Meadow Brook Hall to add $2.7M Visitor Center to historic estate

Myesha Johnson
The Detroit News

Rochester — Meadow Brook Hall on the campus of Oakland University announced Tuesday it will start a $2.7 million expansion next year to add more space for visitors.

The project entails the addition of a 4,800-square-foot Visitor Center that will include a new entrance to the estate, a 88,000-square-foot historical landmark built in the 1920s. Rerouting the entrance will provide a new first look at the historic home.

A rendering of Visitor Center for Meadow Brook Hall in Rochester, Michigan.

“It is difficult to overstate how impactful the new Visitor Center will be for the future of Meadow Brook Hall,” Bill Matt, the hall's director, said in a statement. “This project will energize our efforts and establish Meadow Brook’s future as a premier destination for families, couples and people of all ages."

Constructed between 1926-29, Meadow Brook Hall is the fourth largest historic home in the United States and was named a historical landmark in 2012. It was built by Matilda Dodge Wilson, an automotive aristocrat and widow of auto pioneer John Dodge. Dodge Wilson and her second husband, Alfred Wilson, founded Oakland University.

The estate is an example of Tudor-revival style architecture in America. It was the center of a country estate that included 1,500 acres, with farm buildings, recreational facilities, several residences and formal gardens.

HopkinsBurns Design Studio, an Ann Arbor-based architecture firm that specializes in historic preservation for properties, has been selected to design the new addition. Its construction will be managed by Frank Rewold & Sons, a Rochester-based company. Frank Rewold was Matilda Dodge Wilson’s personal handyman and built and repaired many of the structures at Meadow Brook and Oakland University.

"The new Visitor Center project has been under discussion for several years and speaks to the remarkable growth and activity we have seen at Meadow Brook recently," Shannon O'Berski, the hall's external relations director, said in an email.

Last year, Meadow Brook celebrated its 50th year as a historic house museum, cultural center, and events and wedding venue. The hall is known particularly for its tours and community events such as the annual Holiday Walk and, new in 2021, the outdoor light show Winter Wonder Lights.

The new center will be added behind the estate's garages in an effort to maintain the historic integrity of the original buildings. With the historic space and new addition, the center will total 4,800 square feet.

The center will feature interactive exhibitions, a gallery space, multimedia theater, room for educational programs and versatile spaces to expand and enhance tours, events and other community experiences.

Beyond a Welcome Gateway to greet guests, an open-air plaza and patio for gathering, and a learning center for educational programs are planned.

Construction for the $2.7 million project will begin in 2023 and a campaign is underway that has raised to date a quarter of the overall $2 million goal, according to Oakland University officials. The hall relies on touring, special events and facility rental revenue for its preservation funding.