We ask: How did this iconic American
address plaque style come about?
Our friends at Crestview Doors have introduced a new product — vintage style Ranchero address plaques and number kits. Golly, during my Wonderbread years growing up in Southern California — in Oceanside, Carlsbad, Vista — these rustic address plaques were everywhere on the houses all around me. Crestview sent me a complete write-up detailing how they developed this new product — it’s interesting — and they also would love to hear from Retro Renovation readers to see if anyone really knows the genesis of this classic design, real Americana. Read on –>
David Erwin, co-owner of Crestview writes:
Maybe you noticed the Ranchero Number Plate on the Crestview Doors web site. Maybe you even wondered where we get them. Well, we make them, and this is the story (and the mystery) behind the product.
When we started Crestview Doors, we quickly found that the best research is done by hitting the streets. The door styles we sought to revive were barely represented in architectural literature or even mainstream magazines of the time. If we wanted to catalog real home styles from the mid-century, we needed to get out of the library and go look for original doors.
So we drove through mid-century neighborhoods photographing time-capsule entries across America. While we were doing that, we noticed these broken-board address plates everywhere. It’s an evocative and nostalgic vernacular detail that reflects the appeal of ranch living that permeated the middle-class architecture of the time. That’s our thing, so we decided to make it into a product.
First we cataloged all the style variations:
fig. 1 8 inch board. Vertical ends. Random size, angle, depth of points. 6 points on left, 7 on right. Hung over porch
fig. 2 6 inch board. Angled ends. Random, curved points. 4 points on both ends. Angle-mounted on wall
fig. 3 6 inch board. Reverse angled ends. Deep evenly spaced points. 5 points on both ends. Wall-hung with family name.
Then we settled on one design we thought would be versatile and represent the spirit of all the variations we had seen. It’s the 1702. Gosh it’s nice.
The angle is just right for hanging or mounting. The 5 points are deep without being jagged. The spacing is even but not overly mechanical.
We set out to decode the geometry behind the 1702 for our digital cutting tool. Getting the angle and depth of the points was easy, but not the spacing of the notches. We eventually discovered that a vanishing point did the trick.
There are additional details that clip the points slightly so they won’t chip or fray, and round the hollow of the notches for painting, but that’s the basic design we went to production with.
Photo from westernclippings.com
Here are a few theories we have.
- The design referenced a time when actual broken pieces of wood were used for signs.
- Carpenters used leftover scrap to make these when the house was finished.
- These were available at the local hardware store.
- And our favorite: It was a common Jr. High shop project in the fifties. Jigsaw 101.
Does any of this ring a bell? We would love to hear your theories or stories.
P.S. It makes great house warming gift!
Thank you, David. I love the detail in your write-up — and such attention to detail sure shows in all your products, too.
I made a polldaddy poll, but if you have another theory
– or better yet, definitive information — let’s hear it!