Stories of Meadow Brook stables to be told in series on servants’ lives

By: Linda Shepard | Rochester Post | Published January 30, 2018

ROCHESTER HILLS — Meadow Brook Hall was more than an elegant home — it was also a working horse farm that bred hundreds of horses, including a member of the International Saddlebred Hall of Fame, grand champion Wing Commander.

“He was such a great horse,” MBH Director of Curatorial Services Madelyn Rzadkowolski said about Wing Commander. “Life magazine said he was the greatest show horse of 1950. He raced and was well-known for having a great stride.”

Almost 70 MBH farm staffers tended to Wing Commander and the horses of Dodge Stables, Rzadkowolski said. Their story will be told during an upcoming series of MBH events titled “A Servant’s Life.”

“Dodge Stables was a huge deal,” Rzadkowolski said. “Frances Dodge had at least 100 horses of her own.” Frances Dodge, the daughter of John and Matilda Dodge, was an internationally known horsewoman.

“A Servant’s Life” gives visitors insight into the daily lives of the staff who lived and worked at MBH. The series was inspired by the popular television show “Downton Abbey.”

Events will include a living history tour featuring tea and scones in the servants’ dining room, and several lectures that include lunch in the elegant Christopher Wren dining room.

The series is an annual program at MBH.

“We change the presentation every year,” said Shannon O’Berski, MBH marketing and communications manager. “So it is always a little different.”

A National Historic Landmark, Meadow Brook Hall is the historic home built by Matilda Dodge Wilson, widow of auto pioneer John Dodge, and her second husband, Alfred Wilson.

Constructed between 1926 and 1929, the Tudor-revival-style Meadow Brook Hall is renowned for its craftsmanship, architectural detailing and grand scale of 88,000 square feet.

The hall was the center of a country estate that included 1,500 acres, farm buildings, recreational facilities, several residences and formal gardens, and it currently sits on the campus of Oakland University, located off of Adams Road, south of Walton Boulevard.

In addition to “A Servant’s Life,” the hall will offer an elegant Valentine’s Day event Feb. 10 that will include a tour, dinner and strolling violinists.

“A Servant’s Life” events will be held between Feb. 10 and 25. Reservations are required for all events, and tickets are limited. To purchase tickets or view a full schedule of events, visit meadowbrookhall.org or call (248) 364-6252.