Paul Rudolph's House for Family Living: Lost and Found
In 1956, the Woman's Home Companion (WHC) magazine commissioned a house designed by famous modernist architect Paul Rudolph. The September issue included a 20 page spread on the unique design. It covered many features aimed at improving the quality of life for its inhabitants, hence the name "The House for Family Living'. The article was published to coincide with the completion of a display model home. The WHC promoted the project in local newspapers, inviting the public to view it.
This blog article covers the main visuals from the article (photos + plan) and the locations of 3 such houses. Previously, only one house was thought to have been built, even though building site addresses were printed in the article. Errors in the addresses and some modifications of the plans made the other 3 houses unfound until now.
(St. Louis Dispatch, Sept 19, 1956)
The Woman's Home Companion Article
The floorplan for the home:
Of Paul Rudolph's designs, this one always seemed like an outlier to me, probably a result of the limited information and photographs available online or published. With its oversized gable framework floating in space, dominating the facade, I assumed it was a relatively normal house with an interesting front tacked on.
(St. Louis WHC House. Source: Google Street view).
When I found the magazine article, I was relieved and excited to see that the interior plan contained a bit of Rudolph magic: A floating balcony level and a very open plan circulation based around a utility core.
View looking from Eastern corner of living room to gabled front of house.
Entry is to left behind partition wall. Balcony access stairs at right.
1) Living Room and Fireplace
The sleek stainless steel fireplace may be narrow, but the way the hood extends upwards beyond the balcony draws your eye up to appreciate the height of the vaulted space. Access to bathrooms and bedrooms beyond is through the door at right.
2) Entry/Family Room/Dining Area
The first step of the choreographed entry is guiding guests to walk under the the large shade structure out front on the right side of the house. Inside the front door, Rudolph confronts you with a partition wall that blocks your view immediately in front, forcing you to turn into the dining area and take in the balcony in front and overhead. Once you have passed the partition wall you can then turn and look back down diagonally into the living room for maximum effect.
Game table / Entry / Desk area.
Desk / Family / Dining Area. The drop leaf table at right opens up for formal dinners in front of the large gable windows. By using a collapsible table, the space remains open and spacious, allowing multiple uses. A small dinette is around the corner at center, opposite the kitchen cabinets (see below).
3) Modern Kitchen
On the left side of the house, we see the modern kitchen with its solid block of white steel cabinets. Rudolph maintains sight lines by not using any high cabinets. Instead, low shelves are set directly onto the base cabinets. Cantaloupe colored 'Panelyte' counter tops add a splash of color. Sliding doors at rear conceal the washing machine and dryer. The subtle band of color links the doors to the kitchen and emphasizes the horizontal lines. The fan hood is stainless steel, following the fireplace. The interior curtains can be drawn to close off the kitchen area and make the foyer/living area more defined. Alternative access to the bedrooms and bathrooms is to the left of the refrigerator at the center of the photo and the basement is accessed to the right of the curtain.
View from behind the cabinets:
Dishwasher is to the left of the sink. Note the built in lighting on the underside of the balcony catwalk overhang. TV (beside door in background) can be watched from behind the counter.
Other features targeted at Woman's Home Companion readers included:
• Gas range
• Gas refrigerator/freezer with built in ice maker
• Fold out mixer station
• Built-in whole house vacuum
• Gas heating and air conditioning
• Workshop (in basement or garage)
3D Architectural Model of the WHC house.
Using the floorplan and photos I have created a 3D model. I find it always helps me to understand the spaces more deeply when I have to figure out how the elements and spaces relate to each other.
Click on the gallery images below for some 3D renderings:
I've also put together this 3D Fly through video to help understand the flow of the space:
Locating the WHC Houses
The article featured this information box, providing addresses and builders of the four homes of this design that were to be built (beyond the initial model home).
However, the only confirmed house was the one featured in the article, located at 859 Edlin Dr, Warson Woods, St. Louis, MO.
All the articles I've read on the house state that none of the other houses were built, at least not at the given addresses anyway. However, I managed to find that three of the remaining four were in fact built - just not where they were supposed to be!
Found House #1: 9474 Northgate Dr, Allison Park, PA
A simple case of wrong address. I found this one just a couple of houses away from the given address (9474 Springfield Drive), on a different road but with the same street number, at:
9474 Northgate Dr, Allison Park, PA.
This one lacks the expressive front trellis but the interior floorplan is hopefully very much the same.
I also found a local newspaper advert from 19 Sept 1956 naming the housing and Rudolph as architect.
(Unfortunately this one lacks both front gable high windows and the long interior skylight.)
Found House #2: 2520 West 44th St, Indianapolis, IN
While the address of this one is correctly given in the article, the built plan was rotated anti-clockwise 90 degrees, presenting a very nondescript side to the house. The floorplan from property records and visual clues from Google Streetview however, revealed its true identity and I stopped at the address this past summer to confirm it (image above).
Found House #3: 4317 Dudley Ave, Indianapolis, IN
4400 E Dudley Ave, Sunny Breeze Second Section, Indianapolis, IN
The address given in the article (4400 E Dudley Ave, Sunny Breeze Second Section, Indianapolis, IN) does not exist on modern day maps, but what I found was that a Woman’s home Companion Home was built at 4317 Dudley Ave. It was featured in a local newspaper in Feb 1957. Although the roofline has been flipped to run left to right, you can see the garage, entry placement and kitchen layout are similar and the footprint of the home is correct. It also shares the same appliances as the other homes (e.g. gas range, heating, AC, washer dryer, built in vacuum etc).
Unfortunately this home seems to have lost many if not all of the unique design elements that made the original so unique.
Ruled Out: 8402 Washington Blvd, Indianapolis, IN
'A house by Woman for Women'
I can confirm that one of the addresses given in the article does not contain a WHC house but interestingly, the house built there was designed by the builder's wife (Mrs. Leo Cassell). It appears for some reason the Rudolph design was not used but the ideas behind the design of the home (i.e. the focus on a woman's needs/preferences at the time ) was continued:
The End of Woman's Home Companion Magazine
Interestingly, the Magazine folded shortly after the project, around December 1965, due to financial losses. It is not clear if the project directly led to the closure but it is an an unfortunate series of events either way.