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Alden B. Dow in Saginaw

“Modernistic Home to be Built Here: A permit was issued Tuesday by City Building Inspector Faulman for construction of a concrete, steel and glass modernistic home at 415 South Jefferson avenue by Miss Mary E. Dow, former head of the East Side public library, now Hoyt library. The modernistic dwelling, designed by Alden B. Dow of Midland, is estimated to cost $17,000. The contractor is W.R. Collinson of Midland. Work is expected to start at once. The location is on the lot immediately to the south of First Congregational church. 


The two-story dwelling, will be 49 x 74 feet in size. It will have six rooms, including a living room that extends the full two-story height of the building.” 

-The Saginaw Daily News, March 4, 1936. 


Alden B. Dow. Courtesy of the Alden B. Dow Home and Studio.

Midland architect Alden B. Dow’s accomplishments were many.  While his life and practice were firmly centered in Midland, he had numerous connections and ties to Saginaw. 


While still completing his studies at Columbia University, he designed the Midland County Club. Not yet registered as an architect, the commission was done in conjunction with the prominent Saginaw firm of Frantz and Spence. When the design was honored in 1935 by inclusion in an exhibit in London, the Saginaw paper reported: “Alden B. Dow of Midland was associated with Mr. Frantz and Mr. Spence in designing the club.”  The writer proclaimed “The Midland club, one of the outstanding buildings of the state, was built in 1931. (The Saginaw Sunday News, February 17, 1935). 


Dow continued his association with Frantz & Spence for about a year and a half. He left in 1933 to study with Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin – Wright’s home in Spring Green, Wisconsin, where Wright was establishing a fellowship. 


Returning to Midland in 1934, he established his own practice.  However, this did not sever his ties with Saginaw. He frequently lectured to organizations in Saginaw. In 1936 the Saginaw Daily News reported: 


“Alden Dow, the Midland architect, will speak before the Rotary club Wednesday. Designer of many modernistic homes in Midland, Mr. Dow will discuss the modernistic home. The program is in charge of Robert B. Frantz." 


Mary Dow Home

In that same year, he designed a home at 415 S. Jefferson Avenue for Mary Dow, his aunt. Located immediately to the south of First Congregational Church, the house reflected his client’s desire for “a small house with big rooms.” Taking advantage of a sloping site, the architect organized the residence on three levels. He maximized privacy by careful placement of windows, use of glass blocks and positioning planter boxes to screen views. The garage is placed prominently on the front of the house. Accessed by doors from the master bedroom and a small stairway near the front entrance, the garage roof served as an outdoor living area - a contemporary equivalent of Miss Dow’s neighbors’ front porches. When the home was completed, Mary Dow opened her home to her church - Jefferson Avenue M.E. - Home and Foreign Missionary Society. The Saginaw News reported: ‘It’s perfectly beautiful,’ was the general comment of the Jefferson Avenue M.E. Home and Foreign Missionary Society members when they gathered Friday afternoon to inspect the new modernistic home of Miss Mary E. Dow.  


Mary Dow Home, South. Fireplace inside Dow Home.

After Mary Dow’s death, the home was purchased by First Congregational Church, and in 1957, Frantz and Spence designed an addition joining it with the church. While the connecting wing covers the house’s original entrance, the interior and much of the exterior are intact.  


Dow designed a number of other residences in Saginaw. In the early 1960s, he had another commission on South Jefferson Avenue – a new building for the Saginaw YWCA. 


Founded in 1912, by the late 1950s the Saginaw YWCA’s 1912 home in the 200 block of South Jefferson was inadequate. The organization purchased a new site in the 600 block of South Jefferson and commissioned Alden B. Dow to design a new building. Dow created a design that provided two entrances - a secluded planted terrace that forms a pedestrian-oriented entrance from South Jefferson and an entrance facing the Baum Street parking lot. The interior was organized around an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The exterior is faced with brick components painted white. Along the roof line are suspended concrete planting boxes. The new building was dedicated on April 17, 1966.  

The YWCA ceased operation in December of 1982. Since 1995 the building has been the home of the Wolverine State Missionary Baptist Center. The space formerly occupied by the swimming pool was converted into a central worship space and an additional entrance was added from Jefferson Avenue.  


Dow’s friendships and relationships extended beyond his Saginaw commissions. He was frequently involved in exhibits at the Saginaw Museum – now the Saginaw Art Museum. In conjunction with the institution’s fall 1961 exhibit, Visit to Japan, he screened one of his films in the museum’s garden.  


We could continue on about Mr. Dow’s Saginaw friendships, the Saginaw architects who worked for him or even delve into summers at his cottage at Higgins Lake with Saginaw residents as neighbors; however, we need to leave time for you to make this week’s recipe.  

At this point, we suggest you prepare this week’s recipe. After completing it, you can nibble at – we suggest fresh asparagus—and hollandaise sauce while you peruse these websites: 


This link will take you to a biography of Alden B. Dow: 


For images of the now demolished Midland Country Club: 


This link will take you historic photographs of the Mary Dow Home: 


Or another option - prepare the sauce in advance and take time to use these sites to brush up on your Alden B. Dow history. When your guests arrive, follow Mr. Dow’s serving advice – the sauce need not be hot. However, the vegetables do need to be hot. This should leave ample time for you and your guests to have a wonderful conversation about Mr. Dow, his architecture and his influence and contributions to Saginaw’s architecture.  


Note: The descriptions of the Mary Dow Home and the YWCA were written for a South Jefferson Avenue Walking Tour. 


The Recipe: Alden B. Dow’s Hollandaise Sauce 


This recipe was contributed by Alden B. Dow to Masterpieces from the Saginaw Art Museum, a cookbook, published by the Saginaw Art Museum in 1972. 


1  1/2 sticks of lightly salted butter, well softened at room temperature 

2 T. lemon juice  

Generous dash of cayenne pepper 

5 egg yolks 


Put 5 egg yolks in a medium sized glass bowl. Beat lightly with a wire whisk. Add 2 T. of lemon juice, dash of cayenne pepper, and mix well. 


Put 3 T. of the softened butter into a double boiler over a small amount of hot (but not boiling) water. Water must not touch bottom of pan containing butter. If water should boil, remove upper pan and set in cool water for a moment. 


From here on stir without stopping with a rubber spatula. 


Add lemon and egg yolk mixture [slowly] and [then] remainder of butter gradually, about 2 T. at a time. Be sure butter is melted before additional amount is added. 


Mixture must be stirred constantly until sufficiently thick. 


Remove from stove. Empty hot water from bottom of double boiler. Replace with small amount of lukewarm water. If covered, the sauce will keep perhaps an hour over the warm water with occasional stirring. If left uncovered, it may form a scum. 


This sauce can be made ahead and stored in refrigerator and reheated over a small amount of warm water with occasional stirring. 


Hollandaise sauce does not have to be hot to be good as long as the vegetable served with it is hot. 

In the event of curdling, add about 2 T. of boiling water and beat in with a wire whisk. The above 5 egg yolk recipe makes enough to serve broccoli or asparagus to 4 people. 


Alden B. Dow  




The CTK having read Mr. Dow’s specifications for his Aunt’s home, finds that Mr. Dow’s precision and attention are equally evident both in directions to builders and home cooks. However, we will note that Mr. Dow is much more generous with advice for remediating a mistake made by cooks than builders. 


Yet another note: The CTK needed to make two batches. The CTK’s first attempt was a textbook example of an attempt to make Hollandaise in haste. Even Mr. Dow’s advice of adding hot water and beating it with a whisk could not save it.  

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