Sunday, March 1, 2009

Drummond's First Houses - Prairie Village, KS - The J.C. Nichols Connection - Part Two

This is a current photo of Don Drummond's first house in Kansas. Not necessarily what we think of as a "Modern" house, but it had many new distinctive features of it's day. (Click on Images to Enlarge) It also is the beginning of a significant relationship between builder and architect. After WWII, in 1946, Don had been building smaller, lesser expensive houses in KCMO...wanting to grow his business, he was encouraged by his Father-in-Law, Judge Woodruff to build in the emerging community of "Prairie Village" in the Country Club District as it was called by J.C. Nichols. In 1946-47, Don built his own home as a model to live in and to show to potential clients. With "Mr. Nichols" urging him to have an architect design his houses, Don engaged David Runnells to design his first home in PV. Don and his wife, Francie had met David Runnells, when Francie was on the Land Planning Committee for the "Western" Highway, known as 56 Hwy or Hwy 50 then, or now known as Shawnee Mission Parkway. Nichols was not a modernist, though he did believe in new home innovations, he was more concerned with what would sell and in his opinion maintain property values in his developments. Though not modern looking, the house had some pretty unique features such as the brick wall at the entry which continued inside, kitchen in the front and the living area with fireplace in the rear of the house with what would then be considered a lot of windows. Don tells a story of a rumor in the neighborhood that "peeping toms had moved in" so they could watch the actions of their neighbors...he laughed and said, " it took some getting used to for people as I built others in the neighborhood".... We have a 1947 promotional film showing this house with stained siding, the ample windows in back, kids riding trikes in the driveway and cars driving down 67th St. near Delmar, kicking up dust on the gravel road...hardly any trees in sight...just imagine PV without trees... the Drummonds stayed here until they moved into their Runnells designed modern house near 69th and Belinder in 1951.


modern_1 said...

Interesting post.

Do you know if Drummond was invloved with the houses on Maple Street, just south of 79th in Prairie Village?

I live in one which still has the original character of the house. As an architect, I have always thought that the design was too "cleaned lined" for an architect not to have had something to do with the design.
The house is a very simple ranch with exposed beam overhangs, nicely proportioned awning windows, and vaulted ceilings.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Scott said...

He built in the area, but mostly north of 79th. That said, we've seen "onesies and twosies" built in less "dense" clusters than the sub-divisions Drummond or any other builder of the time created. we can probably give you a good idea who built your house or at least tell you if it's a Drummond home... I live in the area so it's not a hassle.

modern_1 said...

sounds good. just let me know.

if it turns out that they are not drummond houses, any idea who may have been involved?

Scott said...

On Maple south of 79th, are houses by other builders. Some of Drummonds' competitors probably built most of the houses there...interesting ranches with a deep overhang in front, starting at the garage and continuing over the entry, dominate the street. Drummonds' competitors, at the time, included Simon Construction, Cinnamon Construction, and Symons Construction whom I believe built the "moderns" at 81st and Maple...I didn't see any houses that I could attribute to Don...His name has become synonomous with mid-century modern in the area, which sometimes creates misinformation and confuses the issue, in addition to that, like on 78ter east of Roe, Drummond built traditional looking ranches (variations on his "Home For You in '52" plan)among his MCM houses often causing people to say the house is not a Drummond...?