2017-12-09 / Top News

Mussers Eye Historic Ann Arbor Estate as Winter Home

The historic Inglis House in Ann Arbor has six bedrooms and 5.4 baths. (Photographs courtesy of Susan Campbell Johnson, Signature Sotheby's International Realty)The historic Inglis House in Ann Arbor has six bedrooms and 5.4 baths. (Photographs courtesy of Susan Campbell Johnson, Signature Sotheby's International Realty)By Gary Heinlein

Dan and Marlee Musser III are in the process of buying Inglis House, a historic Ann Arbor mansion owned by the University of Michigan since the 1950s, to use as a wintertime home for their family.

If the deal goes through and wins approval from the Ann Arbor City Council, the couple and their six children will relocate from a home in Portland, Oregon, where, for six winters, they have lived when Grand Hotel is closed. The house, on Highland Road off Geddes Avenue, has been listed at $2.9 million and includes about half the nine-acre estate surrounding it.

A view of the home from the back, showing the garage.A view of the home from the back, showing the garage.City council approval is necessary because neighbors of the 90-year-old mansion, built for an early 20th century industrialist, have initiated a state process that would create an Inglis House Historic District and  would require its new owner to maintain it in a way to complies with historic preservation requirements. Mr. Musser said he has negotiated deed restrictions with the neighbors he hopes are acceptable to the council and under which he agrees to preserve the historic integrity of the estate. While it needs some improvements, he said, the house has been maintained quite well by the university.

“It’s in great shape,” he said. “The kitchen is kind of industrial, but I grew up with a hotel kitchen, so I like it.”

The 3.5-story stone mansion is classified as an example of French Eclectic architecture. It’s surrounded by terraces and formal and informal gardens on hilly, wooded land sloping toward the Huron River. On the grounds are a stone gardeners cottage, a wood-framed shop with an attached greenhouse, a coldhouse, and two garden sheds.

Bookshelves and fireplace highlight this gathering area.Bookshelves and fireplace highlight this gathering area.For decades, the university used the mansion, near its Nichols Arboretum, as a conference center and guesthouse. Distinguished guests who have stayed there include the Dalai Lama, medical researcher Jonas Salk, and ex-President Gerald Ford, a University of Michigan graduate. The Mussers knew of the house because Marlee’s father, Paul Brown, was among members of the university’s Board of Regents, who also had stayed there with family members while in town for meetings and board functions.

“She spent a lot of nights there,” Mr. Musser said.

A University of Michigan graduate, Mr. Brown served on the Board of Regents for 24 years, 1971 through 1994.

The regents decided earlier this year to put the house on the market. The original asking price for the entire nine-acre estate was $5.9 million, but the university later trimmed the size of the parcel being sold with the house to make it more saleable. The university now will retain ownership of the northern 4.6 acres of the property adjoining the arboretum.

Neighbors had started the historic designation process when the entire nine-acre estate was on the market, out of concern the sizeable tract might be purchased, divided up, and developed in a way that would be at odds with the mansion’s historic significance and its surroundings.

Mr. Musser said the couple became interested in buying the mansion following the change in sales terms, which ensures the estate will be preserved as it is now. He said they had been hoping to return to Michigan as their winter place, especially for their younger children, and were looking for a suitable home to purchase. At Inglis House, they would not be far from the Ann Arbor home of Mr. Brown and his wife, Margaret, who are former Petoskey residents.

The mansion was built in 1927 for industrialist James Inglis and his wife, Elizabeth. When Mr. Inglis died at 85 in 1950, his will provided for the house to be given to the University of Michigan after Mrs. Inglis’ death, but she instead gave it to the university in 1951 and moved to Kalamazoo with her daughter, according to research findings filed in July with Michigan’s State Historic Preservation Office as part of the historic district application.

Gardens are fortified by greenhouse and cold house on the property. The Ann Arbor VA hospital is seen in the background.Gardens are fortified by greenhouse and cold house on the property. The Ann Arbor VA hospital is seen in the background.

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