Keys House -- Rochester, MN

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Ed Jarolin
Posts: 277
Joined: Mon Apr 03, 2006 1:06 pm
Location: Wyoming

Keys House -- Rochester, MN

Post by Ed Jarolin »

Looking through the new "FLlW: Mid-Century Modern" book, I noticed a photograph of the Keys house showing a rather unfortunate addition. It is a rectangular appendage half a level down and directly attached to the south wall of the original kitchen/dining area. Can anyone provide any further information on this?

SDR
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Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

W A Storrer's photo and plan of the Keys residence (1950), Rochester, MN.
Professor Storrer reminds us that John Howe added to the living room and converted the carport (foreground in photo) to
enclosed space in 1971. I detect discrepancies between the plan and photo. . .
Image
Image
Last edited by SDR on Mon Dec 10, 2007 4:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Ed Jarolin
Posts: 277
Joined: Mon Apr 03, 2006 1:06 pm
Location: Wyoming

Post by Ed Jarolin »

SDR, thanks for posting the plan & picture.

The addition that is pictured in the Mid-Century Modern book is on the downhill side of the house. I do not believe this is part of the work by Howe that is refered to by Storrer. I visited this house around 1974 and observed the enclosed carport as well as a two car 'Usonian style' garage upslope at the street. I do not recall seeing a downslope addition, though I could just be forgetful on this point. I did take some slides and if no one gives us any additional info on this in a few days I'll endeavor to dig them out and see what they show.

jlesshafft
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Joined: Mon May 07, 2007 2:56 pm

Post by jlesshafft »

I think there is an addition since the Howe updates. I have a couple of photos taken last year which shows a bit of a roof extension looking from the street, and a photo looking thru the trees of the addition.

It's hard to see, but the photos are here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/98315875@N00/2100992181/

Ed Jarolin
Posts: 277
Joined: Mon Apr 03, 2006 1:06 pm
Location: Wyoming

Post by Ed Jarolin »

Thanks jlesshafft for the recent photo. Or perhaps I should temper the thanks because of the sadness I feel upon seeing the photo. Looks like we have another case of a fine house slowly dying a death of a thousand cuts. That enclosure around the original concrete block chimney mass is absolutely sickening; the architectural equivalent of striped wallpaper. Looks like the planters now have metal flashings on them. Why not just tuckpoint the joints and repaint? Also, I see a 'new' block planter in the vicinity of the original entrance, as well as the 'lovely' new steps and handrail up the slope next to the original planter box. Before seeing this I thought the addition at the rear was bad enough, but now I'm just appalled.

Honestly, I really don't understand the thought process, if it may be called that, employed by some people. Take a nice, simple, architecturally significant house and abuse it in this manner. If it were later in the day I think I'd be getting a good stiff drink!

Getting back to Howe's work. Looking at some photos leads me to believe the living room expansion referenced by Storrer consisted of pushing the glazed wall out to the edge of the eave, then turning back at a right angle to meet the block mass housing the utilities. This would have added 10 units - 160 s.f.

jlesshafft
Posts: 62
Joined: Mon May 07, 2007 2:56 pm

Post by jlesshafft »

Ed - I'm with you. Just looking at photos in books, Keys had always been one of my favorites. Having seen it in person, it's pretty "ugly" now. It need some cleaning up if nothing else.

And why are we growing banana plants in Minnesota???????

SDR
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Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

I have inserted an inverted copy of the plan, above the photo above. (Quite a poetic sentence. . .)

I am still puzzled at the startling discrepancy between the photo and the plan. There are two planters in the photo; one (?) in the plan. I see neither of the square-plan elements that would be nearest the viewer, in the photo: the terminal object and the utility element. Instead, there is a long wall which steps down and becomes a planter. (I assume the carport is in front of this wall. But is it ?)

There is a fin-like wall in the photo that is missing from the plan.

Can anyone help me reconcile the apparent disparity ?

SDR

Ed Jarolin
Posts: 277
Joined: Mon Apr 03, 2006 1:06 pm
Location: Wyoming

Post by Ed Jarolin »

Take a really close look and you will see the planters 'hiding' under the foliage immediately downsheet of the two masonry 'piers'. Looks to me like the 'pier' at the carport was built further upsheet; it's downsheet face aligns with the break between the pitched roof and the flat roof. The proportions of this pier also may have been changed from square to rectangular (hard to tell from one photo angle). The carport, before Howe's infill of this area, is just beyond this 'pier'. As to the fin wall, my guess is that it is part of Howe's work. As the carport was eliminated it was no longer necessary for a path from carport to entry be under roof. Perhaps he wanted to define the entrance location more emphatically.

Roderick Grant
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Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 7:48 am

Post by Roderick Grant »

A close examination will show that the house was originally built according to the plan. The first alteration by Howe was just the enclosure of the original carport. A later addition was added by Howe (according to the docents at the 2000 Conservancy conference) perpendicular to the original house about half a flight down from the living room, and contains bedrooms. Although it's all a bit tacky looking, nothing has been done that could not be undone. As built, as the plan shows, it was a very tiny house with claustrophobic bedrooms, so it's understandable that a later owner would want to enlarge it. Better to leave such a cottage alone, and buy something more suitable to your family's needs, but who does that? Hopefully some day a bachelor will buy the place and put it right.

SDR
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Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

Ah -- I finally see it. Thanks, Ed. The planters ARE shown on the plan, which helps. So this photo, which predates 1974 (or 1978), is of the unaltered house. . .

SDR

DRN
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Joined: Mon Jul 10, 2006 10:02 am
Location: Cherry Hill, NJ

Post by DRN »

SDR: Thanks for posting the plan....hopefully someone here can answer a question that has plagued me since I first saw this floor plan when I was 13.

Does the owner have to walk through his fireplace to access the boiler? If a fire is in the fireplace, is the boiler room inaccessible?

The question I have now as a grown-up architect is...what kind of door and hardware can withstand the heat of a fireplace? 3/4" thick steel with simple latch hardware like the damper?

Despite the boiler room door mystery, I always liked the simplicity of the Cooperative Homesteads/Keys design.

Rood
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Post by Rood »

DRN wrote:SDR: Thanks for posting the plan....hopefully someone here can answer a question that has plagued me since I first saw this floor plan when I was 13. Does the owner have to walk through his fireplace to access the boiler? If a fire is in the fireplace, is the boiler room inaccessible?

The question I have now as a grown-up architect is...what kind of door and hardware can withstand the heat of a fireplace? 3/4" thick steel with simple latch hardware like the damper? Despite the boiler room door mystery, I always liked the simplicity of the Cooperative Homesteads/Keys design.
I'm sure you know the answers to your query by now, but yes ... the furnace was/is? located inside the fireplace, and a steel door separates the two spaces. That information years ago from Mrs Keys.

It rather astonished me to learn that fact, and what it meant, until Mrs. Keys explained that Mr. Wright's original design for them proved far beyond their budget. Despairing of ever being able to afford a FLLWright house, they perked up when they saw drawings of the Detroit Cooperative project. Subsequently they convinced Mr. Wright to adapt the design for them.

You have to admire a client willing to do anything to fulfill a dream ... even to entering the furnace room through a blazing fire.

DRN
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Joined: Mon Jul 10, 2006 10:02 am
Location: Cherry Hill, NJ

Post by DRN »

Thank you Rood, for answering my question...I can now rest.

It would be fun (at least to a geek like me) to set up a thermometer in the boiler room with a camera programmed to snap a pic of it every 15 minutes or so while a fire is in the fireplace, to see how hot it really gets in the boiler room. Possibly not terrible, but still, I'd think twice about storing plastics or flammables in there.

DRN
Posts: 4036
Joined: Mon Jul 10, 2006 10:02 am
Location: Cherry Hill, NJ

Post by DRN »

The following is a link to pictures of the interior of the Keys house in Rochester MN as altered by John Howe. I had never seen interior photos of this house before. BTW, I'm pretty certain the art glass is not by Wright.

http://www.northfieldconstruction.com/a ... ights-keys

Unfortunately, there are no pics of the "firewalker's door of death" to the utility room.

Also, compare the Keys pics to this link JChoate shared of a CGI model of Cooperative Homesteads:

http://www.curbed.com/2016/8/19/1255159 ... tive-house

Roderick Grant
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Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 7:48 am

Post by Roderick Grant »

In photos 6 and 7 there is an interesting painting on the cabinetry. Masselink?

The art glass may not be FLW (though I'm not sure about that panel with the dentist ... could be) but it is an interesting alternative to curtains to obtain privacy.

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