Architectural drawings found in the basement – Bill’s entry


Lawrence Bill sends in today’s entry in our Found Objects… Found Art contest. Keep the entries coming, everyone! 

Bill writes:


On the topic of found vintage objects that carry sentimental, nostalgic or otherwise useless but wonderful value, I’d like to include my own little story. About a year ago I was doing some work in our basement when I came upon a small box that contained the architectural plans to our 1955 split-level residence, which we purchased in the summer of 2007. The previous owners had left them there for us. A total of five tattered scrolls bore the faded traces of the house’s creation. These ghostly images, which I have since framed and hung in our den, have not only become useful for renovation projects but are, in a self-referential way, inspirational art objects unto themselves. But the story doesn’t end there. With the information I found on the drawings, I was able to track down the talented young man who designed it, Robert Hess, a retired architect now in his 80s and living in Santa Barbara. We have since become friends. Mr. Hess began his career here in Lawrence, Kansas after graduating with a degree in Architecture from KU. He quickly become sought after by professors and other people of means in the community who had a taste for what was commonly referred to then as “contemporary” architecture. His success and ambition led him to greener pastures in L.A., where he went on to design homes for wealthy clients in the entertainment industry as well as many others. Bob was part of the whole mid century modernist movement, and I feel priveleged to live in one of the homes he designed. If the owners hadn’t had the presence of mind to keep those old drawings all those years, I would likely have never known about, cared about, or perhaps even thought much about the back story of this house, the family that lived here, and the small part they played in this continuing saga we call America. For all those reasons the drawings have become a fascinating and valuable “found object” for me.

– Lawrence Bill

  1. moderns-r-us says:


    You should get in touch with Tom Harper, a Lawrence real estate agent who started a group called Lawrence Modern. He is always looking for information on local architects. Also check out a group that I co-founded, KCMODERN at http://www.kcmodern.com. We have some great house tours of mid-century homes. Even some with pecky cypress!


    1. pam kueber says:

      Hi moderns-r-us! I love your blog and have added it to my blogroll. Also – I am pretty sure that Bill is already all over the Lawrence Modern thing. But he can provide details!

  2. Retrocat says:

    That is so wonderful that you discovered such a valuable treasure, and it led to even more treasures (finding the architect that designed the house). I hope that people that are building new houses today will take a tip from these original homeowners. Save the plans and pass them on to the next buyer.

    A truly wonderful story!

  3. Mer says:

    Most valuable indeed! I too found the architectural plans to our 1969 ranch in a drawer in the built in vanity when we moved into our home. The sisters we bought the house from were elderly and had moved to a nursing home. We hadn’t expected to come across the plans- it was a most welcome surprise. My then 4 year old son came running in with them rolled up like scrolls saying, “Look Mom, some house maps!” He was thinking they would lead to some buried treasure. For me, it was more like finding the “secrets” to our house. These have come in so handy when you need to know the measurements of the cabinets. It’s also enabled us to see how all of the original features are intact since the interior drawings specified the types of light fixtures, etc. I’m now trying to find out about the builder and designer listed on the plans. A most valuable find indeed!
    But now I’ll have to think of another entry for the contest!

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