Freer House

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Still Making Waves: Charles Lang Freer and Sotatsu’s Waves at Matsushima

Sunday, November 19, 2:00 pm at the Detroit Institute of Arts
Youtube Recording HERE
By Frank Feltens, PhD, Curator of Japanese Art, National Museum of Asian Art, Smithsonian Institution

Freer House Garden Fund Grows on WSU Giving Day

Dear Freer House Members & Supporters,
Thank you, thank you, thank you! We tripled our goal for the Freer House Garden Fund during WSU Giving Day on April 13, 2023 and raised $6,150 from 49 donors! This will help us cover the annual costs of maintaining the garden for 2023 and assure the garden's continued health and growth. Thank you to everyone who supports the garden, through a financial contribution, publicly expressed support, or by simply taking a few minutes to visit the garden and enjoy the surroundings.
With many thanks for your interest and support,
-William Colburn
Director, WSU Freer House (& Gardens!)
Please click HERE to enjoy a brief time-lapse video of the Freer House gardens in all four seasons.

Wayne State University Honored Women's History Month at Freer House

On March 23, 2023, the Freer House co-hosted Women of Ferry Street: Then and Now with the Division of Government and Community Affairs at Wayne State University. This Women's History Month program, honored the lives and achievements of six contemporary women of Detroit, including Ann Nicholson, a long-standing Freer House supporter and Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute board member. The event was co-sponsored by BasBlue, a new women's leadership and mentorship club on Ferry Street. 

The 75 invited guests were treated to a program that paid tribute to the remarkable honorees. It also highlighted the significant and diverse history of African American, Jewish, and Caucasian women who established civic, cultural and educational institutions over the course of 130 years on Ferry Street. Important women friends and colleagues of Charles Lang Freer, such as artist and founder of Pewabic Pottery, Mary Chase Perry Stratton, were recognized along with women who were key in the founding and development of the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute. 

No other street in Detroit contains as many sites related to women's history as Ferry Street. We are proud to pay tribute to these women's lives and stories in our continued preservation and education efforts at the Freer House, and we're grateful to have been the location for this special event.

Click Here to read an article on this event from Today@Wayne

Charles Lang Freer, Chinese Art, and the Making of Global Detroit

Online Lecture Held February 23, 2023
Presented by
Ian Shin, PhD, Assistant Professor, Departments of History and American Culture University of Michigan
Co-sponsored by Friends of Asian Arts & Cultures, Detroit Institute of Arts


In the first decades of the 20th century, art collector and philanthropist Charles Lang Freer helped make Michigan, especially Detroit and Ann Arbor, into a global hub for the collecting and study of Chinese art. How did Freer, founder of the Freer Gallery of Art (National Museum of Asian Art, Smithsonian), connect Detroit with people, institutions, and artworks across both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans? And how did these cultural networks relate to and amplify the rising political and economic power of the United States in the early 20th century?

Ian Shin, Assistant Professor of History and American Culture, University of Michigan, discussed how Freer's genuine desire to learn about and care for Chinese art and antiquities positioned Michigan in the vanguard of what foreign policymakers today call "America's Pacific Century." 

A House and its History

Built by industrialist and art collector, Charles Lang Freer, in 1892; the Freer House is a masterpiece of American shingle-style architecture and the birthplace of the Freer Gallery of Art (NMAA, Smithsonian) in Washington D.C. As an early champion of American, Asian, and Middle Eastern art, Freer's legacy of multi-culturalism is celebrated in the house's mission and programming today. These bonds to our nation's capital and much of the world make the Freer House an ambassador of Detroit's unique cultural heritage.

The Freer House is also recognized for its role in child and family development. In 1920, the Freer House became the home of the Merrill-Palmer Institute, which evolved into the renowned Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute (MPSI). Today, the Freer House is the location for MPSI's faculty offices and meeting room facilities.

Although the Freer House's structure and finishes have evolved to suit institutional needs, much of its original grandeur and architectural character remain. The Freer House is open periodically to the public for lectures, receptions, exhibits, and guided tours. Please visit our Events page for more information on how to plan your visit.  

Click HERE to take a virtual tour of the Main Hall of the Freer House! Our sincere thanks to John Boros and Flythroo for producing this 3D tour!

The Freer House Garden Revitalization project was a 6 year endeavor with the goal of creating a garden that revitalizes the garden that Freer once had.  Over the course of these 6 years and with the support of our many generous donors, we were successfully able to complete the garden in the summer of 2018.  The garden has been dedicated in honor of Phebe Goldstein and in memory of Denise Little. Located on the west side of the house, the courtyard garden is open daily to the public.

Click HERE to view a short video documenting the garden transformation process created by Freer House volunteer, Natalie Miller.

During Freer's life, he and his guests could wander from the Main Hall and be transported into the exotic Peacock Room. The Peacock Room was originally decorated by James McNeill Whistler in England. Freer purchased the room and had it installed in his former Carriage House. Upon Freer's death, the Peacock Room was once again dismantled and reinstalled at the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., where it is on permanent display. Please visit our History page for more information and resources on this artistic treasure. 

Co-founder of the Friends of the Freer House and longtime Board of Visitors member of MPSI, Phebe Goldstein, sadly passed away in January 2020. Click HERE to read more about this extraordinary friend and supporter of the Freer House. 

Freer scholar, Freer House Board Member, and longtime friend to the Freer House, Dr. Thomas W. Brunk, sadly passed away in late 2018. Click HERE to read more about this esteemed scholar and the vital role he played in both documenting and helping to preserve the historic Freer House.

The Freer House membership organization works to preserve the Freer House through public events, tours, and fundraising for restoration. Please visit our Membership page to begin a rewarding role in historic preservation today!   

Visiting Freer House

The Freer House is the location for Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute faculty offices and meeting rooms. The Freer House is open periodically to the public for lectures, receptions, exhibits, and guided tours.

Generally, two Freer House events are held annually in the Spring and Fall. Admission for in-person events is $15 for general admission and $10 for Freer House members and students. More details regarding upcoming events are posted to this page as plans solidify.

Click HERE to take a virtual tour of the Main Hall of the Freer House. Our sincere thanks to John Boros and Flythroo for producing this 3D tour!

CLICK HERE to join our e-mail list. Scroll down and select "Historic Freer House". We do not share our lists.

Freer House Courtyard Garden, Spring 2021