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(Under the Direction of Wayde A. Brown)


As buildings from the ‘recent past’ approach fifty years in age, the question of how to

preserve these cultural resources is raised. This thesis considered one of those ‘recent past’ buildings: the Ranch-type house. Based upon an examination of the origins and development of the Ranch-type house and the architects who designed them in Georgia, the thesis specifically addresses the problem of evaluating and preserving this resource and how its significance can be evaluated. Utilizing archival materials and secondary research, this thesis demonstrates the framework within which these goals can be achieved.

INDEX WORDS: Architect, Georgia, Historic Preservation, House, Modern, Ranch, Ranch- type, Ranch type, Recent Past, Suburban, World War II.




B.A., The University of Georgia, 2003 A Thesis Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of The University of Georgia in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree



2007 © 2007 Michael Kevin Chapman All Rights Reserved




Major Professor: Wayde A. Brown Committee: John C. Waters Douglas C. Bachtel Richard Cloues

Electronic Version Approved:

Maureen Grasso Dean of the Graduate School The University of Georgia December 2007


I would not have been able to complete this thesis without the help and support of a number of people. My major professor, Wayde Brown, has offered advice and analysis from the first outline to the final draft. To my thesis reading committee, John Waters, Doug Bachtel, and Richard Cloues I am grateful for your time and consideration. I am especially grateful for the knowledge and expertise offered by Richard Cloues. Dr. Cloues’s study of the Ranch-type house has been indispensable during the course of my research. My close friend Mike Vigilant has been particularly helpful, providing editorial advice and reading draft upon draft of my thesis. Finally, I would like to acknowledge my parents and close family members for offering support and encouragement to all my academic and professional undertakings. I am particularly fond of the adage, “When you see a turtle on a fence post, you know one thing: he did not get there by himself. Someone put him there.” My achievements were made possible by many wonderful people.

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CHAPTER 1 Introduction


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2 Evolution and development of the Ranch-type house nationally



Plan Form



Relationship to the outdoors

–  –  –

Cliff May

Suburban Expansion

Regionalism in architecture

3 Ranch-type house forms in Georgia

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Influence of the architect

Regional taste

4 Georgia architects and the Ranch-type house

James Harrison Finch

Clement J. Ford

George Thomas Heery

Jean League Newton

James R. Wilkinson

Modern architecture in Georgia

5 The challenge of evaluating and preserving the Ranch-type house

Evaluating Ranch-type houses

Applying the criteria

Historic preservation challenges

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Answering the research questions




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Figure 1: Ranch-type house

Figure 2: Bandini House

Figure 3: Casa Estudillo

Figure 4: Asymmetrical plan

Figure 5: Picture window in Ranch-type house

Figure 6: Zones of activity in a Ranch-type house

Figure 7: Decorative shutters

Figure 8: Ford House

Figure 9: Artist rendering of a Ranch-type house

Figure 10: Ranch-type house with gable roof

Figure 11: Kitchen featuring the latest appliances

Figure 12: Living room/ dining room

Figure 13: Kitchen in Ranch-type house

Figure 14: Front porch, columns, and decorative shutters

Figure 15: Sliding glass door and patio

Figure 16: Sliding glass door from interior

Figure 17: Ranch-type house and outdoor activities

Figure 18: Ranch-type house with carport

Figure 19: May’s plan book that popularized the Ranch-type house

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Figure 21: Construction of suburban housing tract in Los Angeles, California

Figure 22: Minimal Ranch-type house plan and form

Figure 23: Minimal Ranch-type house in Atlanta, Georgia

Figure 24: Inline Ranch-type house plan and form

Figure 25: Inline Ranch-type house on Jamagin Drive in Athens, Georgia

Figure 26: Inline Ranch-type house on Vista Drive in Athens, Georgia

Figure 27: Inline Ranch-type house on Jamagin Drive in Athens, Georgia

Figure 28: Composite Ranch-type house plan and form

Figure 29: Composite Ranch-type house

Figure 30: Composite Ranch-type house

Figure 31: Composite Ranch-type house

Figure 32: Inline Ranch-type house in Ardmore Park, Atlanta, Georgia

Figure 33: Inline Ranch-type house on Jamagin Drive in Athens, Georgia

Figure 34: Ranch-type house on University Circle in Athens, Georgia

Figure 35: Ranch-type house on Golf View Drive in Atlanta, Georgia

Figure 36: Ranch-type house on Bannister Drive in Powder Springs, Georgia

Figure 37: Ranch-type house with low-pitched shed roof on University Circle

Figure 38: Golf View

Figure 39: View of Bobby Jones golf course from Golf View subdivision

Figure 40: House in Golf View subdivision

Figure 41: Note privacy brick wall at right

Figure 42: H-plan

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Figure 44: Kitchen in Golf View house

Figure 45: Alternative plans

Figure 46: Living room with large windows

Figure 47: Automobile and house in Golf View

Figure 48: House in Atlanta’s Golf View subdivision as it appears today

Figure 49: Ford-designed house featured in Better Homes and Gardens

Figure 50: Ford Ranch-type house plan

Figure 51: Living room in Ford house

Figure 52: Fireplace separates dining room and living room

Figure 53: Thomas Northcutt residence

Figure 54: UGA Family Housing

Figure 55: Gable roof with wide overhang

Figure 56: Concrete and brick wall surface

Figure 57: Athens-Clarke County Governmental Building

Figure 58: Large windows

Figure 59: Brick wall and wide roof overhang

Figure 60: League Ranch-type house in Macon, Georgia

Figure 61: League house plan

Figure 62: Living room

Figure 63: Facing dining room and terrace from living room

Figure 64: Facing kitchen from utility area

Figure 65: Wilkinson residence

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Figure 67: Plan of Wilkinson residence

Figure 68: New house built in Golf View subdivision in Atlanta, Georgia

Figure 69: Painted Ranch-type house

Figure 70: Wood and brick-sided Ranch-type house

Figure 71: Ranch-type house with cement asbestos siding

Figure 72: Double-hung sash windows

Figure 73: Metal jalousie-type windows

Figure 74: Picture window

Figure 75: Sliding glass door

Figure 76: Powder Springs, Georgia

Figure 77: Phoenix, Arizona

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“Our buildings and towns also express our values and our society…we are our buildings, and our buildings are us.” -Mark Gelernter1 The Ranch-type house was one of the most popular house types in the United States from the outset of the post-World War II house-building boom to the mid-1970s. In 1949, Architectural Forum declared, “Never before in the history of U.S. buildings has one house type made such an impact on the industry in so short a time.”2 Indeed, stating that the Ranch-type house was a popular and commercially successful housing type is an understatement; however, despite enormous commercial success over an extended period of time, relatively little research

has been published about the Ranch-type house. The research questions this thesis addresses are:

first, what is a Ranch-type house and how did it evolve in the United States and in Georgia?

second, how can the historic significance of the Ranch-type house be evaluated; and third, what are the historic preservation challenges presented by the Ranch-type house?

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1 Mark Gelernter. A History of American Architecture: Buildings in their Cultural and Technological Context.

(Hanover, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 1999), xvii.

2 Rosalyn Baxandall and Elizabeth Ewan, Picture Windows: How the Suburbs Happened. (New York: Perseus Books Group, 2000), 132.

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The term “Ranch house” is commonly used and may mean different things to different people. In this study, the term Ranch-type house will be used when referring to the type of postWorld War II house identified in several architectural stylebooks, including McAlester’s A Field Guide to American Houses.3 The term Ranch-type house is used intentionally in this thesis to denote a type of house built generally within the Modern movement, which has a particular plan form and massing and to which architectural details from a variety of styles have sometimes been applied. For example, a Ranch-type house could have Colonial, Craftsman, or Spanish stylistic details while retaining essential elements of a Modern house, such as the simplification of form, a single level, and/or an open floor plan. When referencing the vernacular house form as it first evolved in the southwestern United States during the nineteenth-century, the term Ranch house will be used.

Historic Preservation and the Ranch-type House To answer the noted research questions, the cultural and historic resource must be defined. First, a better understanding of the evolution of the Ranch-type house is required.

Where, why, and how did it become the “Ranch” house and how did it evolve into the Ranchtype house as it is known today? The reasons why the Ranch-type house became the choice of so many people in the United States after World War II require consideration. A number of factors may have contributed to the Ranch-type’s popularity and growth, including developers, advertisers, consumer preferences, the suburban trend following World War II, and easily attainable loans. Second, the features that make the Ranch-type a potential historic resource must be considered. If the Ranch-type house is to be preserved, its significant elements must be identified. Third, what makes the Ranch-type house unique in Georgia? This thesis will consider 3 Virginia and Lee McAlester. A Field Guide to American Houses. (New York: Knopf, 2000.)

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important role in the popularization of the Ranch-type house; without their designs, the Ranchtype house would never have developed as it did. This thesis will consider the contributions of several architects in Georgia who are closely identified with Ranch-type houses.

Having defined the Ranch-type house as a cultural resource, then what historic preservation challenges does it pose? Unlike buildings associated with historic figures, such as the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. birthplace in Atlanta, Georgia, or buildings that demonstrate key elements of an architectural style, such as the spindle-work of a Queen Anne house that can be found in the Savannah, Georgia Victorian Historic District, the Ranch-type house as a potential historic resource is not widely accepted. In fact, one architect who specializes in restoring and rehabilitating seventeenth and eighteenth-century buildings recently declared, “When we get to the point of restoring ranch burgers, I quit.”4 Perhaps the greatest challenge presented to the historic preservation of the Ranch-type house is its ubiquitous nature. Ranch-type houses are a familiar sight in neighborhoods across the United States, much like Tudor Revival-style gas stations of the 1920s and 1930s. However, the once common Tudor gas station style has nearly disappeared.5 One of the challenges facing the Ranch-type house is determining how its significance can be evaluated before it suffers a fate similar to the Tudor Revival-style gas station. As one preservationist noted, those sites that languish in the “not quite old enough” category will ultimately be lost.6 4

Margaret Loftus, “Rescuing the relics of modern times. But who wants to save a ranch burger?” Available from:

http://www.eichlersocal.com/newsandarticles/usnews.htm; Internet; accessed on 11 September 2007.

5 Daniel I. Vieyra, Fill’er Up: An Architectural History of America’s Gas Stations. (New York: Macmillan, 1979,) 10.

6 Julie H. Ernstein. “Setting the Bar: The Pros and Cons of Holding the Recent Past to a Higher Standard.” National Trust Forum Journal Vol. 20, No. 1. (Fall 2005).

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