too many desserts at a bakery. If by chance, she’s not at any of those places, you can contact her at spohn9@gmail.com.