Archive for the ‘history’ Category

the best surprise

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

More proof that you just never know what a new day will bring you… So this morning the doorbell rings. And who’s on our doorstep? Two happy, shiny offsproing of Irving B. Haynes, the original architect of the house we love so much. What the?

Seth and Libby stopped by to say that until they happened across mymodremod, they’d had no idea that this house was their father’s creation — even after passing by it for so many years. We had a lovely chat and stumbled them through our embarrassingly fakakta interior.

And then they asked if we’d like this (click to biggify)…

irving b haynes collage

It’s a collage of ski passes made by their father in 1971 — the year construction began on our house. Hailing from Maine, Irving liked to take the family skiing around New England. Nice bit ’o regional history there…

irving b haynes collage, detail 1

irving b haynes collage, detail 2

irving b haynes collage, detail 3

How sweet is it of Seth and Libby to share a little bit of Irving with us? That’s so nice! We’ll most definitely be in touch. I’d love to prove to them that we’re really not slobs. Well, mostly not slobs anyway.

Thanks, you two! And I promise we’ll figure out the glitch in posting comments so that you can chime in every now and then.

december 7, 2009

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

This is what the yard looked like one year ago today… (click to biggify)

december 07 2009

For better or for worse, here’s what it looks like today…

december 07 2010

Check back in a year and I’m sure the differences will be easier to spot. Heck, the patio and pond might even be done!

ooh, we’re “significant”!

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

A little something to make you chuckle… Just after we moved in at the beginning of 2008, we got a letter from the Providence College Department of Art and History asking if we’d consider adding our house to their “online exhibition” as a “significant example of modern architecture.” Really? Our place?

letter from PC architecture

Sure, why not. I guess we do own the only modern in the ’hood after all. So we were visited by a shiny young thing from the architecture class who then did her research, we gave her photos and told her what we knew, and she put together this entry for the PC architecture website. Keep in mind that this was a student project and makes our house sound a little, how you say, highfalutin?

Page 1 (click to biggify)…

PC site | page 1

Page 2 …

PC site | page 2

Page 3 …

PC site | page 3

I’ve told you what we know about Irving Haynes in previous posts. I wonder what he’d think about being compared to Le Corbusier and Schindler? Flattered? Embarrassed? Which brings me to an unexpected syncronicity…

David’s grandmother, Maria Fenyo McVitty, was an architect who worked in Paris with Le Corbusier right after World War II. No, really! I’m pretty sure she’d laugh off the comparison to Le Corbusier. However, she did give this house her stamp of approval on an all-too-rare visit to Providence the year we moved in — unfortunately also the same year she passed on. Hers is a fascinating story I intend to share with you someday.

Miss you, Ria!

a glint in the architect’s eye

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

architectural rendering of our house, circa ’70 | Haynes and Associates

Our house, before it was born. This is what the architect, Irving Haynes, envisioned before the house was built. Pretty cool to have the original rendering from 1970. Click to biggify for full vintagey glory.

It turned out pretty much as drawn. Except no sidewalk down to the street. Here’s a finished shot from ’72 — if you saw the construction photos from my second post ever, you’ve seen this one before…

view from the corner, post-construction | Haynes and Associates

Sweet ride in the driveway.

They obviously had to cheap out on the retaining wall along the driveway as the one in the drawing is much, much cooler. They went with railroad ties… which eventually rotted, go figure. The new wall designed by architect Markus Berger is more along the lines of what Haynes was picturing…

finished wall, February 2010

Want to see the lot before there was a house on it? Yeah, we got that. Here’s the same corner view…

view of the corner, before the house was built

Looking up from across the street from the house, here’s the backyard we’ve been reworking when it was completely untouched and there were plenty of trees to keep the slope from washing away…

view of the back from the street

My my, aren’t we looking natty, Mr. Architect.

Here’s the view looking back down to the street from the future yard…

view from the lot down to the street

And here’s the view of what will become our veggie garden at the end of our neighbor’s brick retaining wall…

view of the future veggie garden

Yeesh. A whole lotta trees died to build this house…

Okay, trip down memory lane is over. Get back to work!

we have forsaken thee, paul rudolph

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010
the micheels house by paul rudolph, westport ct '72-'07 |

the micheels house by paul rudolph, westport ct '72-'07 |

Yesterday I happened across two separate posts concerning Paul Rudolph, the modernist architect both celebrated and scorned for his groundbreaking work. Now heartbreaking work, because many of his buildings have succumbed in quick succession to demolition… and this country’s blatant  disdain for meaningful, historic architecture.

Design Observer, a favorite stop of mine, posted a link to a series of photographs by Chris Mottalini entitled After You Left, They Took It All Apart (Demolished Paul Rudolph Homes). The collection captures three Rudolph houses in sad states of decay just before they were demolished. Wiped off the map. I can’t encourage you enough to look at the whole set… it’s very moving.

The Micheels House (above and below) was built in 1972. The same year as our house! Torn down and replaced by a hideous McMonstrosity. That’s exactly what the world needs more of.

the micheels house by paul rudolph, westport ct '72-'07 |

the micheels house |

the micheels house by paul rudolph, westport ct '72-'07 |

the micheels house |

the micheels house by paul rudolph, westport ct '72-'07 |

the micheels house |

Mottalini’s  photographs are haunting. And depressing. Ugh, so depressing. He writes:

This project focuses on a group of now-demolished homes by the acclaimed and controversial Modernist architect Paul Rudolph, which I photographed mere days prior to their demolition in 2007. The resulting images capture a state of Modernist architecture few people have witnessed, revealing the grace of these homes as they stood in defiance of severe neglect and abandonment.

Among the houses torn down is one right here in Rhode Island — the Cerrito House. I recall following the news of its plight with great horror. The Paul Rudolph Foundation made valiant efforts to save it but it all fell through in the end. What was wrong with the house? According to the New York Times article:

The house’s owners… who live on the West Coast, want it removed so they can build a larger vacation home on the site…

cerrito house by paul rudolph, watch hill RI '56-'07 |

cerrito house by paul rudolph, watch hill RI '56-'07 |

cerrito house |

cerrito house |

cerrito house |

cerrito house |

Our disposable society has no hesitation in throwing away a perfectly good home, even if it is functional, beautiful and the only one if its kind. It’s maddening. As Mottalini notes:

Several other Paul Rudolph projects are currently slated for demolition and, as a result, he has become representative of a tragic disregard for mid-century architecture.

the twitchell house by paul rudolph, siesta key fl '41-'07 |

the twitchell house by paul rudolph, siesta key fl '41-'07 |

the twitchell house |

the twitchell house |

the twitchell house |

the twitchell house |

A few hours before I came across Mottalini’s photos, I read a tweet by Grain Edit that lead me the excellent Metropolis Magazine film, Site Specific: The Legacy of Regional Modernism. It’s a fascinating look at the Sarasota School of Architecture’s desire to “escape the international culture of uniformity” by combining site-specific modern architecture and the clever use of local materials. Woven throughout the story is Riverview High School (circa 1956), Paul Rudolph’s first civic building and an example of revolutionary thinking. There were efforts by many to save it from destruction. Regrettably, it saw the wrecking ball last July when the school board decided to turn it into blacktop.

If this subject saddens you as much as it does me, you might be interested in a new exhibition currently at AIA New York’s Center for Architecture: Modernism at Risk. It’s open to the public February 17 – May 1. From the website:

Modernism represents the defining movement of twentieth-century architecture and design; yet, every day, important works of modern architecture are destroyed or inappropriately altered…

Saving modern landmarks is important because they enrich a community’s sense of place – providing continuity between its past and important buildings of our own times.

Damn straight. I’ll be in attendance some time soon. Hope to see you there.

… the idea that you need to show off your success to the world in the form of a gargantuan mock-Georgian or mock-Tudor manse, the bigger the better, is to me more than a little depressing. If McMansions are like enormous, overdesigned, gas-guzzling Cadillacs, then early modernist houses are like Toyota Priuses — fresh looking, reasonable, modest, elegant in a simple, understated way. So there is a lesson — I might almost call it a kind of moral lesson — in a lot of the modernism that is now threatened. It’s a lesson of understatement and rationality.

— Paul Goldberger, architecture critic for The New Yorker and National Trust for Historic Preservation Trustee | from The Modernist Manifesto

*     *     *     *     *

Important reading for those so inclined

The Modernist Manifesto: Why buildings from our recent past are in peril, and why saving them is so crucial Insightful perspective from the magazine of the Trust for Historic Preservation

Modern Homes Survey: New Canaan Connecticut A survey of modern homes in New Canaan prompted by the demolition of Rudolph’s Westport home in 2007, along with a cry for historic preservation — amazing photos and extremely important work

The Sixties Turn 50 The Los Angeles Conservancy and its Modern Committee celebrate Greater Los Angeles’ rich legacy of 1960s architecture, which starts turning 50 years old in 2010 — a droolworthy mix of mid-century modern and Googie photos here

Recent Past Preservation Network Promoting preservation education and advocacy to encourage a contextual understanding of our modern built environment — includes a link to a petition to save yet another Paul Rudolph site

Cape Cod Modern House Trust Incorporated in 2007 to promote the documentation and preservation of significant examples of Modernist architecture on the Outer Cape — includes news of open houses and annual tours of their amazing preservation projects

a note about irving

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

The house was buried in the Providence Craigslist real estate postings under the standard fare of colonials, capes and Victorians. I remember pulling up to the house for the first time. After more than 30 disappointing property viewings, we’d finally found it: our bold, sunny modern.

The real estate agent told us the house was built by a Rhode Island School of Design architecture school grad student — a woman no less. We liked the sound of that. But a trip to the city records revealed that  the architect of our house was actually a well-seasoned New England native by the name of Irving B. Haynes. A little online sleuthing told us more… and then we really got psyched.

Born in Waterville, Maine, in 1927, Irving became an architect, a long-time RISD professor, historic preservationist, jazz musician and an accomplished painter. He was a busy, busy man that Irving. His art would look completely at home in this house.

Just a few of my favorites from his website, which you should really visit if you’re into this kind of thing:


1969 | Untitled, watercolor on paper 15"x20"


1974 | Untitled, watercolor on paper 18"x24"


1988 | Untitled, acrylic on paper 14"x17"


1988 | Untitled, acrylic on paper 44"x30"


1988 | Untitled, acrylic on paper 44"x30"


1998 | Johnny's Boogie, acrylic on paper 44"x30"


2003 | Blue Roof, acrylic on paper 30"x22"


2004 | Well-Braced, acrylic on paper 14"x17"

Writer Joe Leduc in the art journal Big, Red and Shiny shares this bit of history about Irving:

Born in Maine, Haynes came to Rhode Island in 1948 as a transfer student to RISD from Colby College.  After earning degrees in painting and architecture, he spent the 1950s working for a variety of architectural firms by day and playing jazz by nights in area nightclubs. By 1968… Haynes had his own architectural practice, Haynes and Associates, in Providence. Another career began in 1973, when he started teaching Foundation Studies at his alma mater, assuming an Assistant Professorship in 1980.  Haynes’ association with RISD would continue, as he retired from architectural practice in 1990 to concentrate on painting and teaching, becoming a Full Professor in 1997 before retiring in 2005.

There’s not a ton of information online about Irving. Someday I may make a trip to the RISD Library to see what else I can find out. In the meantime, here are a few more links for anyone who stumbles across this post and is so inclined:

  • A writeup of the man and his art for a posthumous show of his work in 2005 at RISD’s Industrial Design Department Gallery in the Brown Daily Herald.

Thank you, Irving, for designing a house we absolutely love. We promise to keep any updates true to the spirit of the house. And put some Brubeck on the turntable every now and then.

baby pictures

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

minty 1972, corner view

The average cost of a house in the U.S. in 1972: $27,550. Roughly what you’d pay today for a Chevy Impala fully loaded, if you actually wanted such a thing. I’ll take the house, please. What it cost in 1972 to have the fairly modest modern above designed and built with the help of a local architect in Providence… no idea. But it’s now ours! And we love it.

Click the images for big-ification.

minty 1972, back view

Here’s the background we’ve been able to dig up on our home since we dragged our very first moving box inside in January of 2008…

minty 1972, front view

Designed and built: The blueprints say May 1971. Construction was completed in 1972.

Original owner: Kathleen McBride. Wanted a house she could share with her aging parents — they got the downstairs with an efficiency kitchen and bath, she got the upstairs with its own kitchen and bath.

Architect: Irving B. Haynes, a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design in 1951. He returned there to teach from ’73 to ’05. Started Haynes and Associates in 1968, which became Haynes, deBoer and Associates. Irving passed on in ’05. The architecture firm, still active (but no website?!), was nice enough to share photos of the construction — sweet! — as well as blueprints. BLUEPRINTS! That’s like striking gold.

And now, a few snaps of our house in its infancy… awwwwwwwww.

construction, looking down the hill

construction, the front

construction, downstairs

construction, progress on the front

construction, second floor added

construction, looking out entry from top of stairs
upstairs, looking out big window

view of deck

looking up at deck

view of front, almost finished

view of front from top of the hill