Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Celebrating Mid-century Modern

The Chariton Historic Preservation Commission on Tuesday honored Allen Poush and his West Braden Avenue home --- Allen for helping to preserve the built history of his hometown, the house as a beautifully conserved example of "mid-century modern."

That's Allen, above, with the plaque he received from Alyse Hunter, Preservation Commission chair; and the house, below. Yesterday was gray and chilly and everything looked worn and scruffy, poised now between winter and spring --- so I borrowed the Google "street-view" of the house, photographed during the summer.

It's hard to find in Chariton a home more "mid-century" than what sometimes is called the "Perrin house." Max (1893-1975) and Elsie (1891-1978) Perrin, owners of Perrin Hatchery, commissioned the house during 1951 and during August of that year sold their former home --- a big two-story house immediately to the west --- but retained occupancy rights until Jan. 1, 1952, when they planned to move into the new dwelling.

This is the newest home honored by the Preservation Commission, which presents a plaque like this every couple of years --- and by selecting it we hope not only to recognize Allen and his home, but also to encourage others to look around and become aware that a building need not be multi-story, more than a century old and loaded with gingerbread in order to be considered architecturally significant and worthy of preservation.

We don't know, so far, who the architect was --- but have been told that perhaps five houses that shared similar characteristics were built in town soon after 1950 --- after World War II had ended but before the new Ilion Acres subdivision set off a post-1956 building boom in north Chariton. One of these certainly is the sprawling R.E. Anderson home on east Osage Avenue.

"Mid-century modern" is a very broad term applied to buildings, furniture and decorative trends between 1935 and 1965, weighted heavily in the Midwest to the post-World War II years. One-level homes came into favor and they began to sprawl. They were built with great care and fine materials, but the fussiness of the Victorian years that had waned during the 1920s and 1930s vanished.

The Perrin/Poush house is quite large --- but reflects a different aesthetic and set of perceived needs than those prevailing now. There are only two bedrooms --- very large with custom-built cabinetry --- a generous bathroom and store room in the west wing. The L-shaped living and dining area fills the center of the house with walls of windows facing north and south and a massive stone chimney setting off the stone-flagged foyer. The kitchen-breakfast area is to the east of the foyer and a large utility room beyond that. The double garage opens into the utility room and south of that is a large open porch with a second stone fireplace and chimney. The home is built on a concrete slab.

Allen is the home's third owner and has changed very little other than updating utilities when needed and refreshing, recarpeting, repainting and refurnishing --- maintaining the fabric of the house at a high level.

The idea for this periodic recognition of building owners came from the late Larry Clark, when he served on the Preservation Commission, and Janet Clark continues to contribute.

Keep an eye open for other good mid-century examples as you're out and about. Some will look something like the Perrin/Poush house, others will have flat roofs and/or sleeker lines (although many flat roofs have been modified) and some will channel homes of an earlier era. But there are lot of them out there.

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