Thursday, August 23, 2007

Review on "Consider the Ranch" Lecture

I wanted to report a bit on the DOCOMOMO "Consider the Ranch" lecture held on 8/21/07 at DWR in Buckhead. It was attended by 15-20 people (I didn't do a head-count) and was once again a very informative and enthralling presentation. Part 1 (which I missed on the 14th, however the speaker, Richard Cloues from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Historic Preservation Division, did a quick 15-20 minute review) featured the development of the ranch house in the united states - basically its influences and first appearance outside of a typical western farm or ranch setting (thus the name). He made mention of "Chicken House Gothic" which I found enlightening and humorous, and discussed Cliff May as well as Joseph Eichler's influence (the latter on the post and beam construction typical of Eichler's dwellings). There was also mention of Frank Lloyd Wright's prairie home and his influences on ranch design (in particular the prominent fireplace as a design element).

Part 2 focused on the appearance of the ranch house in Georgia. The ubiquitous "red brick ranch" so popular in Georgia, was highlighted several times, but the primary focus was on classifying the actual building of the Ranch into developments, sub-divisions, in-fill and stand-alone construction in context by year and region. Some significant information I'd like to bring attention to:
  1. The first Development (defined as a large land tract built from a multi-use, community perspective with schools, churches and some commercial properties within the plan) that contained ranches in Atlanta (and perhaps Georgia) was along Buford Highway in the North Woods area - this was the brain child of Walter Talley, funded by "bankers in Boston." The neighborhood features parks, divided roads, churches, schools and homes built with a similar look and feel (even though the home styles changed as the neighborhood was built-out - the earliest are simple boxy ranch houses - the later mid-century moderns and tri-levels).
  2. Walter Talley is significant to me as my own community of Northcrest also had Walter Talley as either a silent or early partner (The original builders appear to have been three gentlemen, Walter Talley, Howard Hardrath and Paul Edwards who laid-in the roads for Northcrest under the name "THE, Inc" (from their last names, get it?). At some point early on, Walter Talley either became a silent partner or bowed out completely - leaving Paul and Howard to continue under the P&H Realty Company name (from their first names - Paul and Howard). P&H Homes, Inc began building Northcrest in the mid to late 50's and Northcrest was probably one of their largest if not their only development.
  3. From part 1, it was noted that the split-level actually pre-dates the Ranch - it's commonly thought that it came after as a variation of the design, but Frank Lloyd Wright used the split-level concept going back to the 20's - the ranch wasn't really marketed until the 40's (whether by that name or any other). A ranch can have a basement or partial basement - what distinguishes the ranch style is a single floor of living space (open stairs to a finished basement would put the structure into a split level classification). It's my opinion that the Ranch attained popularity as builders across the US attempted to do a "cheap" version of the FLW prairie home.
  4. One very good example of ranch development is along Lenox Road - there are very-built ranches along the road and it can be used as a catalog of different styles.

In any case, for those who attended, the lecture was very informative. For those of you who couldn't attend, my hope is that a transcript will become available at some time, as well as some of the photographs used in the lecture.

-- John

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