Thanks to Crains Detroit Business for this:
As Algonac celebrates a century of Chris-Craft boats this week, the home of a former company titan is getting ready to change hands.
After nearly three months on the market, the 1926 house of former president and general manager Jay Smith — son of Chris-Craft founder Christopher Columbus Smith — had an offer accepted for close to the $899,999 asking price, Realtor Joan King, with Realty Executives, said. She’s continuing to accept backup offers.
The Tudor-style estate, at 2424 Saint Clair River Drive, Algonac, MI is full of mahogany finishes hand-milled at the Chris-Craft factory.
It has 100 feet of riverfront on the Saint Clair River and a grandfathered boathouse and hoist to access the water.
King said the sellers originally didn’t understand the significance of the house or the company, which had been making wooden boats since 1881 (though at first, under a different name). Under Jay Smith’s leadership, Chris-Craft became known as the world’s largest builder of mahogany powerboats, a company history said.
The last mahogany boat was built in 1971. The centennial represents the 100th anniversary of the company’s manufacturing factory opening in the city.
Chris-Craft is now owned by Winnebago Industries, Inc., which purchased it in 2018. The price wasn’t disclosed, but a marine industry publication, Soundings Trade Only, estimated it was between $420 and $480 million, the Florida paper Business Observer reported at the time.
E. Peter Beauregard Sr., whose Algonac Harbour Club is at the site of the old factory, said the company’s 1958 headquarters move — and the 1970s closing of manufacturing there — “took the heart out of the town.” But he said Algonac remains synonymous with boating.
“It’s the birthplace of powerboating as we know it today,” he said. “We have a famous saying at the marina: Where it all began.”
Beauregard is in negotiations to sell the Harbour Club. He said at 85, he wants to pick the new owners so he can ensure they will “keep it the way it is.”
George Burgess, a member of the Algonac Clay Historical Society’s board of directors, said that as the former factory, the club is special to a lot of boaters.
“To people in recreational boating that own Chris-Craft, it’s kind of like nirvana,” he said. “Boating has always been special here.”
Both compared the mass production of boats that Smith pioneered, and his influence on Algonac, to Henry Ford’s work on the automobile and his influence in Dearborn. Both were pioneers, Beauregard said, and indeed, the home has a bench given as a housewarming gift from Henry and Clara Ford in the yard, with a view of the water.
“Here are these great minds, these pioneers, and they hung out,” King said. “It’s one of those beautiful homes with a bit of a story to share.”
King said since she listed the home, there were a lot of “lookie-loos” who wanted to see the craftsmanship and hoped she would be more a “personal docent” than a Realtor.
But the expected buyers are not that. They’re moving from South Carolina, King said, and have never lived on the water before. She said while they love historic homes, they didn’t have a lot of context for the specific history.
The house has leaded glass windows, a bookcase shaped like a boat and fireplaces with Pewabic tiles and mercury glass. There’s also an antique elevator chair for getting to the top of the stairs. The closets are cedar-lined and large, King said, and the basement doesn’t flood despite the proximity to the water. There are balconies and an attached garage. The three-story house is 4,300 square feet, with six bedrooms and four bathrooms.
Charlene Pike, an archivist on the board of the Chris-Craft Commander Club, said she hopes the new owners intend to be “responsible caretakers” and preserve some of the notable elements of the home.
The city will host an antique and classic boat show this weekend to celebrate Chris-Craft’s centennial there, and Pike said she’s glad to see the heritage commemorated.
“It’s probably not as celebrated as the Fords,” she said. “For Algonac, it’s probably a big thing.”
Beauregard, who lives next door to the house that’s on the market, said the home is significant and beautiful — but certainly from the era it was built, full of dark wood.
“There aren’t too many that appreciate it,” he said of the house and the heritage. “It’s just a nice, old, expensive home. It’s got to appeal to the right person.”