Douglas Dean Loree became a kind of grand old man among Ann Arbor architects, having trained many young local architects in his practice. Among these aspiring students were Tex Colvin, Dick Robinson, John Jickling, Jim Wong, Bill Hobbs, Art Lindauer and David Osler. Each of these men went on to play significant roles in the area, with the formation of firms like Colvin, Robinson & Wright, Hobbs & Black, James P. Wong & Associates, and David Osler & Associates.
Loree obtained B.A. and M.A. degrees in architecture from the University of Michigan in 1925 and 1926. After travel and study in Europe, he returned to work with renowned architect Eliel Saarinen (who had been teaching at the university from 1923 to 1925) in his office at Cranbrook, in Bloomfield Hills.
Douglas Loree’s Ann Arbor office produced a wide variety of projects (according to the obituary—he passed away in 1979—in the Ann Arbor News) including “several luxury homes in Barton Hills, the Inglis Residence in Ann Arbor together with the University of Michigan Golf Club House, University of Michigan Printing Bldg., North Campus, Fire Station on Stadium Blvd., Alpha Phi, Collegiate Sorosis House and Delta Gamma Sorority Houses.” The Delta Gamma Sorority House at 1800 Washtenaw Avenue, for example, was completed in collaboration with David Osler in 1958. It was a modern building designed to house 70 women in a 27,300 square foot plan. The exterior was clothed in Chicago common brick, the builder was Kenneth Owens and interior decoration was provided by Virginia D. Biggers. Upon the completion of this project, David Osler started his own firm.
Some of his other projects and activities attest to Loree’s involvement with the city leaders. He was the supervising architect for Banfield and Cumming, the Cleveland-based designers of the new bus station at 116 West Huron Street. Its Art Deco features of Indiana limestone, polished black marble, stainless steel detailing and neon sign have delighted citizens since 1940. In 1952 he converted a bowling alley into a grocery store at 316-320 East Huron Street. In 1952-1954, he remodeled a vacant garage at 1915-1917 Huron Street for the Knights of Columbus, using glass blocks. He was associated with the plan for a pocket shopping center (a supermarket and four stores) on East Stadium west of the Lamp Post Motel in 1961, though this project, completed later, has also been credited to James Wong.
In 1972, Douglas Loree was involved with the city housing board as its inspector for federal public housing projects. He reported that inferior work was being done at several locations in the city, but he was unable to have any influence over correcting the problems he found. It meant, however, that his name was entangled with the lawsuit against the Flint, Michigan contractor when the Housing Panel sued the contractor for overpayments.
Douglas Loree’s influence, longevity and productive career notwithstanding, the details about him are elusive. Those familiar with the original University of Michigan Golf Club House will remember it as being an elegant, nicely proportioned and well-sited building. His fire station on Stadium at the intersection of Stadium and Packard is also a quietly elegant building, surprisingly unforgettable though not in any way flamboyant. He continues to be a good teacher.
By Jeffrey E. Welch
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