Charlotte’s Oldest Modern House Saved From Demolition

Triangle Modernist Houses, Modern Charlotte Realty find a buyer by

Modern Charlotte Realty's Gail Jodon with the "sold" sign at the Lassiter house.


July 22, 2011 (Charlotte, NC) – The 1956 Lassiter House, the oldest mid-century modernist house in Charlotte that was threatened with demolition if it didn’t sell by June of this year, has been sold to new owners and will be renovated.

Gail Jodon of Modern Charlotte Realty officially reported the sale this month after closing papers were signed. The new owners are Leslie and John Culberson, who “are very happy and proud, and I expect they will do a wonderful renovation,” Jodon said.

The Culbersons have selected Matthew Benson, AIA, of Meyer Greeson Paullin Benson in Charlotte to design the renovation.

The previous, and original, owner of the three-bedroom, three-bath house, which was designed by architect A.G. Odell with landscape design by Lewis Clark, put it on the market in February and announced that if the it didn’t sell by June, it would be razed so the property could be sold as a lot.

Aware that the Lassiter house is a classic example of mid-century modernist residential design by one of the South’s foremost architects of the time, Triangle Modernist Houses (TMH), the non-profit organization dedicated to documenting and preserving modernist houses, immediately issued regional and national alerts to help find a buyer. Recent Past Preservation Network out of Washington, DC, picked up on the TMH alert and posted it on their website and online journal.

“A. G. Odell put Charlotte architecture on the map through the Ovens Auditorium and countless other Queen City buildings,” said TMH director George Smart. “Because the land value exceeded the house, Modernist gems like this are disappearing at an alarming rate. All of us at TMH could not be happier to know the Lassiter House will be preserved, renovated, and enjoyed by the Culbersons for years to come.”

Jodon offered “a very special shout out to George Smart for putting out a preservation alert, which really helped put the home in the spotlight and created a real sense of urgency that was instrumental in assisting me in getting this home sold and in good hands. I am thrilled that the Lassiter home has a new owner and that this important piece of Charlotte’s architectural history has been saved from the wrecking ball.”

She added that successes like this are the reason she chose to specialize in mid-century modern houses. “I don’t win them all, but it is so satisfying to be able to say that Modern Charlotte Realty played a key role in saving this home.”

Published in Better Homes and Gardens magazine in 1956, the house features steel beams that support the roof, eliminating the need for load-bearing interior walls. As a result, the interior spaces are large, open, and thoroughly wheelchair accessible. Extensive glass walls and doors visually and physically open the inside to outdoor gardens. Architect Charles McMurray designed an addition to the house in the 1970s.

The sale included significant tax credits since the house is designated as a Historic Property by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission, who calls it “extremely rare as a fully realized example of Modernist Style” and “important as an early example of the [Modernist] movement after World War II to apply technology to residential architecture.” For more information on A.G. Odell and the Lassiter house, visit

About Triangle Modernist Houses

Triangle Modernist Houses (TMH) is a 501C3 nonprofit established in 2007, dedicated to documenting, preserving and promoting modernist residential architecture. The award-winning website, now the largest educational and historical archive for modernist residential design in America, continues to catalog and advocate for North Carolina modernism. TMH hosts popular modernist house tours several times a year, giving the public access to the Triangle’s most exciting residential architecture, past and present. These tours raise awareness and help preserve these “livable works of art” for future generations. Visit the website at TMH also has an active community on Facebook.


Kenneth Hobgood Architects Renovates, Enlarges A Classic Fifties Modern House

Sensitive phased project respects the architectural integrity of the original residence.

July 13, 2011 (Raleigh, NC) – Kenneth E. Hobgood Architects in Raleigh recently

1950s photo of the northern elevation.

completed the renovation phase of an exemplary, mid-century modern house in Durham and is about to begin construction on phase two: a 1200-square-foot addition that will honor, without imitating, the original house.

When new owners and Duke University professors Mimi and Mark Hansen hired the firm to renovate and enlarge the 2337-square-foot house that architect Kenneth Scott, AIA, designed for Binford and John Carr in 1958, the design team immediately recognized the challenges they faced.

“We knew it was going to be difficult because of our respect for the original house,” said project architect Bob Thomas, AIA, a principal in the firm. “This was a renovation, not a restoration, so it needed to accommodate a family of five, including three young children, and lifestyle changes from the Fifties to today. So we had to strike a balance between opening up the space yet transforming the interior respectfully.”

As for the addition: “It was challenging, and interesting, to add onto a house we

CG rendering of the addition with the cantilevered office at night.

respect so much without mimicking, or repeating, what’s there,” said Kenneth Hobgood, FAIA, principal. “We knew the idea had to come from the existing house, in terms of materials, scale and siting. We also knew we had to be very careful since the new owners hope to have the house designated as an historic property.”

According to Thomas, the renovation involved preserving the fundamentals of the mid-century house – the carport and enclosed courtyard entry, the floor plan organization, the cruciform footprint, and the planar language of the house (interior spaces are defined by brick planes) — while enlarging the kitchen and bringing the house up to current building codes.

By relocating a staircase in the middle of the house that once led to the basement, the firm made the kitchen not only larger but literally the center of the house. This also allowed them to remove walls that made the kitchen an enclosed room and visually connect to it the rest of the living spaces as is more typical of modern residential design.

“Where we did intervene, we made it more of a true modern house,” Thomas noted.

The living room, a glass-fronted space that overlooks the rebuilt deck outside under the house’s deep roof overhangs, was touched very lightly, he said. “Other than cosmetic upgrades, the living room is perfect the way it is. We couldn’t do anything to make it better.”

The original house is organized so that living spaces are on the northern side of the east-west axis/circulation hall with bedrooms on the southern, street-facing side. A hallway/gallery leading to the bedrooms features a glass wall overlooking the courtyard.

The addition will continue this organizational plan, including a glass-fronted gallery. This gallery, however, will also be a 25-foot-long bridge between the old house and the new addition, following the original east-west axis and circulation pattern.

“We talked the owners into buying a portion of the lot next door so that we could leave some distance between the original house and the addition,” Thomas said. “The bridge keeps us from having to mimic the old house because it’s separate from the original, not grafted onto it. It takes its cues in plan and materials, for the most part, from Kenneth Scott’s design. Yet it will provide visual and physical clarity between the old and new.”

Along with the bridge, the addition will include a master bedroom suite, a guest room and another basement, as well as Mark Hansen’s 36-foot-long, 8-foot, 8-inches wide office that will be cantilevered off the addition’s northern elevation.

“The office is the only true departure from the planes and materials of the original,” Thomas said. “It will be a separate object that will float above the landscape in a cantilevered box, framed in dark, anodized metal that will form ‘blinders’ on the east and west, except for one slender, floor-to-ceiling window. The northern wall will be all glass with Mark’s desk built into it. The southern wall will be covered in bookshelves to accommodate Mark’s vast collection of books.”

Thomas expects the addition to take about a year to complete.

Bayleaf Buildings of Raleigh is serving as contractor for the project. Kaydos-Daniels is the structural engineer.

For more information on Kenneth Hobgood Architects, visit

About Kenneth E. Hobgood Architects:

Kenneth Hobgood, FAIA, founded Kenneth E Hobgood, Architects in Raleigh, NC, in 1992. Since then, the firm has received 39 design awards from the American Institute of Architects North Carolina chapter and its work has been published and exhibited in the United States, Japan, Italy, the Netherlands, England and Germany. In 1997, Kenneth Hobgood as awarded the Kamphoefner Prize from North Carolina State University’s College of Design for “consistent integrity and devotion to the development of modern architecture” in North Carolina. He has served as a visiting critic at Auburn University, Carnegie Mellon, Georgia Tech, and the University of Kentucky, and as an adjunct professor at North Carolina State University since 1988. For more information, visit

George Smart Receives 2011 Preservation Durham Advocacy Award

Triangle Modernist Houses’ founder and director praised at awards

TMH's George Smart


June 20, 2011 (Durham, NC) — George Smart, founder and director of Triangle Modernist Houses (TMH), a non-profit organization dedicated to documenting, preserving and promoting modernist residential design, is a 2011 recipient of Preservation Durham’s Advocacy Award for individual effort.

The 2011 Preservation Awards were announced during Preservation Durham’s Annual Meeting on June 15.

“George’s labor of love has turned, in a few short years, into the country’s largest online archive for modern architecture and modernism,” Preservation Durham announced during the awards presentation. “George has made it his personal mission to actively promote the value of modern architecture in our daily lives and in our architectural heritage – from mid-century/1950s houses to new construction – as well as the architects who design them.”

The award presentation cited Smart’s ongoing effort to archive and promote historic preservation “by cataloging the disappearing mid-century modern homes and commercial structures throughout the Triangle region and state, many of which we have lost and, sadly, many of which are currently at-risk.”

The presentation also cited TMH’s weekly newsletter and free listing of modernist houses for sale that helps realtors find buyers for those houses, especially those in danger of being demolished.

“But George’s hard work, dedication, and commitment to historic preservation is illustrated by more than a single website,” the announcement continued, pointing out TMH’s many house tours, dinners, tours outside the state, annual architecture movie series, and other educational programs.

“Educating the public about the importance of preserving the architectural treasures of the recent past is always a challenge for local and regional non-profits,” the announcement concluded. “The Triangle is fortunate and we are grateful to have such a staunch advocate, volunteer, and crusader in George Smart.”

Smart expressed his gratitude for the award:  “Durham has an amazing range of Modernist houses, many of which are approaching 50 years old. Now is the time for the community to recognize these houses as the next generation of Durham’s history. TMH is proud to help Durham cherish that legacy through our online archive. We are honored to receive this award.

This marks the fourth public accolade Smart and TMH have received. In 2008, TMH received an Award of Merit from the Preservation Society of Chapel Hill and a Gertrude S. Carraway Award from Preservation North Carolina. In 2009, TMH received the Paul E. Buchanan Award from the Vernacular Architecture Forum and a Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Community Appearance from the City of Raleigh.

For more information on Preservation Durham and its awards program, visit

For more information on George Smart and Triangle Modernist Houses, visit

About George Smart:

A Raleigh native, George Smart became interested in architecture through his father, the late George Smart Sr. The latter was a local architect for over 40 years and, like many in his generation, admired Frank Lloyd Wright’s modernist style. Although the son’s career has little in common with architecture (he is a business consultant through his firm Strategic Development, Inc.), George can’t deny genetics. Modernist design is irrevocably embedded in his DNA. Even his mother, Ann Seltman Smart, a WPTF radio personality at one time, produced a documentary during the 1960s called “A is for Architecture.” In 2007, George created the website Recognizing increasing threats to the region’s modernist inventory, George set out to document every structure that could be identified, from existing neighborhood icons to those already lost to demolition or decay. George lives with his wife, Eleanor Stell, in their award-winning modernist house on a lakefront in Durham.

Midnight At The Mint with Mayberry Modernism

George Smart of Triangle Modernist Houses Speaks at Pecha

George Smart, founder/director, Triangle Modernist Houses

Kucha Night Charlotte.

September 27, 2010 (CHARLOTTE, NC) — When Pecha Kucha Night Charlotte cranks up its “V.7: Midnight at the Mint” event this Friday in the new Mint Museum at midnight, George Smart of Triangle Modernist Houses (TMH) will be there to speak on “Mayberry Modernism: Why North Carolina Is America’s Hotspot For Way Cool Houses.”

TMH is a Triangle-based non-profit organization that documents, promotes and helps preserve Modernist residential design.  Founder George Smart has spoken for Pecha Kucha Raleigh and Ignite Raleigh, an event very similar to Pecha Kucha.  In May he presented the longer version for the Historic Salisbury Foundation near Charlotte.

Pecha Kucha (PK) is a worldwide celebration that began in Tokyo in 2003. It is named for the Japanese term meaning “chit chat.” It offers 10 to 15 speakers the opportunity to present 20 images in 20 seconds, thus keeping the presentations concise and moving rapidly. PK and “Ignite” events are held every few months in both Raleigh and Charlotte.

Pecha Kucha Night Charlotte is part of the Mint Museum’s 24-hour Grand Opening at 500 South Tryon Street on Friday, October 1.  PK Charlotte will be held from 11:59 p.m. until 1:59 a.m. Saturday morning.  Admission to PK is free but there is a $10 entry fee to the Mint Museum.  The fee allows access to all the galleries and shows, as well as the 24-hour Grand Opening events and entertainment.

For more information on PK Charlotte, visit

For more information on Pecha Kucha in general, go to

For more information on Triangle Modernist Houses, visit

About Triangle Modernist Houses

Triangle Modernist Houses (TMH) is a 501C3 nonprofit established in 2007 to restoring and growing modernist architecture in the Triangle. The award-winning website, now the largest educational and historical archive for modernist residential design in America, continues to catalog, preserve, and advocate for North Carolina modernism. TMH also hosts popular modernist house tours several times a year, giving the public access to the Triangle’s most exciting residential architecture, past and present. These tours raise awareness and help preserve these “works of art” for future generations. Visit the website at TMH also has an active community on Facebook.

Triangle Modernist Houses Welcomes 2010 Advisory Council

December 1, 2009 (DURHAM, NC) – George Smart, founder and director of Triangle Modernist (TMH), today announced appointments to the organization’s 2010 Advisory Council.

TMH is a 501C3 nonprofit established in 2007 to preserve and promote modernist architecture in the Triangle. The award-winning website, now the largest educational and historical archive for modernist residential design in America, continues to catalog, preserve, and advocate for North Carolina modernism.

Appointment to the Advisory Council is a one-year commitment starting January 1, 2010. Selected from a cross-section of the design and client communities, Council members support the organization’s programming improvements.  This includes TMH’s popular modernist house tours, which give the public access to the Triangle’s most exciting residential architecture, past and present.

The 2010 Advisory Council includes: architect and attorney Theresa Joan Rosenberg; architect Erin Sterling, AIA, of Frank Harmon Architect PA; Leilani Carter; Vincent Whitehurst of Vincent Whitehurst Architect; Adrianne Joergensen; Kim Weiss of Blueplate PR; Rusty Long of Davenport Architecture; Bill Hopkins AIA of Hopkins McClure; Khalid Almo, BBH; Jane Thurman of Raleigh City Cemeteries Preservation; the Modern Home Network’s Debra Smith; and Elizabeth Sappenfield of Preservation North Carolina.

“The 2009 Advisory Council did an incredible job this past year. Their suggestions were key to significant website improvements.  Now TMH is one of the most highly visited in its class, and our tours continue to attract visitors from across the state,” said Smart. “I deeply appreciate their gifts of time and service to the community.”

For more information on Triangle Modernist Houses, visit

About Triangle Modernist Houses:

Features that characterize modernist design include combining traditionally separate common areas (such as the living room and the dining room), open interior floor plans with vaulted ceilings, large and numerous windows, flat or low pitched roofs, long exposed beams, extensive use of glass to bring in natural light, and aesthetic geometric forms. Triangle Modernist Archive, Inc. (TMA) is a North Carolina nonprofit organization committed to preserving, restoring, and growing modernist architecture.  Our primary public service is Triangle Modernist Houses (TMH), an award-winning, nonprofit educational archive for modernist residential design. TMH also hosts popular modernist house tours, design films, and trips several times a year, giving the public access to the Triangle’s most exciting residential architecture, past and present.  These events raise awareness and help preserve these works of art for future generations. For more information visit Wins National Architecture Award

July 1, 2009 (RALEIGH, NC) — Triangle Modernist Houses, an online, nonprofit educational archive for cataloguing, preserving, and advocating modernist residential design in the Triangle area of North Carolina, was honored recently with the 2009 Paul E. Buchanan Award from the Vernacular Architecture Forum.

The Buchanan Award was established in 1993 to recognize contributions to the study and preservation of vernacular architecture and the cultural landscape that do not take the form of books or published work.

Triangle Modernist Houses (TMH) provides extensive details on more than 145 architects with over 3300 photographs of 640 rarely seen homes. Information is gleaned from public records, published reports, interviews, and reader contributions.

“Since the 1950s, the Triangle area of the state – Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill — has been one of the most active areas for really cool houses,” said George Smart, founder and executive director TMH. He defines “cool houses” as “contemporary homes characterized by large common areas and windows, extensive use of natural light, and aesthetic geometric forms. Because of Dean Henry Kamphoefner’s vision for a modernist School of Design at North Carolina State University, this area has more modernist houses than anywhere else with the exception of LA and Chicago.“

The Buchanan Award is the third honor TMH has received since its inception. In 2008, TMH won an Award of Merit from the Preservation Society of Chapel Hill and a Gertrude S. Carraway Award of Merit from Preservation North Carolina (

Since it was launched in 2007, TMH’s efforts on behalf of modern architecture, which includes tours of modern homes in the area, has received national recognition in Dwell and Metropolis. The website’s work also been featured on WUNC Radio, in the Raleigh News and Observer and Durham Herald-Sun, and in a variety of online media. For complete information, visit the website at

The Vernacular Architecture Forum was formed in 1980 to encourage the study and preservation of these informative and valuable material resources. The Buchanan Award is named for Paul E. Buchanan who served as director of architectural research at Colonial Williamsburg Foundation for over 30 years and set the standard for architectural fieldwork in America. For more information visit

About Triangle Modernist Houses:

A unique combination of construction and art, modernist houses are being torn down in record numbers as newer, larger houses are built on the valuable land. Through its extensive website and public tours of modern houses in the Triangle, TMH is committed to advocating, protecting, restoring and growing modernist architecture in the Triangle. TMH’s six modernist house tours during 2008 and 2009 attracted over 1500 architecture enthusiasts from North Carolina and beyond. For more information, contact TMH executive director George Smart at (919) 740-8407 or by email:

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Art…Vintage…Everything: New Marketplace Emerges in Downtown Raleigh

June 30, 2008 (RALEIGH, NC) —    Over on West Street, just one block from trendy Glenwood South and a stone’s throw from “West on North,” a 17-story residential condominium building scheduled to open in October, sits a large, old warehouse building with a big, purple armchair emblazoned on its façade. If owner Patrick Lawton has his way, this simple structure is going to change the way Raleigh thinks about shopping experiences in the downtown district.

Purple Armchair (there is no “the” before the name) opened for business at 600 West Street in February after the warehouse’s interior was extensive cleaning out and renovated. Billing itself as an “emerging marketplace in downtown Raleigh,” the wide-open store offers “art…vintage…everything,” according to its owner.

Purple Armchair is a membership-driven market and an association of artists, craftspeople and a lively assortment of vendors of unique merchandise. Membership pay fees on a month-by-month basis to have the store sell their wares. Mid-century modern furniture, pristine vintage and other handmade clothing, antiques, handmade jewelry, pottery, tableware and fine art are just a portion of the current inventory. But that’s going to change. Often.

“We carry just about everything, depending on what members we have at the time and what merchandise they offer,” he said. “We are actively pursuing members all the time so that our inventory will continue to expand and change. We want our customers to be pleasantly surprised every single time they come in so that they’ll keep coming in time after time.”

Lawton also intends to add a coffee bar and fresh flower and herb vendors in the near future. “I want to be the premier source for eclectic merchandise in downtown Raleigh. I want Purple Armchair to be the place where you find everything you couldn’t find at the last store you visited.”

A native of Northern Virginia and a software engineer by profession, Lawton said his parents have been antiques dealers for 40 years. But when he and his wife, Melissa, decided to enter the marketplace, “We didn’t want to pigeonhole ourselves into one product line. I had a sense of what the market needed and wanted, and it wasn’t just another antiques store.”

So Purple Armchair is not an antiques store, although it does carry antiques. And Lawton is quick to point out something else Purple Armchair is not.

“We are not a flea market,” he said emphatically. “We do not have booths or spaces for members to lease and to do with as they like.”

He explained how it works: “Once our staff approves the products – and we are very selective –  our members pay a low monthly fee and deliver their products to our staging area. Then we get to work mixing and mingling and merchandising those products within the rest of the store,” he said. “Our professional interior decorator takes care of all displays in Purple Armchair — displays that are carefully designed and arranged to complement each other and to draw customers from one area to another.”

In return for “letting us do our job, which is to move products,” Lawton said, members receive constant feedback, valuable data he collects for them, tax documents, and other benefits. But if a product isn’t selling, it has to go.

“We’re not a warehouse, and we don’t sit behind a counter and watch our products sink or swim,” he said. “We promote our merchandise, we make deals when the situation requires it, and we talk to customers all the time about what they like or don’t like, and what they’d like to see in our space.”

The store receives a percentage of the sales along with the monthly membership dues.

Where did the name come from? “Out of the blue,” Lawton admitted with a smile. “We just wanted a name that would make a great logo. And it does!”

Purple Armchair is a member of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance,, and First Friday Art Walk. Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, the store’s business hours are Wednesday and Thursday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. For more information, including membership opportunities, visit