Homes

July 14, 1957 – One Hundred Years of Architecture in America at the National Gallery of Art

 

On July 14, 1957, a National Gallery of Art exhibit celebrating the centennial of the American Institute of Architects, “One Hundred Years of Architecture in America“, came to a successful close.  Organized and directed by architectural historian Frederick Gutheim, the exhibit broke ground at the Gallery in several ways: its  first modern installation; first photographic exhibition; and first temporary exhibition.  The displays included ten giant illuminated color transparencies (some as large as 14 by 24 feet, courtesy of Eastman Kodak) of contemporary buildings, over 200 masonite panels mounted with historic photographs of 65 buildings, and a collection of architectural drawings  documenting the contribution of architects to the graphic arts.

An especially popular portion of the exhibit were 91 colorful embroidered and pieced panels depicting themes from biblical quotations about architecture.  Proposed for inclusion by California designer Charles Eames, the panels were created by Sisters Magdalene Mary and Mary Corita and their art classes at Immaculate Heart College, Los Angeles.  A catalog, 1857-1957: One Hundred Years of Architecture in America, by Frederick Gutheim, was published by Reinhold Publishing of New York.

The scenic Red Rocks Amphitheater, set amidst large rock slabs, was selected by the AIA to represent the state of Colorado at the exhibit.  Built in 1941 in Morrison, Colorado and designed by Denver architect Burnham Hoyt, the venue offers concert performers and goers nearly perfect acoustics.  The centennial exhibit also honored the work of Pasadena, California brothers and architects Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene, famous for their Arts and Crafts esthetic and bungalow designs.  The National Historic Landmark David B. Gamble House in Pasadena, designed by the Greenes and constructed in 1908-1909,  is considered one of the finest examples of residential architecture in the United States.

Images Credit: American Institute of Architects; redrocksonline.com; visitpasadena.com

Vintage 1957 – Page, Arizona

Page Business District

A Page out of history: Page, Arizona Business District, 1957.                                             Image Credit: Petey Lloyd Dietz

One of the largest – and most controversial – government projects of the 1950s and 1960s was the construction of Arizona’s Glen Canyon Dam and the ensuing creation of Lake Powell. Those in favor of sufficient supplies of water and electric power for the western states, and those in favor of preserving our nation’s natural landscape were in conflict from the very beginning of the project and continue so to this day.

Situated on Manson Mesa, overlooking the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell, Page, Arizona has grown from a temporary tract of trailers to a city of over 7500 people. The original trailer community, know initially as Government Camp, formed in 1957 to provide housing for project workers and their families. Additional land was added in 1958, after a 24 square-mile land swap with the nearby Navajo Nation. Streets were laid out as part of a plan for future housing, shops, schools and churches. From the start of construction in 1956 until completion of the dam, power station and associated infrastructure in 1966, lives were lived and memories were created by families drawn to an outpost on the wild and beautiful border of Utah and Arizona.

One of those families belonged to Mike Adams. Mike’s father was a pilot and their first home was at the airport. They arrived in 1959 or 1960, Mike recalls, and he started attending 1st grade. His family moved quite a bit, including time in trailer courts (where he watched the Beatles on Ed Sullivan), apartments, and park ranger housing. When he was in high school, the family moved into a house his father built on Date Street and First Ave. As Mike writes in his blog, his “first bike, first girlfriend, first job, first bank account, first car, first home of my own, and first wife (and only wife – we’re still married)” all happened in Page, as the town came to be called in 1975. He no longer lives there but he has found a way to reconnect with his past and his friends through his photo blog of Page history.

With his permission, here are a few of the great photos he and his friends have shared on his site:

MCS Trailer Court

The MCS Trailer Court. Image Credit: Petey Lloyd Dietz

1272-usbr-p-557-420-03586-apr-1959-the-mens-store

The Men’s Store. Image Credit: USBR

Ernie Severino

Ernie Severino inside the original Page Jewelers. Image Credit: Ernie Severino, Jr.

The best histories always include the history of individuals and the real lives they lived. Mike writes well and has great memories to share. Thank you, Mike, for sharing your history with us.

Mike Adams

Mike Adams

Image Credit (Page, AZ): City of Page, Arizona website

June 26, 1957 – Elvis Spends His First Night at Graceland

 

Graceland-1957

Elvis takes in the sights at Graceland, with a friend

On June 26, 1957, Elvis spent his first night at home at Graceland.  Fresh off the set of his third movie, “Jailhouse Rock” for MGM, Elvis arrived at the 10,250 square foot, tan limestone mansion set on 13.8 acres in Memphis, Tennessee three months after purchasing it in March for $102,500.  The classical revival-style mansion with large white entrance columns had been built in 1939 by Ruth Moore and her husband, Dr. Thomas Moore.  Ruth was the niece of Grace Toof, who was the daughter of S. C. Toof, founder of the Memphis commercial printing firm S.C. Toof & Co.  S. C. had purchased the property originally and named it Graceland Farms, after his daughter, who gave Ruth a portion of the land holdings after her father’s death.

Elvis had extensive modifications done to the mansion before he moved in, including the addition of the famous waterfall-containing Jungle Room, a swimming pool, and a racquetball court.  Over the years, Elvis expanded the mansion to almost 18,000 square feet, using a decorating philosophy that included swathes of white and red, accented with peacocks and leopard skin.  Friends generously described the interior as “tacky”, while critics used such terms as cheap, “gaudy”, “garish”, “phony”, and “turn-of-the-century bordello” style taken from New Orleans’ French Quarter.  “Tasteless white trash” was a general verdict.

Elvis had his revenge on the critics. Graceland is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been designated a National Historic Landmark.  It is the second-most visited residence in the United States each year, after the White House.  Elvis is buried at Graceland, along with his parents and grandmother, in an area he had built and named Meditation Garden.

Image Credit: david/flickr

Mid-Century Modern Typewriters

In the 1950s, appliances and bathroom fixtures were blooming with color. Now-classic cars sported two-tone paint treatments and lots of chrome.

It turns out that utilitarian typewriters were getting a make-over, too. Pink, blue, green, red – even two-tone with chrome! – added a cheery or racy edge to typists’ lives.

What would it be like to turn out a quarterly report, homework, recipe cards, or a letter to grandma with one of these sleek machines?

Royal Typewriter Company

Smith Corona

Olivetti

Underwood Typewriter Company

The lovely Underwood Golden Touch on the right came to my attention through – and in fact this post was inspired by – a vintage advertisement featured on Janet Webb’s Vintage Gaze blog. I recommend her site for mid-century modern mavens.

And – finally – an amazing machine from Halda:

Halda Green

Halda Forest Green

The complete description of this beauty reads, “This lovely, rare typewriter . . . features a vivid forest green body with a crinkle matte finish, with chrome detailing around the middle of the machine. Love the sharp red stripe right in the center of the chrome!”

Image Credit: Underwood Golden Touch: Robert Messenger/ozTypewriter/blogspot
Image Credit: All other images: Etsy

 

November 12, 1957 – Moorpark First Town Powered by Nuclear Energy

On November 12, 1957, the small town of Moorpark, California, became the first town in the United States to be entirely powered by electricity generated from a nuclear reactor.  At 7:30 PM, the lights went out for all 1100 residents of the rural Ventura County burg; twenty seconds later, when they came on again, history had been made.  Local farmers and townspeople, shop owners and newspaper editors, all had different reactions to the new technological marvel.  Barton Miller, Moorpark’s postmaster, was “pretty excited”.  “My wife and I drove up on a hill that night so we could see the town all lighted up.”  Grocery store owner Ruben Castro experienced the event as a “mystery”.  He admitted, “I didn’t know anything about atomic power, other than it was used for a bomb.  I guess I should have been happy that we were using this warlike energy for peacetime purposes.”  Whitaker’s Hardware owner James Whitaker felt let down by the whole event.  “It was very undramatic.  We were like, ‘Oh, so what.'”  An editor of the local newspaper was downright suspicious.  He accused the power company of indulging in “hocus-pocus” in a column titled, “Interesting No Doubt, but Partially Phony”.

Credibility and wider interest came with television coverage two weeks later on Edward R. Murrow’s See it Now program.  The footage obtained by a New York reporter and three-man camera crew put Moorpark on the map.  “We were more impressed with being on national television than about the event itself,” said resident and featured homeowner Charles Sullenbarger.

The Moorpark experiment had originated from President Dwight Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace program, which sought commercial uses for the new atom-splitting technology developed for military applications.  All through the 1950’s, the federal government encouraged the national power industry to take advantage of nuclear power as a cleaner, more efficient alternative to fossil fuels for generating electricity.  Moorpark’s “nuclear-flavored electricity” was generated from a small reactor in nearby Simi Hills, operated by Atomics International, a division of North American Aviation, which eventually became Rockwell International.  Southern California Edison transferred the 6500 kilowatts of energy generated by 20,000 kilowatts of nuclear reactor heat to the entire town for only about one hour, although the reactor continued to fill part of the town’s electricity needs for years.  “It was a very successful experiment,” A.C. Werden Jr., an Edison engineer explained, “We proved we could do it.  We could furnish electricity to a community from a nuclear reactor.”

Hardware-purveyor Whitaker’s slightly humorous, slightly ironic assessment of Moorpark’s scientific milestone illustrated the disconnect that can exist between visionaries and grass-roots folks.  “There was a feeling around town that the whole thing had been much overrated,” he explained.  “It was just a short little zip on TV.”

Atomics International reactor control room, 1959

Atomics International reactor control room, 1959. Photo: EnviroReporter website

September 28, 1957 – Mike Wallace Interviews Frank Lloyd Wright

 

Frank Lloyd Wright in 1957. Photo: Ed Ford, New York World-Telegram and Sun Collection

Frank Lloyd Wright in 1957. Photo: Ed Ford, New York World-Telegram and Sun Collection

On September 28, 1957, the Mike Wallace Interview show aired the second half of a two-part interview with visionary architect and iconoclast Frank Lloyd Wright.  Mike introduced Wright as “perhaps the greatest architect of the twentieth century . . . and in the opinion of some, America’s foremost social rebel.  Fellow architects have called him everything, from a great poet to an insupportable windbag.  The clergy has deplored his morals, creditors have deplored his financial habits, politicians, his opinions.”  Wallace’s questions ranged over a variety of topics – from politics, to religion, to morality, to architecture – seeking Wright’s opinions and at the same time hoping to provoke him into outrageous statements.  Wright displayed a witty, canny intelligence.  He was well up to the task of  handling “fishing” questions, revealing just as much as he wanted to and no more, while actually getting Mike to laugh at himself once or twice.  The following are some gems from an entertaining interview which may have intrigued, irritated, and amused the American viewing audience.

Wallace: “I’d like to chart your attitudes specifically . . . first of all, organized religion.”
Wright: “Why organize it?  Christianity doesn’t need organizing according to the Master of it, the great master poet of all time didn’t want it organized, did he?  Didn’t Jesus say that wherever a few are gathered in my name, there is my Church?  I’ve always considered myself deeply religious.”

Wallace: “Do you go to any specific church?”
Wright: “Yes, I go occasionally to this one, and then sometimes to that one, but my church I put a capital N on nature and go there.  You spell God with a capital G, don’t you?  I spell Nature with an N, capital.”

Wright: “I’m against war.  Always have been, always will be.  And everything connected with it, is anathema to me.  I have never considered it necessary.  And I think that one war only breeds another.”

Wright: “I think the common man is responsible for the drift toward conformity now.  It’s going to ruin our democracy, and is not according to our democratic faith.  I believe our democracy was Thomas Jefferson’s idea.  I mean I think Thomas Jefferson’s idea was the right idea, but we were headed for a genuine aristocracy.  An aristocracy that was innate, on the man, not of him, not his by privilege, but his by virtue of his own virtue, his own conscience, his own quality, and that by that we were going to have the rule of the bravest and the best.  But now that common man is becoming a little jealous of the uncommon man . . . .  He’s a block to progress.”

Wallace: “I understand that last week in all seriousness you said, ‘If I had another fifteen years to work I could rebuild this entire country, I could change the nation.”
Wright: “I did say that.  And it’s true.  Having had now the experience of going with the building of seven hundred and sixty-nine buildings, it’s quite easy for me to shake them out of my sleeve, and it’s amazing what I could do for this country. . . . I don’t think the mob knows anything about architecture, cares anything about it.”

Wallace: “Is the nation’s youth a mob?”
Wright: “No.  I believe that a teenager is a teenager, and I think that with him lies the hope of the future.  Now architecture with us is a matter of the future.”

Wright’s sharp humor came out regarding his recently published book (which Wallace had a copy of and Wright claimed not to have seen), self-exiled Charlie Chaplin, intellectuals, his voting record in the last Presidential election, and Marilyn Monroe’s acting ability.  He waxed eloquent on the role of architecture to “grace the landscape” and change the character of individual lives.  He lamented that American culture had become “drenched” in sex “from the bottom up”.  He loved the “Russian spirit” of the Soviet people but hated their communist government.  He felt strongly about the principles enumerated in our Declaration of Independence.

Wallace asked Wright to share the “something” he lived by. Wright replied, “The answer is within yourself . . . . And Jesus said it, I think, when he said, ‘The Kingdom of God is within you’ . . . . That’s where humanity lies, that’s where the future we’re going to have lies. If we are ever going to amount to anything it’s there now, and all we have to do is develop it.”

Brandes Residence, by Frank Lloyd Wright; Sammamish, Washington. Photo: Dan DeLong, Seattle Post-Intelligencer