Historic Detroit

Every building in Detroit has a story — we're here to share it

Charles Warren Pickell House (120 Virginia Park)

The Charles Warren Pickell House was built in 1895 for a prominent and widely known insurance agent. Designed in the Colonial Revival style and done by contractors Tuller & Van Husan, it is one of the older surviving houses in the Virginia Park neighborhood.

Pickell was born in New York and moved to Michigan at an early age. He had graduated from Michigan State Normal College in Ypsilanti, Mich., in 1879. After college, he principal of the Public Schools at Middleville and Bronson, Mich., until 1881.

In 1884, he became superintendent of schools in Ludington, Mich., a position he held for four years. From 1888 to 1891, he was district manager of the Penn Mutual Life Insurance Co. in Grand Rapids, Mich. In 1891, he moved to Detroit and served as associate manager of the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co., and became its general manager a few months later.

Pickell wrote more than $15 million worth of insurance during his lifetime. He also penned several books, including "Plain Hints" (known as "the insurance men's bible."

His home was one of three built on the first block of Virginia Park by Tuller & Van Husan. Lew Tuller would go on to become one of Detroit's most prominent hoteliers with four properties downtown. Its estimated cost was $18,000.

The National Register of Historic Places nomination form notes the home's central feature "is the large Colonial Revival three-quarter circular porch with Ionic columns. The wooden portico has a modillioned cornice, leaded glass sidelights surrounded by thin fluted pilasters, and a transom window above the door surround the entranceway.

"Every fourth course of brick on the first story is recessed, creating a rusticated appearance. The two sash windows per bay share a common stone sill. Quoins of brick and a central Paladian window arrangement accentuate the upper story. A gable with a porthole-type window intersects with the flat-topped hipped roof over each of the end bays. A denticulated cornice caps the facade, and a dormer with Adamesque detailing and a swan's neck pediment projects over the central bay."