Last week, reader Magnarama clued us all in about Pecky Cypress when we looked at a 1959 Drexel living room and bedroom.

Pecky cypress…I cannot tell you HOW MUCH I love to say that, write that, think that, add that as a Tag, tell my husband about it! And now, dream it: Look at the living room in Lawrence Bill’s 1955 split-levell! Here’s his wonderful story to go with it:

Hi Pam,

Yes, the pecky cypress looks fantastic in contrast to the huge fireplace here in the living room. I just love the look and texture. It’s feels natural, organic, of a place, yet utterly modern. Though it’s hard to tell from the pics, the wood was lightly stained a light blue color. The effect is quite striking; it cools the eyes yet remains warm and inviting. It’s magical, really.

The architect, who is still alive in L.A., told me the story about how the house was built. I’ll tell you just a bit of what I know. He said the owners wanted the pecky cypress look in their living room/dining area. Evidently it was becoming popular at that time. They sourced the best pieces they could find from a supplier that got it from Louisiana. The rest of the house has a lovely mix of hardwoods and softwoods. You could not duplicate this quality today unless you had hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend. And even then it wouldn’t be the same–the untold story about midcentury homes is the quality of woods sourced from forests that no longer exist or can’t be logged for environmental reasons, etc. I don’t need to tell you about that.

The house was completed for exactly $18,000 in October, 1955. I still have the original receipt. It was built by two brothers (+ a helper), one of whom was a demolition expert during WWII. One day, while trying to lay the sewage line from the house to the (then new) dirt road, then ran into a huge underground rock. The demolition expert went out and found some dynamite somewhere, came back, and after a few unsuccessful attempts to dislodge the rock, finally blew it up, sending a huge chunk of clear over a neighbor’s roof into their back yard. Luckily no one was hurt. From what I heard, the brothers went over to the house, apologized, and the police were not called in. How’s that for a 50s moment for you? Could you imagine that happening today?

I could go on with stories I’ve heard about how they built this place but I’d probably bore you. But then again, one of the funnest parts about your blog is reading about other people’s houses and their stories. So in that context maybe not so boring. Which reminds me: one of these days you should consider doing a post about architectural drawings. We have the original drawings to this house and they’re really cool. I don’t know, it just amazes me that all this derived from a hand-drawn plan. I get the same feeling looking at the drawings of famous golf course architects. For some reason, there seemed to be a correlation between the quality of the drawing and the quality of the end result. I don’t know how you’d make a post about architectural drawings interesting, but it might be worth considering. Could be a good idea over the winter when not much is going on.

Regards,
Bill

KABOOM! Get your architectural drawings ready, readers. We will indeed take up Bill’s idea come fall and winter…Thanks, Bill!

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  1. Angela Speiser says:

    The pecky cypress that covered our hallways in my childhood home, a California modern, was covered with taping mud and then wallpapered over in the late 70’s. What a shame!

  2. Scott Schada says:

    Pecky cypress was the rage in the late fifties early sixties. It vividly adorns Perry Mason’s TV office. You will hear it referenced in an under-appreciated but really good 1961 Bob Hope comedy (also starring Lana Turner, Jim Hutton, Paula Prentiss, Janis Paige, etc etc) satirizing the “housing development ”
    trend of the time. It’s put to gorgeous use in a subdued stain version that forms the ceiling of St. Lambert’s Catholic Church in Skokie IL., (1960) and doubtless many other elegant edifices of the time in America.

  3. Scott Schada says:

    I just saw the prior comment on “Bachelor” . I’m glad Dan also appreciated the film that references pecky cypress. The whole flic is very retro, right down to Lana Turner’s impossible platinim hair!

  4. Rick says:

    I saw “A Bachelor in Paradise” (1961 – Bob Hope – Lana Turner) on TCM last Sunday. When Bob asked Lana what was wrong with the wood, Lana said, “it’s Peggy cypress. I have been infatuated with it ever since. I grew up in the 1960’s and wood paneling was the rage – so were Shell No-Pest strips, but I have never seen anything like this. I think the door on the “Golden Girl’s” set was made of it. I thought Lana said “peggy” not pecky. You have to see the house from that movie. I could live in it right now.

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