Max Jacob Residence

451 West Kirby on the Wayne State University Campus


Max Jacob, born in Lithuania, migrated to Detroit in 1880 when he was at age 18.  He followed a traditional occupation of Eastern European Jewish immigrant—buying and selling junk.  At one time, apparently, a substantial percentage of the scrap dealers in the Northeast and Midwest were Eastern European Jewish immigrants.  Of course, the federal statistics system did not gather data about religious identities.  I suspect there are few descendants of Eastern European Jews running scrap yards today.

Within a few years, however, Max Jacob established a firm that distributed bottles.  Detroit was the national center of the pharmaceutical industry by 1890.  I assume there was a great demand for bottles here.  I believe that his firm moved into the wholesaling of bottles and packaging materials.  Later they may have produced plastic bottles.  This firm survives to this day as
M. Jacobs & Sons with headquarters in Livonia.  His descendants still own and manage this firm.  I infer they are an important supplier of bottles, tubes and packages for the cosmetic industry.

In 1915, Max Jacobs had this impressive home built for his family in a prestigious Detroit neighborhood.  It is a very large Mediterream style villa.  The Jacob family lived in this residence until 1924.  I infer there were other occupants thereafter.  In 1944, the Detroit Board of Education purchased many of the properties that now make up the sylvan, pleasant main campus of Wayne State University.  Until the 1950s, Wayne was administered by the city’s Board of Education.  In 1956, the State legislature approved laws that transferred control of Wayne to the state.  And then, in 1959, the status of Wayne was changed to resemble that of the University of Michigan and Michigan State.  That is, these universities are controlled by a Board of Regents elected by the voters of Michigan.

Most of the substantial—even elegant—homes on Wayne’s present campus were razed to create space for the new university buildings.  Four of the residences that the Board purchased are still standing and used by Wayne: the Frederick Lindsell residence; the William C. Rands home and the Herman Strasburg residence.

The Max Jacob residence was refurbished in 1977 to serve as classroom and office space for the Department of Art and Art History.  In 1999, the home was remodeled again to serve as the official residence of the president of Wayne State University.  

Builder: Martin N. Burkheiser
Date of Construction: 1915
Architectural Style: Mediterrean villa
Information about this history of historic residences on the Wayne State campus:
Website for Max Jacob’s firm:
Use in 2012: Residence of the president of Wayne State University
City of Detroit Designated Historic District: Not listed
State of Michigan Registry of Historic Sites: Not listed
National Registry of Historic Places: Not listed
Photograph:  Ren Farley; August 4, 2012

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