The 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy is just a few days away. Today, reader Blair explains how a innocuous-looking mid century modest house — the Ruth Paine House Museum, above — came to be associated with this tragic event. Blair visited the house this weekend and submitted this report and photos:
Frankly, there’s nothing particularly noteworthy about the 1,300-square-foot ranch home at 2515 W. Fifth Street in the Dallas suburb of Irving. Built in 1956, it is otherwise indistinguishable from hundreds of other two-bedroom post-war homes constructed during the post-World War II housing boom in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. But this home, recently opened to the public after two years of restoration to its appearance 50 years ago, holds a place in history few Mid-Century residences can claim — a link to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy 50 years ago this week, November 22, 1963. And this connection saved not only a piece of history, but allowed for the preservation of a classic Mid-Century “modest” dwelling. Heck yeah there is more →
One of the key architectural characteristics of ranch homes is that they blur the line between inside and outside. Our merchant-builder ramblers are often low-profile homes with large windows, built-in areas for plants and an orientation to the backyard patio — all in service of a more sunny, casual way of life. But can you imagine living in a house where all four walls let nature peer in? Famed architect Philip Johnson was exploring this very vision when he designed and built the Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut between 1945 and 1949. Johnson lived in the home until his death 55 years later.
Snaps to the king and queen of pink bathrooms — Nancy and Thommy. You may recall, Nancy’s pink poodle bathroom is world famous, not just here at Retro Renovation but also as headliner of the New York Times pink bathroom story. Now, our daring duo has served up a pair of pink potties from the Leo Carrillo Ranch, an historic site in one my original home towns, Carlsbad, California.Heck yeah there is more →
Read all our stories about historic mid century houses you can visit here.
I’ve written before about the Ralph Sr. and Sunny Wilson House in Temple, Texas — an amazing showcase of the innovative use of laminate that was built by the head of Wilsonart in the 1950s. The Wilson House is the the first and only home that has ever been named to the National Register of Historic Places specifically because of its innovative use of materials. How ironic, that with the mainstream masses all gaga about granite, our little community is equally crazy about our laminates. Watch this video — historian Grace Jeffers takes us on a tour, and explains the important context for the use. It’s wonderful — and I assure you, you will be lovin’ your laminate more than ever.
Thanks to reader David for letting us know about The Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site in Flat Rock, North Carolina. He wrote:
Love your website so very much. I wish we’d had a tradition of mid century design in the UK, but alas no. I think we were about 20 years behind the U.S., until not too long ago. Check out some of the 70’s UK houses, and design. Anyway I digress, last time I was in the U.S., I was staying with some friends in Asheville, NC. If you’ve not seen it yet you should visit the Carl Sandburg home in Flat Rock, NC. It amazed me the National Parks Service have really done a great job in keeping the house like it was when Carl Sandburg lived there, even down to the original 60’s Kleenex in the living room.
Mid century modern design enthusiasts are likely familiar with the work of Russel Wright — an iconic designer of furnishings and dinnerware beginning in the 1930s. His “American Modern” dinnerware, which sold 250 million pieces from 1939-1959, is considered the best-selling dinnerware of all time (although I tend to believe Corelle has now outsold them.) Russel and his wife and business partner Mary also attained a level of celebrity for their best-selling 1950 book, “Guide to Easier Living,” which promoted a more casual American lifestyle. Mary is even credited with coining the term “blonde” to describe that particular shade of furniture — Russel’s American Modern line of furniture manufactured by Conant-Ball also was quite popular. After Mary died… quite young, sadly… Russel built a house on the estate they had purchased in Garrison, New York, one hour north of New York City. Completed in 1961, the house is another mid century jewel that we can add to our list of historic sites to visit.Heck yeah there is more →
Continuing on the hunt for retro inspired Historic Homes you can visit I was reminded of Elvis Presley’s Graceland, located in Memphis, Tennessee. Of course I’d heard about this 14 acre white columned estate before, but I never could have imagined the lavishness (if that’s what you want to call it) in which Elvis decorated it. The American Colonial style mansion was originally built in 1939 for Grace Toot, heiress of a successful printing firm. Elvis bought the home in ‘57. He enjoyed the privacy and security Graceland offered — plus, for only $100,000 it was hard to pass up. Elvis immediately began extensive renovations on the 23 rooms in the house & its surrounding grounds. He added the musical inspired wrought iron gate, a fieldstone wall to match the tan limestone on the home, racquetball court, swimming pool & the infamous jungle room. Finally, he designed & developed the meditation gardens — Elvis’ preferred reflection place — where his twin brother Jesse, parents and grandmother are buried.Heck yeah there is more →
Located in Lincoln, Mass. the Gropius House is viewed as one of the most influential homes in modern American architectural design. Built by Walter Gropius in 1938, the home today a National Historic Landmark owned by Historic New England. Walter Gropius was one of the most renowned architects of his time — founder the the famed Bauhaus school of design. In 1938 he moved from Bauhaus, to Lincoln so he could teach architecture at Harvard. Heck yeah there is more →
During my recent visit with Aunt Pam she took me to a historic home just a mile from her house — The Frelinghuysen Morris House & Studio. Located in Lenox, Mass., this estate features features the home built by George Morris and Suzy Frelinghuysen in 1941-2, which is attached to the studio that George built before they were married, in 1930. Together, these spaces comprise a gorgeous example of International Style — and the first “modern” home built in New England. Heck yeah there is more →