301 Helen, Midland, MI
Designed by Alden B. Dow in 1940.
The Robert R. Dreisbach Residence, Midland, Michigan
Robert R. Dreisbach was a distinguished research chemist with the Dow Chemical Company, retiring as director of its Basic Research Laboratory. He did much of the research leading to the development of Styrene and was responsible for 58 patents dealing with various chemical processes and plastics. Although trained as a chemist, he was also a noted botanist and entomologist.
The home Alden B. Dow designed for Mr. Dreisbach perfectly accommodated his collecting passions. Drawings were prepared in the spring of 1940 and the house was completed in January 1941 at a cost of $14,173.20. It is a modest two-story residence with an exterior of asbestos shingle siding and wood fascia. A brick chimney sits atop an essentially flat hipped roof. Facing the street is a band of four tall windows that projects outward from the plane of the house and is balanced by a row of smaller windows above it.
The floorplan is rectangular in form. The front door opens onto a living room dominated by its wall of windows. Opposite the living room is a smaller dining room with a large window that overlooks the backyard. There is no wall separating the dining room from the adjacent kitchen. The second story of the house contains the master bedroom and dressing room, another bedroom, and bathroom.
The truly unique feature of the home, however, is the Specimen Room on the first floor. Two walls are lined with floor to ceiling enclosed storage cabinets for housing flower and insect collections. Each cabinet is fitted with custom specimen trays for either plants or insects. Detail drawings indicate there are 182 insect trays, 102 flower album compartments, and 10 bottle trays to hold 1,730 bottles. Opposite the Specimen Room is a small bedroom.
Mr. Dreisbach’s personal collection of over 11,000 plant specimens was donated to the University of Michigan, while his collection of more than 250,000 insects, one of the largest private collections in the nation, was gifted to Michigan State University upon his death.