Sunday, September 4, 2016

Royal Barry Wills Crush

Looking for a house that is oozing with charm but also works well for today's living?  The classic Cape Cod homes that dot our landscape were an inspiration for the renowned architect Royal Barry Wills.  Though he also designed cutting edge modern homes, his traditional designs helped to catapult the Cape style home to the forefront of Colonial Revival American architecture during the first half of the 20th century.  Wills, born in Melrose Massachusetts in 1895, established his architectural practice in 1925.

Historic New England has Royal Barry Wills archive

A graduate of MIT in architectural engineering, Wills pulled inspiration from the language of traditional architecture for his cape style homes.  They evoke the feeling of a quieter time but incorporate modern kitchens and baths and the necessary garage of the mid 20's century.  He was a master of proportion and his homes can be recognized by their easy relationship with the surrounding landscape.

Online Archive

Now antiques in their own right, they can be the perfect home for someone looking for a unique, high quality home complete with nooks and crannies, without having to shoehorn a bathroom under the stairs.

Royal Barry Wills died in 1962.  However, if you want a new home, the company Wills founded continues designing magnificent homes today as Royal Barry Wills Associates.

Already have a Royal Barry Wills home? Lucky you!!  You can research original plans and drawings at Historic New England's archives.  Royal Barry Wills Associates generously donated their archive to Historic New England in 2014.

For a current list of pre 1962 Royal Barry Wills homes:

pre 1962 Royal Barry Wills for sale on Cape Cod

More info:

Jeff Wilkinson, "Royal Barry Wills"; Old House Journal July-August 1992

November 2009, Retro Renovation blog post Royal Barry Wills

Friday, April 1, 2016

The White Pine Series of Architectural Monographs

This post should be subtitled "How did I not know this was a thing".  I was rummaging around my favorite book store, when I came across a jewel in their used book section.  The object of my desire was a worn portfolio of architectural essays, entitled "The White Pine Series of Architectural Monographs", which was barely held together with a clip.  I brought it home and upon researching further, found that the bi weekly series, edited by architect Russell Whitehead, had a long history in documenting historical architecture in the United States.

The White Pine Series was born in 1914 and was supported by the Northern Pine Manufacturer's Association of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan and the Associated White Pine Manufacturer's of Idaho as an advertising vehicle for using Eastern White Pine in building.  As such, the focus was initially on exterior details and highlighted colonial New England Architecture to capitalize on the colonial revival fever sweeping the nation.

When, in 1924, the White Pine Bureau ceased its sponsorship, the series continued with other advertisers but broadened its focus to include interior and public buildings as well as southern buildings.

In 1940, the series was discontinued, largely because many of its contributors began working on the Historic American Building Survey (HABS) created by the New Deal.  Whenever I am researching the history of a property, HABS is usually my first stop as it is a wealth of history, photographs and architectural drawings of historic properties, especially 17th, 18th and early 19th century buildings.  I also look up info in the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS).

However, this series was new to me and so exciting because it often relates structures to a theme, such as 19th century entries, 18th century mantels, etc rather than taking a building in isolation.  Also, the detailed drawings and photos in this series of interior features are a delight.  This series could also be very useful to people building a new home who want a classic look.

If you are wondering what the chances are of your finding the series in a used book store, fear not! Much of the series has been reset and printed and can be purchased on Amazon.  Also, the series is in the public domain so you can see many of the bi weekly publications at online libraries.  Also, publications from 1914 through 1931 are available online (with printing capabilities) through Eastern White Pine sponsored by NELMA.