Adding machines and architecture


View of the front of the Mansion from the bottom of the hill.

What do these two things have in common? In 1886, Mr. Dorr Eugene Felt invented the Comptometer, the precursor to the modern-day adding machine. Mr. Felt’s invention was so successful that he soon became a millionaire. Felt used part of his riches to build a summer home  for his family on the shores of Lake Michigan in southwest Michigan. The beautiful 25-room  “cottage” featured stunning architectural details and every modern convenience. Sadly, Mrs. Felt died shortly after the home was completed, and Mr. Felt shortly after that. The home and grounds eventually took on a storied history, being sold to a seminary, then a prison, and finally, the state police, with the beautiful mansion crumbling further and further into ruin. Eventually the building and grounds became unused, vandalized and in disrepair, not unlike Felt’s dreams of happy family summers on the shores of Lake Michigan. Today, restoration groups have restored the mansion to its 1929 splendor. The mansion and grounds are open for tours and receptions.

I first met the Felt Mansion in the summer of 1971, with a group of friends who were having  a beach party on the grounds of the then St. Augustine’s Seminary. Though, at the time I didn’t know the mansion existed, as a large school building had been added between the path to the beach and the mansion, obscuring the home  from view. I met the mansion again in about 2012 on a trip to Saugatuck to relieve the beach party years, and discovered the mansion by accident looking for my old haunts. The dormitory had been demolished, leaving a clear view of the mansion, then under restoration. I returned to the mansion again last summer to tour the completed restoration.

The structure is now beautifully restored, but modern additions of a catering kitchen and multiple display cases  of Felt’s Comptometer caused me to limit my photos to the architectural details and the exterior, capturing the details most in keeping with the original 1929 mansion.

© Huffygirl 2015

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8 thoughts on “Adding machines and architecture

  1. It’s great that this mansion has been restored to its old splendor. It does look beautiful.
    It is interesting how someone who left his home at age 14 to work in a machine shop could become so successful. It is sad though that Mrs.Felt and Mr. Felt died so soon after the “cottage” was completed. They had four daughters.
    “Dorr Eugene Felt died of a stroke on August 7, 1930, having amassed some 46 domestic and 25 foreign patents, virtually all related to his beloved Comptometer.”
    I’d say, this is quite an achievement!
    How exciting, Donna, that you have been back to the place after its restoration and were able to take some pictures. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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