New app puts Midland MCM architecture on the map

If you live in or near Midland, it is well-known that the city has some amazing Mid-Century Modern homes from some talented and historically well-known architects. But thanks to Mid-Century Modern Midland, a project from the Alden B. Dow Home and Studio and several other partners, some of our city’s stunning architecture is being given the broader showcase it deserves.

An in-depth project that was started over two years ago, Mid-Century Modern Midland’s goal is to document, preserve, celebrate, share and perpetuate the Mid-Century Modern architectural heritage of Midland. On January 22, the effort officially kicked off and the new website and app was unveiled, with an event at Midland Center for the Arts.

The Rausch Residence, built by Red Warner in 1964.

With the intention of developing an accurate listing of projects for each contributing architect, documentation of all MCM building types, promoting Midland as an architectural destination and creating useful tools to promote these structures and overall heritage, the effort now adds another layer to Midland’s rich design history.

Over 400 homes, businesses, educational facilities, places of worship and structures are featured and searchable on the initiative’s new website and corresponding mobile app. These local, historic MCM homes and buildings are searchable by name and designer and are paired with an incredibly useful navigation tool that has preloaded or customizable tours calculated by travel time and efficiency.

The new MCMM website includes graphics modeled with designs from Midland's original logo.

The MCM Midland oversight committee, which is headed by local MCM home owners, builders, architects, children of the featured architects and the Alden B. Dow Home and Studio, hopes to slowly build on the log of current information and provide updated listings and content as available. Eventually, the effort will spread to homes in the broader Midland County and possibly beyond.

At the event, Lance Rynearson, a MCM Midland Committee member, home owner and entrepreneur walked the crowd through a real-time tutorial of the app. Developed by a group of four students from the University of Michigan’s Department of Industrial Operations Engineering as part of their senior design project, the app is especially great at navigation, with integration directly pulled from Google Maps.

Lance Rynearson, a MCM Midland Committee member, home owner and entrepreneur walks the crowd through using the new MCMM app.

Alden B. Dow’s work is the most documented of the group, with 114 buildings recorded by Mid-Century Modern Midland, the full list is comprised of work spanning 39 architects and eight designers or engineers.

In order to arrive at the list of homes, a review process was conducted from almost 900 structures submitted by owners and volunteers. Six Mid-Century Modern traits were considered as critical components of mid-century design including: strong horizontal orientation, clean lines that lack ornamentation, integration into the site, a large chimney mass, a repetition of features like windows and roof lines and a combination of quality materials. The homes excluded after the formal review are still held in the committee’s broader database in case more information becomes available.

The Hanson Residence, designed by Alden B. Dow FAIA, 1934

Over 60 volunteers helped make this project come to life, including many of the children of the featured architects. Leslie Feagley, daughter of Jack Feagley, AIA, designed the group’s colorful new logo. The new MCMM logo, designed Leslie Feagley, daughter of Jack Feagley, AIA.

The impact her father had on her eye for design Feagley says was a lasting one. “Whether it was through exposure to my father’s Mid-Century Modern architecture designs or my childhood love and interest in art, I was introduced to the elements of design at an early age,” says Feagley.

The historical references to the city’s architectural heritage run deep. The rights to Midland’s original city logo were purchased by the Alden B. Dow Home and Studio and an updated version has been incorporated into the design of the new website.

“We think it is a great way to promote Midland’s rich significant architectural history and showcase some of the beautiful designs around the city,” says Carol Neff, the Mid-Century Modern Midland project coordinator.

The website and app will function as a living, breathing piece of history with documentation and historical information continuing to be added. Several tours, including the option for complete customization are available on the app for personalized and pre-determined self-guided Mid-Century exploration.

First Methodist Church, designed by Alden B. Dow FAIA, 1947

The launch of this multi-year project surely puts Midland on the map as a nationally-recognized Mid-Century Modern mecca.

To learn more about Mid-Century Modern Midland or to download the free app from the Apple App Store or Google Play, visit the website here.

For all things MCM and an additional feature on Midland’s architecture, you can read the recent feature in Dwell Magazine here.

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Read more articles by Courtney Soule.

Courtney is a longtime Midland resident and enjoys telling the story of the community's evolution. She ran Catalyst Midland as the publication's managing editor from October 2017 through September 2020. Her favorite topics are interesting people, change makers, outdoor recreation and design. Aside from Catalyst, her published work can be found various places including Elephant Journal, Thought Catalog and a number of other websites, papers, menus and the occasional one-liner.