Category Archives: Post-war Houses

A Phoenix man scored when he bought Ralph Haver’s family home for a song

[Source: Robrt L. Pela, New Times] — At last, there’s a reason to be glad for the crummy housing market here, and for the lack of awareness among Phoenicians about our local architectural history. Both of these misfortunes led Brad Jannenga to a formidable real estate score when he recently bought architect Ralph Haver’s old house over on 11th Place for a measly $164,000. That’s a better-than-decent price for any midcentury block home here, but the house Jannenga bought isn’t just one among the thousand or so homes designed and built by Haver, a pioneer of modern tract housing in Arizona in the 1950s. This is the house that Haver built in the 1940s for his own family.

His career was just getting going, but Haver’s clean lines, exposed masonry walls, and narrow casement windows were already in evidence in this now-historic prototype, which is in pretty rough shape after decades as a rental property. “That little half-wall Haver always did between the kitchen and the family room is in this house,” Jannenga told me. “You could see he was trying out his designs here, messing with the triangular-shaped windows, the bigger window frames, the simple-span roofline. You can see the seeds of his work all over this place.” Not all of those seeds were well-sown, as Haver hadn’t yet gotten the kinks quite worked out in his signature design. The added-on third bedroom off the dining room is oddly placed, and there’s a peculiar bump-out in the front façade that serves no purpose; it appears to be a half-chimney on a home with no fireplace.

[Note: To read the full article, click here. Photo source: Todd Grossman, New Times.]

Post-war suburban houses are found to be worth preserving

[Source: The Economist] — The neighbourhood around Hoffman Park, five miles (8km) east of downtown Tucson, resembles a thousand others in the West. One-storey houses erected in the late 1940s and early 1950s sit behind scrubby gardens. Most are built of brick and roofed with asphalt. In some streets, mailboxes line the curb. A perfectly ordinary suburb—and, if the city gets its way, a future historic district. History is not, perhaps, the first thing that springs to mind in Tucson. Although it was founded in the 18th century, the city took shape after the second world war. Thanks to big employers, such as Hughes Aircraft, its population almost doubled between 1950 and 1960. Because land was so cheap, modest houses were built on large plots. Up to 3,000 houses a year were being built, luring buyers with models blessed with such names as the Monarch, the Savoy and the Windsor. Formica countertops, fitted carpets and coloured bathroom fixtures were commonly included in the price.

In general, a building needs to be at least 50 years old before it can be added to the National Register of Historic Places. Owners can choose to pay lower taxes in exchange for not adjusting their properties too much. Since Tucson grew so quickly in the 1950s, potential candidates for the register have mushroomed in the past few years. To help decide which ones to preserve first, the city has commissioned a study that identifies distinctive building and landscaping styles. Among them are such obscure inventions as the Tucson ranch house (wide and low-slung, with a white roof) and the “enhanced desert” garden, an improbable mixture of native cacti, flowering perennials and a little grass. Jonathan Mabry, the city’s historic-preservation officer, explains that Tucson wants to protect buildings from being torn down and replaced with “mini-dorms”—cheaply made structures rented to students at the University of Arizona. The city also hopes historic districts will foster a sense of community, which can be lacking in such a young, fast-growing place.

[Note: To read the full article, click here. Photo source: Tom Tingle, Arizona Republic.]