Owner revives historic Detroit Kresge mansion

Image 1 of 12

Built in 1915 for pharmaceutical executive William Kirn, this English style mansion is one of many grand homes in Detroit's Arden Park-East Boston Edison District. 

It is often referred to as the Kresge Mansion because Stanley Kresge. the former chairman of the Kresge company, bought the estate in 1934. He lived here with his family for four decades. It was later purchased by Wayne State Professor Dr. Robert Rubyon and his wife.

Today, Paddy Lynch is the proud owner of 74 Arden Park. He was 27 when he purchased the 10,000 square-foot home in 2011 for just $125,000. 

FOX 2: "Were you looking for this house or did this house find you?"

"A little bit of both," he said. "I looked at various houses and wasn't necessarily in love with any of them and even though it wasn't viewable because the exterior was so overgrown, when I walked inside, you know, love is blind."

A third generation funeral director, Paddy's family owns and operates seven Lynch and Sons Funeral Homes in metro Detroit.

When he's not helping families in their time of grief and loss, he's opening his home to friends, often hosting fundraisers for charitable groups close to his heart including the annual Rent Party for South Oakland Shelter, a jazzy affair featuring some of Detroit's favorite artists. 

"It's been mostly a place of joy and comradery," Lynch said.

A former fullback who played for Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice High School and Boston College, Lynch called on his best friend from gridiron days to tackle the first major phase of renovation. 

"We lived on the top floor of the old servant's quarters for a year," he said. "We put mattresses on the floor and started our work from the top floor down.

"We went room by room," he said. "I got another friend who was a nurse at Henry Ford (Hospital). She moved into the carriage house and little by little we chipped away at it." 

Lynch is only the fourth owner in the home's 103-year history.

"It was never stripped or flipped or anything like that so it's got all of the original chandeliers, sconces, mantles & hardware," he said.

Even the velvet drapes in the dining room date back to the 1930s.

"Some friends and I took them down and went out in the driveway and shook them out and put them back up," Lynch said. "And then sort of built the color palette of the room off the original drapes." 

A collector of religious art, Lynch has furnished the main rooms with family pieces and eclectic items found at estate sales. His mother and sister are both opera singers who perform at Michigan Opera Theatre, have also been a big influence as the house has evolved.

"This is the original plate warmer in the kitchen," Lynch said. "It still works."

With the exception of a modern day gas stove and refrigerator, the original kitchen remains intact.

"It is an original farm sink, I would never want to replace this one," he said.

A Carrera marble icebox from back in the day now serves as dry storage.

"Through a doorway is the butler's pantry which would have serviced the dining room," Lynch said. "This is the original German nickel sink - the precursor to stainless steel."

The solarium features a tulip wood ceiling, old world craftsmen using wet plaster and hemp rope created the ornate vineyard themed scrollwork.

"At the top of the staircase is the library," he said. "The most interesting thing about this room is that it was Stanley Kresge’ s personal home office. This is the one room in the house where he would find solitude."

The ballroom in the home's lower level presented a major renovation challenge because of extensive water damage. The floor and subfloor had to be ripped out and replaced.

"There's all these original oriental frescos, we wanted to salvage as much as we could so we put in wainscoting and a drink rail and were able to save all of the artwork above that," he said.

And check out the fountain on the wall.

"Supposedly they would have had booze flowing during prohibition now we just have water unfortunately," he quipped.

Much of the pressing restoration work is now behind him -- but Lynch admits with a house like this there will always be something left to do. There's no question it is in good hands.

"The beautiful thing about these houses is if you take care of them, you're the caretaker (and) they'll outlive you," he said. "You have to preserve it for the next generation."