John J. Bagley moved to Detroit as a teenage youth in 1846 or 1847 and went to work for a local firm that produced and sold chewing tobacco. In the late Nineteenth Century, Detroit emerged as a major tobacco production center because of the high quality of that crop grown across the Detroit River in southern Ontario. John Bagley took over the firm that had employed him and established the prosperous Mayflower Tobacco Company. He also devoted himself to public service and politics, serving on the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners and on Detroit Common Council. In 1872 and 1874, he was elected Governor of Michigan. He was also a builder, real estate broker and founded an insurance company in Detroit. John J. Bagley died in 1881 and was a philanthropist, giving Detroit an elegant fountain to provide the public with fresh, clean water in an era when the public water lines did not reach all neighborhoods.. This is the maginficant Bagley Memorial Fountain that was recently refurbished and placed in Cadillac Square.
John H. Bagley was John J. Bagley's son, born in 1860. He was educated in the Detroit schools and, I infer, followed the same pursuits as his father. In 1883, he became president of his father's Mayflower Tobacco Company. He later became chairman of the Bagley Land Company. He was also active in civic affairs and politics and had an interest in the history of Michigan. John N. Bagley was one of a large number of prominent Detroit entrepreneurs who met on January 5, 1892 to establish the Detroit Chamber of Commerce. He was a Michigan delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1908, the convention that met in Chicago and nominated the successful candidate, William Howard Taft, from Cincinatti.. Bagley was also one of the founders of "The Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Michigan." This organization met annually on May 7 to commemorate the date when Ottawa Chief Pontiac attacked the British during their occupation of Detroit.
The Bagley Memorial Fountain is the only structure in Detroit designed by Henry Hobson Richardson, who may be the most outstanding American architect of the late Nineteenth Century. John N. Bagley had the house you see constructed in 1889. It is, to a considerable degree, in the Richardsonian style. It is a two-and-one-half story red brick and sandstone home. You note the prominent roof with its distinctive gable. There is a three-story conical tower with bay windows to your right as you face this home. You may observe the very sharp point on the appealing conical tower. There is an attractive arched entryway for this home. I believe that the sculpture work for the entry way was done by Julius Melchers who was then well into his career as one of the city's most accomplished sculptors.
John N. Bagley died in 1929. I do not know if he lived in this home until his death or whether his heirs retained this home. This home is one of many structures listed on the East Jefferson Avenue Residential Thematic Resource with the National Register of Historic Places.
Architects: Rogers and MacFarlane
Date of Construction: 1889
Architectural style: A Richardson Romanesque style with a French Renaissance Revival Design
Sculptor for Stone Entrance: Julius Melchers
City of Detroit Designated Historic District: Not listed
State of Michigan Register of Historic Sites: Listed P25, 021
State of Michigan Historical Marker: None visible
National Register of Historic Places: Listed October 9, 1985, Building # 85002934
Photograph: Ren Farley, April 21, 2008
Description prepared: February 17, 2009
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