Exemplary Mid-Century Home Endangered In Durham

Carr residence's hidden terrace
Carr residence's hidden terrace

August 3, 2009 (DURHAM, NC) – A 1950’s house going on the market isn’t news. When that house is exemplary of its style and period and in danger of demolition, it is.

The 1958 John and Binford Carr residence in Durham, NC, overlooking Hope Valley Golf Course is for sale.  Triangle Modernist Houses, an archiving and advocacy organization for mid-century homes in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill “Triangle” area of North Carolina, considers it the most endangered house among its listings of modern homes for sale.

As seen from the golf course
As seen from the golf course

“We’re putting out a national alert to find a loving owner for this exquisite, Kenneth Scott-designed home,” said George Smart, executive director.  “Its location on a golf course coupled with an available lot next door makes this a prime teardown target.”

Kenneth McCoy Scott, AIA, a member of the first graduating class at the School of Design at North Carolina State University, designed the 2337-square-foot Carr residence. His design recalls a group of middle-income family residences designed by Frank Lloyd Wright’s called “Usonian Homes.” They were relatively small, single-story houses with carports (a term FLW coined) rather than garages and L-shaped footprints that create an inner garden/terrace. Environmentally conscious before the concept entered the general lexicon, Usonian houses featured native materials and flat roofs with large cantilevered overhangs to protect an abundance of windows. The windows accommodated natural ventilation and lighting and blurred the line between indoors and outdoors. Clerestory windows added more natural lighting.

The Carr residence appears to be straight from Wright’s Usonian playbook. From the carport, a door opens onto an enclosed, private terrace and garden. This space as well as the surrounding property features the work of master landscape architect Lewis Clarke, FASLA, who taught at the NCSU School of Design under Dean Henry Kamphoefner.

From the hidden terrace, sliding glass doors open to the interior where large windows at the back of the living space overlooks the golf course. A hall leading to the bedrooms also features a glass wall with exterior views. Natural wood and brick walls that exemplify contractor Frank Walser’s work add warmth to the modern lines and volumes of the interior. Walser (1924-1996) was well-known for his craftsmanship and attention to detail, and as such executed the design concepts of many of the area’s best architects, including George Matsumoto and Milton Small. Scott-3400 Westford 1950s (8)

The Carrs have been the only owners of the two-bedroom two-bath house that is listed for $665,000 and has been meticulously maintained. Smart is hoping a buyer who appreciates the beauty and historic importance of Kenneth Scott’s design comes forward before a developer grabs the land and discards the house.

Adds Smart, “By getting the word out now, rather than wait, we dramatically increase the chances of preserving one of the finest examples of Mid-Century modern.”

The house is listed with Susan Peak of Peak, Swirles & Cavallito of Durham (919-612-3221. To see more photos of the house, including a collection of black-and-white images from the late 1950’s, go to www.trianglemodernisthouses.com/scott.htm.

About Triangle Modernist Houses:

Triangle Modernist Archive, Inc. (TMA) is a North Carolina nonprofit organization.  Established in 2007 by George Smart, the organization became a formal nonprofit in 2009.  TMA is committed to restoring and growing modernist architecture in the Triangle.  Our primary public service is managing Triangle Modernist Houses (TMH), an award-winning nonprofit educational archive for cataloguing, preserving, and advocating modernist residential design in the Triangle area of North Carolina.  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.

1950s photos by Lewis Clarke, FASLA, courtesy of Triangle Modernist Houses.com

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