Norm and Ilene consider themselves fortunate to be able to live in the historic Judge Wilson House. The large Greek Revival-style structure is located in the center of Ann Arbor. Its location is ideal—in easy walking distance to the downtown, the University of Michigan campus, Kerrytown shopping district with Zingerman’s Deli, and the Huron River.
The Tylers are especially pleased to live in this distinguished historic residence. Various books describe the Judge Robert S. Wilson House (also known as the Wilson-Wahr House) as “outstanding,” a “splendid specimen,” “the finest example of Greek Revival in the state,” and “Ann Arbor’s most famous house.” Another book recognized “the Wilson-Wahr house in Ann Arbor as one of the excellent few that remain in anything approaching mint condition.” One author gushed that “a more nearly perfect example of an Ionic order Greek-temple house portico would be hard to find,” and another said that in Michigan this was “the one in which Greek proportion and detail were followed most strictly.” The Judge Wilson House was referred to by architectural historian Rexford Newcomb as “…one of the finest Greek Revival houses in America.” Emil Lorch, former president of the Michigan Historical Association, wrote, “This is one of the most perfect houses of its type and must by all means be preserved.” The Judge Wilson House was listed on the Michigan Register of Historic Places in 1958 and in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.
In 2014, the Tylers were particularly intrigued with the design of their house. They researched the origin of the design for their house through trips to New York State, London, and Athens. At the conclusion of their months-long odyssey, in Athens they found the site of the Temple of Artemis Agrotera, documented in the 18th century and shown to be the antecedent for the design of the house, with its correct Grecian detailing and proportions.
With the primary portion of the house built in 1843, Judge Wilson owned the house for a short time; later families were more tied to the Ann Arbor community. The Welles family owned it for the remainder of the nineteenth century, and the Wahr-Sallade family for all of the twentieth century and more. We are not likely to have it in our family for the entire twenty-first century, but we now respect more than ever the time we have with it. After almost two decades living in the Wilson House, it has been a wonderful home for two preservation architects. We love it, and plan to stay as long as we can and continue sharing its stories.
A work of architecture is more than its construction, its design, or its style. Over time, it develops its own spirit of place—what Greeks refer to as its “temenos.” There is something about classical architecture that has a continuing effect on our sensibilities. Perhaps it is because Greek Revival architecture so purely represents the roots of western civilization.