Charles & Mary (Kempf) Penhaligen House

People: Alden B. Dow

Date: 1941

City: Midland

Charles & Mary (Kempf) Penhaligen House, Alden B. Dow, 1941. Michigan State Historic Preservation Office File Photo.

The Charles and Mary (Kempf) Penhaligen House is among the first houses both designed by Alden B. Dow and constructed by the Alden Dow Building Company. While a modest house, it serves as a good example of a thoughtfully and carefully designed residence.

During the spring of 1941 Dow prepared a rendering of a proposed home for Charles and Mary Penhaligen. In the margin of the sketch Dow had penciled the estimated costs, apparently done while talking with his clients. An earlier drawing was for a two-story structure, larger and more costly that the Penhaligens desired. The estimated coast of the accepted plan amounted to $15,659. As the plans developed some of the expected costs increased. The contract, signed with the Alden Dow Building Company on June 16, 1941, identified the final cost as $19,365, about twice the average price for a typical Michigan residence in the 1940s.

The broad horizontal lines of the house, capped with a low, hipped roof, and the low brick wall in front of it emphasize its solid contact with the site. As in his other designs, Dow carefully placed the public areas of the home separate from the private areas.

The living room and dining room form one flowing space, the most prominent feature of which is the broad range of windows looking south onto the Midland Country Club golf course.

Mr. Penhaligen sold the house to Richard Payne in 1990. Mr. Payne expanded the master bathroom and bedroom, as well as transformed the sun porch into a glass-walled sitting room, which also incorporated the former maid’s quarters. The changes made by Mr. Payne are a fine example of how to change a home to fit modern lifestyles, yet retain the integrity of the architect’s vision. The house was sold to its current owners in 2000, and listed in the National Register of Historic Places in June 2004 as part of the Residential Architecture of Alden B. Dow in Midland, Michigan, 1939-1941 Multiple Property Registration.