Structure: Garlinghouse Plan #8160 Location: Knoxville, Tennessee Date: 1957 Tidbit: In the mid-century era, a house didn’t have to be custom to be architect designed. You see, architects would often design and submit their house plans to house plan books / catalogues. Sometimes, the plan book companies would send employees out across the country to find, measure, and draw house plans they thought would have sell well (and have popular appeal).
All a potential homeowner would have to do would be to acquire a catalog, find a house plan they liked, call up the house plan company, pay for the house plan… and voilà! They’d be well on their way to having a (semi) custom house built. If you want to look through lots of old house plan books, Internet Archive has a great collection of digitized catalogs.
In Knoxville, Tennessee, is a great illustration of this house plan phenomenon. Built in 1947, this is a cute, rather unique looking house.
The house’s plan comes from a very popular house plan publication called Garlinghouse. The house’s plan, #8160, cost $22.50, and was described as a “contemporary flat roof type home” with a “practical and roomy floor plan.”
Structure: Donald Newton house Location: Knoxville, Tennessee Architect: Robert Judd Date: 1968 Story: Today’s story starts (as many of them do) with a real estate listing.
As I was perusing old Zillow listings, I came across a beautiful house made of glass, wood, and natural stone. Down below the photos, the listing contained this funny little line: “This Frank Lloyd Wright style property was designed by the same architect that did the Kentucky Lake Lodge.” First, I had a laugh. As the photos below will illustrate, there was nothing Wrightian about this house.
The other part of the sentence did not make me laugh, but it piqued my curiosity. It was the first clue to figuring out who this mysterious architect might be… so into the historical records I went.
First, the lodge. In the early 1960s, the TVA worked with the state of Kentucky to take a bunch of lakeside land and turn it into a place that tourists would want to vacation. The resulting park (Kentucky Dam Village) featured a restaurant, lots of lodging, a marina, and endless walking trails.
The highlight of the park was the Kentucky Dam Village Lodge, a marvelous structure overlooking the Kentucky Lake, a place replete with motel rooms, a pool, and this incredible floating copper fireplace.
Now, back in Knoxville, there was a civil engineer who worked at the TVA. His name was Donald Newton. Newton was not just a civil engineer, he was also a leaders at the Knoxville Society of Friends (Quakers). When the society was in need of a new meeting house (in 1961), Newton helped them find a nice wooded spot of land to build on. What a helpful fellow!
Some years later, Newton would build himself a home just down the road from the meeting house. Newton reached out to the architect who had designed the Kentucky Dam Village Lodge, an architect named Robert Judd (based out of Louisville, Kentucky). My hunch is that Newton knew Judd from his days helping the TVA design the Kentucky Dam Village project.
How solid is my theory? Let us examine the evidence by comparing pictures from the Kentucky Dam Village Lodge against the Newton house, see if we can’t spot the similarities.
First, here’s a historical and modern-day picture of what was called the “Executive Cottage”:
And here is the living wing of the Netwon house:
Next, here’s a modern day photo of the Kentucky Dam Village Lodge:
And here’s the main room of the Newton house:
I’m sold, and we’re gonna mark this case solved so I can add the rest of the house photos for your viewing pleasure.
In 1965, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) decided that it was time to upgrade their Greek life. The school proposed a Fraternity Park, complete with 13 new frat houses…all designed by local architects.
The frat houses were designed around a common property that included streets, sidewalks, parking, and recreation areas. Not all of them were mid-century modern, so I’m leaving off the traditional houses.
The frats were all located in Knoxville, Tennessee, and they were all built in 1965, so I’ll leave that out of the building details. And you know, speaking of brevity, I won’t waste too any more time with the background: t’s a block of frat houses, you get. Let’s get into the design!
Structure: Sigma Alpha Epsilon Architect: Barber & McMurry Tidbit: The tree in the center of the courtyard was called the “make-believe tree.” Design wise, looks like those windows never materialized and the tree ended up on the outside of the exterior wall. Also, did those arches not get built either?
Structure: Kappa Alpha Architect: Painter, Weeks & McCarty Tidbit: This eventually became Phi Kappa Psi
Structure: Sigmi Phi Epsilon Architect: Painter, Weeks & McCarty Tidbit: This mildly interesting frat got a huge remodel in 2011 and is now, uh, not so interesting
Structure: Pi Kappa Alpha Architect: Painter, Weeks & McCarty
Structure: Zeta Beta Tau Architect: Good & Goodstein Tidbit: this house is now Pi Kappa Phi
Structure: Sigma Nu Architect: Abernethy & Robinson Tidbit: the only non-Knoxville architects, Abernethy & Robinson were located in Johnson City, Tennessee. The original building might have implemented a curved front, possibly modified after the original structure was built. It could also be that my black and white rendering is just not showing that detail. The building, despite its uniqueness, was torn down and replaced with a super generic building sometime in the 2010s.
Structure: Lamda Chi Alpha Architect: Lindsay & Maples Tidbit: this house is now Alpha Epsilon Pi
Structure: Delta Tau Delta Architect: W. Glenn Bullock Tidbit: this house is still in fantastic condition, which is awesome because it draws some strong design inspiration from the famous architect Louis Kahn
Structure: Alpha Tau Omega Architect: Morton & Sweetser Tidbit: This structure is essentially was remodeled into oblivion. Sometime around 2007, a pitched roof was added along with a new foyer which kind of ruined the whole effect.