During World War II, there were serious material shortage — rationing — and little home construction. Except for: Defense housing — housing for employees working in the defense industry. My main man Royal Barry Wills — the most influential residential architect of the 20th century, whom most Americans have never heard of — designed one such housing project — in Springfield, Mass., in 1942. I recently scored some press photos. So here into the historical archive they go — complete with annotation of the news release and other information on the back of the photos. Hey: Is that RBW’s handwriting?
The calligraphy on the front of the rendering provides these credits:
Defense Housing Project
Springfield, Mass., 19023
Royal Barry Wills, Architect, Boston, Mass.
Hayden, Harding & Buchanan, Engineers. — Hallam L. Movius, Landscape Architect
On the back of this lovely illustration, there is a piece of typewritten paper that says:
Royal Barry Wills
SPRINGFIELD HOUSING PROJECT
On January 27, 1942, bids are to be received on the new Defense Housing Job of 300 dwelling units to be located on St. James Avenue, Hobart and Carew Streets, Springfield, Massachusetts, according to Royal Barry Wills, of Boston, the Architect of this Project.
There are 90 buildings, 30 of 1-story and 60 of 2-story design. The 10story houses accommodate two families and the 2-story houses accommodate four. All of the buildings are part brick — some with brick ends and some with brick fronts. This combination of brick and wood construction gives an interesting architectural treatment.
This particular Project will be well landscaped and surrounded by pleasant lawns and play areas, with a Playing Field at the end of the Project, and an Administration Building for community functions. Smaller children will have a Play Yard and a Play Pool, where they may enjoy supervised play.
The interiors of the dwelling units are all arranged with the latest equipment, using electric refrigerators, gas ranges and oil head. The dewllings all have living-room, kitchen and bath, and one, two or three bedrooms.
January 22, 1942
The text on the back of the photo says:
Nov 23 1942 (stamped)
From Royal Barry Wills
3 Joy St., Boston
Oct. 14, 1942
21 Cedar St., Marblehead, Mass.
I got excited, thinking that maybe the handwriting was Royal Barry Wills’ own, so I sent a note to my contacts at Royal Barry Wills Associates, Inc., which is still rockin’ the architectural design, in Boston, Mass. I heard back from Richard, Royal’s son, who runs the firm. He said:
Hi Pam:Great find on the Springfield Housing project.That’s about all Dad had going during that time plusA few apartment renovations’That is when he wrote some of his books.Re the writing on the back. It is not his handwriting.It looks like his secretary’s.
I asked for the secretary’s name, and Richard said it was Miss Alice Schuster.
I love learning more about Royal Barry Wills!
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