Promoting the preservation of Mid Century Modern residential architecture in St. Louis through education, appreciation and awareness.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Welcome


 Five Star Homes No. 2301" Better Homes and Gardens, January 1953
"Oh, you live in one of them houses with the funky windows on the front?" This question typically comes after you tell someone you live in Ridgewood, a small neighborhood located in Crestwood, a suburb of St. Louis, MO. Hopefully this blog will enable an informed rebuttal to this often asked question.

 
The Ridgewood subdivision, located in Crestwood, Missouri, is a neighborhood of 258 modern ranch homes built in the early 1950's. To meet the public's growing demand for modern homes, successful St. Louis Developer Burton Duenke, in collaboration with architect Ralph Fournier, conceived Rigewood as a modern alternative to the traditional style homes Duenke had been building since 1946.

 "Five Star Homes No. 2301" Better Homes and Gardens, January 1953
The Ridgewood concept was an immediate success, and popular publications of the time such as Better Homes & Gardens and House + Home magazine were quick to showcase Ridgewood homes in their feature articles. Unique both for the time and for St. Louis, the Ridgewood project was also advanced in its form of construction. Duenke founded his Modular Homes company to create a unique, partially prefabricated building method that would further the success of his project. Post and beam frame construction, combined with an innovative modular panel system allowed the Ridgewood home to be affordable, practical, and approachable. The modular panel system was successful enough to allow the Ridgewood home to be built in numerous locations within a 500 mile radius of St. Louis.

"Five Star Homes No. 2301" Better Homes and Gardens, January 1953
At the time the Ridgewood development began, other builders across the country were working to fill a similar void in the housing market. In California, builders such as Joseph Eichler sought to provide the ultimate in living the "California Lifestyle" with his tract homes. Similarly, Cliff May began developing his own modular home program using techniques similar to those utilized in Ridgewood. In cities like Tulsa, Oklahoma, Lortondale became one of the first large scale housing developments to incorporate features such as slab-on-grade construction and central air conditioning. The Ridgewood project allowed St. Louis homeowners to experience living in a home with features similar to these, while enjoying a modular, partially prefabricated home that was entirely unique.

In future posts, this blog will serve to share the history and information gathered about Ridgewood after much research. It is hoped that it will provide a valuable resource to fellow residents who share a common interest, as well as help establish an increased sense of community. In addition, a broader scope of mid century residential architecture in St. Louis will be explored and included. Throughout the progression of this blog, any information, images, or resources you wish to share on Ridgewood or other homes/neighborhoods is welcomed and appreciated.




24 comments:

baz_mcm said...

Great archival imagery. Look forward to seeing pics of what the neighborhood looks like today. Is there a solid association of homeowners who "get it"?

Cheers,

-Baz

Neil Chace said...

thanks for the words of encouragement Baz. There are a few of us that understand the homes and we hope to educate more.

MEISTER-Blog said...

Just came to the blog from the Live Modern Forum---
I can't tell you how happy I am to see this blog and all the photos. I grew up in Crestwood. My parents were modernists, though they didn't know it at the time. My mom always wanted one of the Ridgewood houses. Instead, they ended up on Villa Crest Dr.--not exactly the same thing. In the end, they designed and built with an architect a very modern home in Sunset Hills. Now that I've moved back to St. Louis, my heart yearns for the carport and those weird windows. Hurray that Ridgewood has a blog. I think you will find many fans who have been silent too long.

Nathan Wilber said...

Welcome back to St. Louis Meister. We're glad you found us, and appreciate the enthusiasm.
It's nice to hear you and your parents were fans of Ridgewood - and we hope to find more. There are a few on the market if you still long for the carport...

magbot said...

I don't know a darned thing about St. Louis, but am an avid reader of modernist house blogs, and loved your archival pix. I'll subscribe to this blog and eagerly look forward to more posts and more photos -- would love to see the neighborhood (and interiors) today!

Neil Chace said...

Thanks for tuning in Magbot, we welcome the excitement! We are just getting started with the blog but future plans call for present day images as well as many more archival images and information.

Bob said...

I have owned my house in Ridgewood for about five years. I know that the basic construction is post and beam. Does anyone have a copy of building plan drawings that I can copy??

Neil Chace said...
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Anonymous said...

I live in Sugar Creek Ranch, another Duenke subdivision, in Kirkwood. Fortunately all the original homes have been preserved here as well. We love them. Our house is so open and modern and easy to live in.

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Neal Kendall said...

This site is fabulous. I've lived on Coffey Drive for the last 10 years and just love the neighborhood.

Has anyone masterd the low voltage system in their house? Ours is in rough shape. On a side note, I've purchased a few replacement switches from an electronics store in Minnesota about 5 years ago that perfectly match the original ones in our homes. Does anyone know where to get them locally?

Nathan Wilber said...

Neal,

General Electric manufactured the original low voltage system used in all Ridgewood homes, and they still make a version of it today. It would be great to find someone locally who is knowledgeable in repairs. Maybe we can address that in a future post.

Another neighbor has had luck sourcing replacement parts at GEXPRO, 1620 Headland Dr. in Fenton.

Steve said...

for the low voltage try Kalb electric at manchester and big bend. Have not bought anything there myself but heard it from a neighbor. I'm on Fournier.

Neal Kendall said...

Ok, thought I'd post back on here for assistance. For years now, we've had this rust type liquid drain out of the small mesh circular holes right below where the roof starts. A little water and scrubbing resolves it, but I'd like to know what's causing it. Anyone else have this issue?

While I'm on here, any thought of starting a Ridgewood Facebook Site? The Crestwood page, plus the Crestwood Mall memorial page gets a lot of traffic.

Thanks
Neal Kendall
Coffey Drive

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jimmyo said...

N&N
You may remember me, I have the RCA console we chatted about on flickr. You gave me some tips on restoration, and guy that works on them. I did talk to him, its on my list.
Moreover, we had the chance to meet Michelle Kodner (from I love Bernoudy) yesterday. She came by to take a few pics of our Harwood Hills place. She mentioned you guys, and the group of enthusiasts that is trying to form. FYI, not to self invite ..but...We want in! Julie and I would like to do anything we can to help. Michelle also mentioned an idea for a swap meet/ garage sale for all us mid-mod retro junkies..... seriously, what a fantastic Idea. She vowed to pass our contact info around. I see to it she does.
jimmy

jimmyo said...

N&N
You may remember me, I have the RCA console we chatted about on flickr. You gave me some tips on restoration, and guy that works on them. I did talk to him, its on my list.
Moreover, we had the chance to meet Michelle Kodner (from I love Bernoudy) yesterday. She came by to take a few pics of our Harwood Hills place. She mentioned you guys, and the group of enthusiasts that is trying to form. FYI, not to self invite ..but...We want in! Julie and I would like to do anything we can to help. Michelle also mentioned an idea for a swap meet/ garage sale for all us mid-mod retro junkies..... seriously, what a fantastic Idea. She vowed to pass our contact info around. I'll see to it she does.
jimmy

Ginger said...

Does anyone know the history of Harwood Hills in Des Peres? Everyone talks about it being a Burton Duenke subdivision but who was the architect who designed the homes. I can't seem to find any information about Harwood specifically.

Granite Edinburgh said...

Love the use of natural stone throughout some of the designs and pictures here. granite edinburgh

Joel said...

I have searched high and low for mention of my Ralph Fournier-designed home in Waterloo, IL and have found no mention of it. I have always found it interesting that I seem to have the one lone Fournier house on the Illinois side of the river. After 13 years in the home I am selling it. I just hope the next buyer appreciates its uniqueness as much as I have.

Anonymous said...

When these contemporary homes are impeccably kept up they look great and seem kind of fun - at least in magazines. The problem is they don't age well. Everything has to be clean and neat everywhere, all the time or it destroys the vibe. Children don't really fit in with them. All of these middle class modern neighborhoods have always looked run down to me. The trees, shrubs have to be meticulously manicured to fit in. The wrong front door destroys the whole thing. Too much stuff in the carport destroys the whole thing. These homes are a fun project for architects but they do not work for the way people actually live. Victorian homes are much more forgiving and can be a bit shabby and still have a sense of humanity and dignity to them. Go to a slum neighborhood with Victorian, brownstones, or most anything bulit before 1945 and there will still be a glimpse of class and warmth shining through the neglect.