Showing posts with label J.C. Nichols. Show all posts
Showing posts with label J.C. Nichols. Show all posts

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Drummond "Flatties" - The J.C. Nichols Connection


In 1951 Francie Drummond returned from a trip to San Francisco CA. She had seen houses built by, and met, a successful Bay Area home builder named Earl Smith. She liked the way his new house plan functioned. He developed subdivisions and built many homes. Due to the flat roofs on his many houses he was nicknamed "Flat Top" Smith. Joe Eichler, another Bay Area builder/developer started his Sunnyvale Development with house plans obtained from Smith. Here are vintage photos of Smith's model and floor plan, courtesy of Robert. (click on image to enlarge)


Francie returned home with the plans and Don built the house almost identical to Smith's, only changing; sizes of specific spaces for buyers needs, siding types, using Reynolds Aluminum windows, offering smaller patios, landscaping by Stuart Mertz and Associates (out of St. Louis MO) and per Don "engineering the house to take ten feet of snow". He liked this plan because of it's sense of structure and lovingly called them "Flatties". He built one to "model" and sold more than he had lots...quickly fixing that with J.C. Nichols, he still had to deal with the concern for flat roofs and FHA Financing issues. The house below is one of the best preserved of all the "Flatties". So much of the original classic 1950's landscaping has "grown out" and wasn't replaced...the crab trees,tulip trees and junipers softened the edges...

Drummond built culdesacs of his "Flatties" at 71st Terrace and Mission, now demolished for a Care Center, but that's another story, and 75th and Ash...the west side of the street demolished for additional daycare space for the adjacent church and a fire wiping out another on the east side of the street. There are a few on Rosewood also.

This one sports shutters and a bay window with leaded glass and converted garage, an 80's redo, note the "Flattie" behind and to the left with yellow trim... the photo below has trees that obscure the breaks in the facade but reveals the vinyl siding and replacement windows.

Don said "once I put tops on, I sold more" , meaning I guess, he got extra mileage out of the plan by putting hip roofs on the houses. Today many of these houses are considered "old" looking, but in their day and with appreciative owners today, they can look pretty cool and still provide a great sense of space and economy. The house below was redone in the late 1970's by altering the entry and adding a front deck and sliding doors where the "picture" window was, still looking nice today... Interesting to note, this was the first house that connected Don to Eichler and later led to both their work with Case Study architects Jones and Emmons from California...


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.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

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

I love "First-Ring" suburbs. You can find the coolest MCM houses, not to mention interesting shopping areas, schools and churches. Since so many of the houses we have researched are in Prairie Village, KS it seemed like it would be interesting to explore it's early years. J.C. Nichols, the "father" of the internationally renowned Country Club Plaza Shopping District wanted to expand his company's developments into Kansas from nearby Missouri. He had already established Mission Hills as a place for the affluent. His desire was to build another community with shopping and recreation. These images are from an original promotional brochure.
After numerous attempts he finally purchased Elisabeth Porter's farm. With a promise to build her a house and enough land for an ample garden he sealed the deal. (This was the sister of the Porter that sold Nichols land around the area of Tomahawk and Roe, where Porter Park is today.)

This was not a "production" house from Nichols, but one of the best looking Cape Cods he built in P.V., it was all-brick, nicely scaled and because of it's location had a presence as the "Gatehouse" to the "Village", Nichols' shopping center. Definitely Nichols took advantage of this as a marketing strategy.

The land was platted and ready for construction when World War II began. Nichols called his new development "Prairie Village" in the Country Club District, associating this neighborhood with others he had created in KCMO, just across State Line Rd. With a "pent up" market of buyers returning from the military after the war ended, construction burst into action in 1946. The subdivision stretched from 67th street south to 71 street, Mission Rd to Roe. A total of 1776 houses were built in the sub-division. Prairie Village officially became a city in 1951, when 75th St was a dirt road west of Colonial Dr.(Click on images to enlarge)
Just look at the benefits a returning veteran could realize purchasing a house, with $257.53 cash required, a Vet would have a house payment of $68.15 on a 25 year loan, compared with a non-veteran FHA loan requiring $2683.33 in cash for a house payment of $67.93 (both payments do not include taxes and insurance)
Nichols, as usual, planned to build a shopping area adjacent to the residential community. In most of his communities it seems that all roads lead to his shopping districts.
This shows the original plan for the Prairie Village Shopping Center. Interesting to note the original location of the grocery store and drug store, very different than today...too bad we didn't get that theater!
As J.C. Nichols Company acquired more land to develop, he assembled an "All-Star" team of builders( as seen in the first image), many a generation or two in the business, and most, if not all, recognizable names today. Note Don Drummond, top row, third from left...to be continued...