AIA Central Valley and SacMod Screening of "EAMES: The architect and the painter"

On 12.19.11, AIA Central Valley (AIACV) and SacMod screened "Eames: The Architect and The Painter" to over fifty design enthusiasts.

The event was held at AIACV in Sacramento. SacMod and AIACV took the opportunity to celebrate our native daughter, Ray (Kaiser) Eames. We provided several images from her life in Sacramento.

Ian Merker of AIACV was the best host ever!

Special thanks to Mimomito who brought cupcakes decorated with Ray's fabric pattern to celebrate what would have been Ray's 99th birthday on 12.15.11 and took pictures of our event.

To kick off the film screening, Eames Demetrios graciously Skype'd in and spoke with us about his grandparents and their work.

We are grateful to Miles Treaster & Associates who brought several examples of the Eameses' furniture, an original rare wooden splint developed for WW2, plus several brochures, an Eames coffee table book, and other written materials.

Our friends from Sactown Magazine generously distributed copies of their original Premier Issue from Dec/Jan 2006/2007 (with a well-written and researched article about Ray Eames) and their current issue. Happy 5th Anniversary, Sactown!

Thanks to KVIE for the wonderful gift bag and to Jason Cohn of Bread and Butter Films for printing two film posters for our silent auction.

Last but not least, thanks to those who attended and supported our event! We received great feedback from those who attended. The film provided an intriguing glimpse into the Eameses' creative process and dedication. We highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in their lives and prolific work, which ranges from architecture, furniture, film, textiles, art, industrial design to other intellectual and creative pursuits. This film celebrates their work and humanizes them -- not only highlighting their triumphs but also what went on behind the scenes.

Look for more events in 2012, including the screening of Infinite Space, a documentary about John Lautner -- one of the most revered 20th century architects. We will also be having an event to celebrate a very special residence in Sacramento designed by Terry Waters, an associate of John Lautner.

Merry Christmas from Eichler Homes

Merry Christmas from Eichler Homes! (Circa 1960s ephemera from my collection).

Ghosts of Christmas Past - K Street, Sacramento

Here's a neat peek of K and 10th Streets in downtown Sacramento back in the day. Note various features, such as the Crest Theatre, which I've posted about before here. Also in view are: Roos Bros., Joseph Magnin, Leed's, Green-Hayden Co., Hale's, Hotel Sequoia, Hart's, and others.

Most of Sacramento's retail shopping in the 1940s and 1950s was done in downtown Sacramento - before shopping malls became in vogue.

Then came the shopping malls. The prevalence of suburban shopping malls slowly took its toll on K Street. See for example, this 1957 public domain PR short, "Shopping Can Be Fun: A New Concept in Merchandising", which chronicles the Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo, California.

K Street has since gone through several phases of revitalization efforts -- including a pedestrian mall and, more recently, an attempt to reintroduce traffic on K Street. I'll be featuring a post with more information about the history of Sacramento's 1960s pedestrian mall in the future.

What the future now holds for K Street is anyone's guess, though we hope it's a bright one. In the meantime, we can remember its past.

Happy hyperbolic holidays!

The entryway to the Sacramento Zoo, designed by Rickey & Brooks (1961).
The largest building originally served as a concession stand to all of William Land Park.

The City of Sacramento recently hired consultants from Mead & Hunt to conduct a Historic Cultural / Landscape Survey of William Land Park. Per Mead & Hunt's report, these hyperbolic paraboloid structures "meet the National Register, California Register, and Sacramento Register evaluation criteria as individual properties independent from their association with William Land Park."

Further, Mead & Hunt concluded the Zoo entry structures were eligible "in the area of Architecture – Designed by the local architectural firm of Rickey and Brooks, this series of three interconnected buildings are an important, rare, and intact example of Mid-Century Modernism in Sacramento."

On December 7, 2011, SacMod attended the City of Sacramento Preservation Commission Meeting and spoke in favor of Mead & Hunt's report: "We want to thank everyone involved in the Historic Cultural Landscape survey of William Land Park and support Mead & Hunt's findings, especially those regarding Fairytale Town and the entryway concession buildings at the Sacramento Zoo. SacMod highlighted both of these historic assets as 'points-of-interest' during the first Sacramento Mid-Century Modern Home Tour last year. These have been a part of the park for 50 years and are historic landmarks.

The Zoo entrance and Fairytale Town are part of Sacramento's collective memory and provide an irreplaceable and distinct sense of place. In particular, the structures at the Zoo entrance are a rare kind of mid-20th century construction – hyperbolic paraboloids – also known as hypars. I have brought an historic postcard image for you to see them as they originally were. There are few remaining examples of hypars left in Sacramento. The Zoo entrance structures are the most easily recognized examples in town.

SacMod supports Mead & Hunt's recommendations and wishes to see our historic assets preserved. We look forward to working with the City and Zoo in this regard."

Celebrating Ray!

Happy Birthday to Ray Eames, Sacramento's native daughter and one of the most important 20th century modernists! See my earlier post about Ray Kaiser Eames for more background on her Sacramento roots.

She would have been 99 today. We'll be celebrating Ray on Monday, December 19, 2011 at the AIACV/SacMod screening party for "EAMES: The Architect and the Painter." Special thanks to our good friends at AIACV hosting this event. And thanks to those of you who RSVP'd via Brown Paper Tickets -- be sure to arrive by 7:30 to ensure seating. Early arrivals get priority Eames chair seating!!

Festivities for the evening will include:
- a silent auction for two posters from the film;
- a furniture display courtesy of the wonderful folks at Miles Treaster & Associates;
- photos of Ray's life in Sacramento;
- vegan cupcakes from the lovely gals at Mimomito;
plus other displays and surprises!

SacMod's 2011 commercial building tour posted on Historypin

Thanks to my pal, Amanda B., I was able to easily and quickly post SacMod's 2011 self-guided commercial building tour online on Historypin.

Historypin is a site for posting historic photographs using Google Maps as a base. You can also write additional information about these images and organize them into tours and collections. Historypin is free to use, both as a visitor and user. There is also a free smartphone app that supports iPhones and Android smartphones. I tested it on my iPhone and it worked perfectly (though many more features currently exist on the site versus the app). Historypin's developers are working on adding new features for next year.

The possibilities are endless for historians, architectural buffs, archivists, and anyone who loves vintage images. This is only the beginning; can't wait to add more from SacMod's other tours!

Thinking differently: Apples + Eichlers

UPDATE 2.15.12 - after a 4 month investigation interviewing experts and cross-referencing data, the Eichler Network concluded that the Montain View home referred to in the Isaacson biography was NOT an Eichler home. Jobs' home was a Mackay Home -- likely designed by architects Anshen + Allen (who also designed homes for Joseph Eichler). There was indeed an Eichler neighborhood near Jobs' Mackay home, but three blocks away. Kudos to the Eichler Network for clearing this up!

Original post below:

It appears both Apple co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak had strong connections with Eichler homes. The biography, Steve Jobs, written about the Apple co-founder by Walter Isaacson, was released yesterday. It was sad news, as most of you know, when Jobs passed away earlier this month. According to the newly released biography, Jobs lived in an Eichler home.

Per an article from NTDV (special thanks to the folks at the Mid-Century Modern Fresno Facebook page for pointing out this article): "After Steve Jobs anointed Walter Isaacson as his authorized biographer in 2009, he took Mr. Isaacson to see the Mountain View, Calif., house in which he had lived as a boy. He pointed out its 'clean design' and 'awesome little features.' He praised the developer, Joseph Eichler, who built more than 11,000 homes in California subdivisions, for making an affordable product on a mass-market scale." Per Cult of Mac: "Jobs has cited him as a direct inspiration. In fact, he described the clean elegance of those homes as the 'first vision for Apple.'” See Architizer's post for more on this.

I would also like to mention that Apple's other co-founder and inventor, Steve Wozniak (aka Woz), lived in an Eichler Home. For 14 years, Woz lived on Edmonton Avenue in the Fairorchard Eichler subdivision of Sunnyvale. In the Winter 2001 edition of the Eichler Network newsletter (now known as CA Modern), Marty Arbunich interviewed Woz.

According to Arbunich's article, Woz moved into his Eichler home in 1958, after his father got a job with Lockheed. Per Woz, "It was my favorite home ever... my feelings of a perfect home will always rest with that particular home." It was the home in which Woz built his first computer and built a house-to-house intercom with his neighborhood buddies.

Woz further elaborated on his growing up in an Eichler home in his biography iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It
(co-written by Gina Smith): "When I think of that street, looking back, I think it was the most beautiful place you could imagine growing up.... Edmonton Avenue was actually a small Eichler subdivision -- Eichler homes of that period were kind of famous for being architecturally interesting homes in middle price ranges. They stand out as special homes to this day."

It's an interesting coincidence that both Apple co-founders admired Eichler homes. I'm not suggesting causality; you can draw your own conclusions. At any rate, here's to thinking differently!

So little time, so much to tell!

Busy, busy month! Swinging by the old blogeroo to make a couple of announcements. You can stay better informed regarding Sacramento modernism by joining SacMod's Facebook page. Join us!

First, good news for the hyperbolic paraboloid structures at the entrance of the Sacramento Zoo. I've written about these beauties before.

The City of Sacramento hired consultants Mead & Hunt for a Cultural Landscape Survey of William Land Park. (You may download their draft report here.) SacMod has been watching recent developments at the Zoo, particularly those endangering the circa 1961 entrance structures. Mead & Hunt determined that the Zoo entrance and Fairytale Town are eligible for national, California, and Sacramento historic registers. SacMod will continue to monitor and advocate for these structures.
Second, Atomic Ranch Magazine has just published the Atomic Ranch 2012 Calendar. We're excited because it features two homes that were on the 2011 Sacramento Mid-Century Modern Home Tour! Specifically a home designed by architect Carter Sparks and a Sacramento Eichler home. Atomic Ranch came to Sacramento this summer. Three homes from last year's tour will be featured in separate upcoming issues. I'll be sure to post as the articles and pictures are published.

Finally, AIACV and SacMod are teaming up again -- join us for a free screening of EAMES: The Architect and The Painter. You may recall from my earlier posts that Ray Eames was born and raised here in Sacramento. Join us and other like-minded modernists at AIACV on Monday, December 19, 2011 from 8 - 10pm. Reservations for this free event through Brown Paper Tickets.

Even more things being planned for future SacMod events! Stay tuned!

Some Thiebaud you may not know

Sacramento-area artist Wayne Thiebaud is well known for his vibrant pop art and masterful landscape paintings. Sixty years ago, in 1951, Thiebaud held his first one-artist exhibition, "Influences on a Young Painter" at the Crocker Art Museum. Last fall, the Crocker featured him again in their inaugural re-opening. You may also recall I've mentioned him before in a previous post on mid-century modernists in Sacramento.

In the interest of educating people about mid-20th century art, architecture and design in the Sacramento region, I'm posting some examples of Thiebaud's works in other mediums.

First, a delightful kinetic water sculpture/installation in collaboration with Jerry McLaughlin from 1952 which was on display at the California State Fair. The installation was featured in the prestigious Arts & Architecture magazine in November 1952:
"This fountain which was done as a part of the Art Exhibit at the California State Fair is an amusing and often rather wild composition in moving water. While its several parts are in motion there is a constantly maintained interest, and within the interplay dazzling confusion becomes part of a very engaging pattern and texture. The devices which are ingenious in material and form take on a lively life and vitality under the compelling movement of the water. The variety and the unexpectedness of the activity, the sometimes frantic, sometimes serene water in motion is fresh and cool and stimulating.

Thiebaud and McLaughlin have freely and playfully used the propelling water itself to move the objects, and in turn this movement within the water creates a beautiful and sometimes hilarious experience."
Next, a series of art education films featuring Mr. Stubby Pencil. These circa 1955 films featured animation by Wayne Thiebaud, Patty Thiebaud and Pat Dullanty. The Academic Film Archive of North America apparently has a copy of one of a handful of short films that they produced.

The 16 millimeter films, made over hundreds of hours in the Thiebaud's basement on Portola Way, were produced by Bailey Films, Inc. of Hollywood. Two of the films reportedly premiered in the Long Beach Film Festival. How I would love to see these films!

Finally, here is "Water City" -- a glass mosaic that wraps around the first level of the SMUD Headquarters Building in Sacramento. This piece was originally a serigraph in 1957 that served as a study for the Sacramento Municipal Water Utility Department (SMUD) mural (and a demonstration serigraph at the California State Fair). The SMUD Headquarters building, designed by Dreyfuss & Blackford, is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Hope you found these images of Thiebaud's lesser known works as interesting as I do! For more images, visit my Flickr set. I'll continue to add to the set as I come across other items.

Help save an iconic Neutra-designed home from demolition!

Hard to believe, but this historic and architecturally significant home is being threatened with demolition. Please take a few seconds of your time to sign a petition supporting the restoration and repurposing of this iconic home into the Neutra Library.

How you can help:
1) sign the petition here.
2) For further actions on how to help, stay tuned on the status of the home here.

 Time is of the essence; do your part and don't let the McMansions win!

Sacramento's sense of place

Can't wait to go to tonight's reception for Iconic Sacto with works by Andrew Patterson-Tutschka, Joe Santos, and Tom Spaulding.

The reception is at the SMUD Art Gallery from 4-6pm today, but you can still check out the show through October 8th.

The show celebrates Sacramento's unique sense of place through its built environment and signage. Per the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission, the show:
"... features depictions of the essential Sacramento locations which shape our region's identity and history, and create a sense of place. From Spaulding's striking photographs of historic buildings and picturesque central valley locales, to Santos' arresting watercolors of neon signage, to Patterson-Tutschka's masterful plein air depictions of Sacramento street life and private interiors. ICONIC SACTO represents Sacramento from all sides reinforcing why this region holds such a unique appeal."
Here's a little bit more about the show and the artists.

I would like to see more efforts made to preserve our vintage signage, which is so important to Sacramento's identity. Some towns (I'm looking at you, West Sacramento) have even gone as far as wiping them out on purpose.

Thank goodness for these wonderful artists who are documenting our past before it is demolished. Let's go farther and preserve it, lest we wish to become McCity, Anywheresville.

Walking the walk... and talking the talk!

Big day this Sunday, 9.18.11!

From about 10am to 3pm SacMod will be at Marshall Park (corner of 27th and J Street) for the street fair for Sacramento Old City Association's 36th Annual Home Tour. We'll be handing out SacMod's free self-guided walking tour which features the exteriors of six commercial mid-20th century buildings in Midtown. Come and support SOCA, who has been a huge supporter of MCM in Sacramento (see my previous post for details).

Tomorrow will also be the first day SacMod will be offering annual associate memberships at a one-time special discount. Stop by for details!

Later that same day at 7pm, come see the presentation on "Sacramento Architecture: From the Gold Rush to Mid-Century Modern." My friend and historian, Bill Burg, will be talking about the Gold Rush through the 1930s; I'll be handling the part about mid-20th century architecture in town. The discussion will be at Time Tested Books and is part of the Living Library Series.

Hope to see you tomorrow, one way or the other! We'll be the ones drinking lots of coffee :)

Free self-guided walking tour of six Midtown MCMs on September 18, 2011!

Come say hello to SacMod at Marshall Park (J and 27th Streets) on September 18, 2011 during the street fair for Sacramento Old City Association's 36th Annual Home Tour.

You know what makes for a great day? Seeing the beautiful historic homes on SOCA's tour and learning about six Midtown MCM buildings that you walk past all the time!

SOCA's tour starts at Marshall Park, at the corner of 27th and J Street. A street fair at the park features local contractors and artisans specializing in historic home rehab and remodeling, local businesses, artists and crafters displaying their wares, local nonprofits, advocacy and history organizations. Local musicians Tender Cinders, Garage Jazz Architects, The Freebadge Serenaders, and Emile Dalkey will perform in the park. Home Tour participants can show their tour wristband for a 15% discount in the restaurants of the nearby Sutter District.

SacMod will be at the fair from about 10am to 3pm and will have copies of our free self-guided walking tour which features the exteriors of six commercial mid-20th century buildings in Midtown.

Our friends at SOCA have been huge supporters of SacMod and MCM architecture in Sacramento. SOCA's efforts were instrumental in getting the SMUD Headquarters building nominated on the National Register of Historic Places.

MCM fans, it's our turn to support SOCA -- bring your walking shoes and see you there!

Tiki Tuesday! The Tropics: a 1940s Sacramento nightclub

I sure could go for a fruity drink right now! Just this last week I finished the narrative for SacMod's official 501(c)(3) status and wrote the guide for SacMod's free self-guided walking tour featuring six mid-century modern commercial buildings in Midtown.

I'm just stopping the old blogeroo to share some tiki goodness with you in a segment I'm calling "Tiki Tuesday." I'll be talking about other classic Sacramento tiki spots in future posts.

First stop: An oldie, but goodie. The Tropics. 1019 1/2 Jay Street, Sacramento, California.

Unfortunately, I don't know who these happy people are; I do so love the couple dancing in the background!

According to Billboard magazine (October 9, 1943, page 21), the success of the Tropics was in part due to a larger phenomenon: "Soldiers Bring Prosperity to Sacramento Spots; Acts Profit"
"Sacramento, Oct 2 -- With soldiers from three neighboring fields -- Camp Kohler, McClellan, and Mather Field -- virtually taking the town over after dark, Sacramento night spots are flourishing and multiplying.... Tropics upstairs night spot, which opened the first of the year has ... augmented the orchestra. Gabriel Silveira leads a five-piece combo. Spot is owned by Yubi Separovich and Frank Radich."
In his article regarding Zombie Hut (I've shared my research findings about the legendary Zombie Hut here, here and here), Valcom News reporter Lance Armstrong stated that the Tropics nightclub "advertised itself as the 'Pacific Coast's most beautiful nightclub' with 'dancing, entertainment and tropical drinks'."

If the name Yubi Separovich sounds familiar to you, here's why; Mr. Saparovich is credited with saving Sacramento baseball in 1943 through a heroic last-ditch effort. He worked feverishly to keep the Sacramento Solons in town and later became their general manager. At various points in time Mr. Saparovich owned several other businesses in Sacramento, including a liquor store, carpet store, grocery store and an industrial loan company.

In a toast to The Tropics and in honor of Mr. Separovich and Mr. Radich, here's a classic, old-school tiki cocktail recipe: The Mai Tai.

 Mai Tai photo and recipe via

Cheers, and, Aloha!

My MCM Sacramento Research Projects

Well, hello there! Sorry I've been out of touch -- been a bit busy these days. I'm working on several research projects. Here are several examples:

      1) MCM (Mid-Century Modern) Sacramento Grid Project:

I'm cataloging the Sacramento "grid" (the numbered and lettered streets in the downtown, midtown, and East Sacramento areas). This means I'm observing, photographing, documenting, and determining through research the original dates and designers of all remaining mid-century modern buildings in downtown and midtown Sacramento.

As of today I have a 5-inch binder full of images and information. I'm starting by casting a wide net (see picture above), and including all buildings that appear to have been built between 1945 and 1970. My focus is mostly commercial, governmental and social gathering spaces, but there are a few residential buildings (mostly apartment complexes) in there too.

My sources:
1) Microfilm reels from the Community Development Department (permits, plans, renderings)
2) Newspaper archives and microfilm reels
3) Internet links and tidbits
4) Old magazines and books
5) Old postcards, matchbooks, brochures and other ephemera
6) Old City Directories
7) AIA Historical Directory
8) Oral histories by architects/designers and their families, friends and colleagues
9) Old maps
10) Found photos.
11) Etc. Basically anything and everything I can get my hands on.

Wish me luck! This ought to keep me busy for a while! Results will be published in some format, perhaps a guide or as individual walking maps.

(Speaking of walking maps, did you know that Sacramento Heritage, Inc. has several downloadable walking tours of various areas in Sacramento? They also have wonderful photos posted on Flickr. Also, if you haven't already, I highly recommend you get ahold of Robin Datel et al.'s well-researched and wonderful walking guide to Oak Park.)

      2) Self-Guided MCM Walking Tour for the 36th SOCA Home Tour

SacMod (Sacramento Modern) is working on a free mini-MCM walking tour which we've specially tailored to accompany the SOCA Home Tour this upcoming September 18, 2011. (SacMod, as you may recall, brought you the 2010 Sacramento Mid-Century Modern Home Tour last year).

Our mini-MCM tour will focus on a several MCM buildings in the Marshall School/New Era Park Neighborhood. We'll be there with a table at the tour's Street Fair area (Marshall Park - J and 27th Streets) and some information/materials about Sacramento Modern aka SacMod -- including our free self-guided walking tour. You can buy tickets to the 36th SOCA Home Tour via Brown Paper Tickets. I was a docent at last year's tour and thoroughly enjoyed being a guest at several early 20th-century buildings and homes.

      3) Upcoming talk on historic architecture in Midtown next month.

More on this as information becomes available. I'll be talking very briefly about MCM architecture in midtown with examples after my friend/author/historian Bill Burg talks about earlier architectural styles.

      4) Sacramento MCM ephemera collection

I've been creating a personal library of images and information regarding MCM Sacramento. Mostly of postcards, matchbooks, brochures, and magazine clippings. I do this on a daily basis.

      5) Rickey & Brooks survey

I'm beginning to collect information on works by Rickey & Brooks, the architect/designer team who designed our home and many other MCM buildings in Sacramento.

      6) Ongoing microfilm research

I try to browse and scan relevant newspaper articles from the Sacramento Bee and Sacramento Union as well as relevant special reels from various sources.

I do all of this in my "spare" time; keeps me busy and out of mischief. Have a great week everyone!

Residential Bomb Shelters in Sacramento

I'd like to begin seriously by remembering the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who suffered horrific injuries and death at the detonations of Little Boy and Fat Man 66 years ago. May we never forget.

I've been gathering images of home fallout shelters and building materials from the 1950s and 1960s here in Sacramento. At first I found them an amusing curiosity. Later I found them ironic; and then, simply sad. There is no way I can do justice to the history of the Cold War culture in my short post. For a better overview please visit the links I've highlighted.

Undoubtedly this civil defense video produced in 1951 and first aired at the beginning of 1952 was reflective of a trend: people were genuinely frightened and felt they needed to do something to protect themselves. In hindsight, the recommendations and specs for these shelters and materials seem woefully inadequate and ridiculous. But they tried.

Drastic times called for drastic measures and Sacramento was no exception. Many thought that Sacramento -- as the capitol of California and home to two Air Force bases -- might be a prime target.

Here's what I've unearthed from microfilm digging and other research:

February 24, 1951: Fam-Shel Air Raid Shelter Ad in the Sacramento Bee

"Is There a Need for Air Raid Shelters? Your answer to that is as good as ours, but we all know preparedness before possible disaster from modern air borne weapons is of vital concern to every one of us."

"Survival Materials... after atomic bomb tests at Survival City, Nevada!... These two typical home structures withstood the 35 kilo ton (equivalent to 35,000 tons of TNT) nuclear blast... on Doomsday Drive, AT ONLY 4700 FEET FROM GROUND ZERO"
November 6, 1960 Sacramento Bee Ad: Fox Hole Family Fallout Shelter

"Sacramento, with only a half-dozen family bomb and fall-out shelters, may have considerably more before the year is out.... Technical advice was supplied by Sacramento civil defense officials, and, as a result, Ken Johnson, director of Sacramento City-County Civil Defense has termed the eight by 24-foot shelter one of the best and most effective family shelters he has ever seen.

The house under which the bomb shelter is built was the brainchild of Jerry Blomberg, and design was by a local architect....

One of the beauties of the bomb shelter is that it can be utilized for many things in day to day living. It could be a playroom for children, a wine cellar, used for limited storage, or could make a fine, soundproof den."
Earlier United Press articles dated August and September, 1955 from Texas, Oxnard, and Sarasota, state smaller dimensions for the innovative room (eight-foot-six by eight feet) -- and refer to it as a bathroom. To add insult to injury these articles have regrettable titles with the unfortunate pairing of the words "bathroom" and "bomb." These articles also refer the model home as the "Blomberg House" and lists the architect as Carter Sparks.

According to a Time Magazine article from September 1, 1961 entitled "Building: Shelter Skelter":
"Sacramento's Atlas Bomb Shelter is starting to merchandise a 35-ton prefab model for six that, depending on excavation costs, will sell for between $5,000 and $6,000. 'We haven't done any advertising yet,' crows Atlas' Boss Frank Ringer, 'but even so, there's so much demand we can hardly keep up with it.'"
I guess shortly after speaking with Time, Atlas had a change of heart about advertising; I found an ad dated only nine days later after the Time article:

September 10, 1961: Atlas Bomb Shelter Ad in the Sacramento Bee

"You wouldn't go to sea without a lifeboat aboard! Now danger of a nuclear war threatens us. Now you can have radiation and blast protection at your home."

October 5, 1961 - photos of a fallout shelter in Fair Oaks, CA (1, 2), are taken to accompany an October 11th article written by Austin Scott of Associated Press:

"Mrs. Hubert H. Miller of Fair Oaks, CA., and her children Cynthia 4 and David, 2½ make a practice run for their $5,000 concrete and steel backyard fallout shelter… Miller is a fallout shelter contractor....  In Sacramento, area shelters have been built for as little as $200 and as much as $10,000. (AP Photo)"

"Pretty Snug -- Mrs. Hubert H. Miller, of Fair Oaks, Calif., and her two children, David, 2 1/2, and Cynthia, 4, are fairly snug in their $5,000 concrete and steel fallout shelter. Mount-fixed bicycle provides exercise and is connected to an air filtering pump. Emergency water and food supplies are stored in cabinets and under wall cots. Storage batteries supply electricity for ceiling lights." (Source: hard print of an AP wirephoto stamped from the Examiner)
According to a Sacramento Bee article by Dixie Reid dated February 25, 1988, one of the first fallout shelters was sold to Paul and Florence Maxson in 1959:
"The price was $3,000, a lot of money in those days. But soon the Maxsons and their three children had what history recorded as Sacramento's first private underground bomb shelter.

It was a novelty for a while. Youngsters in the South Sacramento neighborhood begged to look at it. Reporters wrote about it. But the Maxsons never got around to stocking it with emergency rations, and before long Paul Maxson was storing his bookkeeping-business records in it."
In the end, it turned out that overall the home fallout shelter business in Sacramento sort of bombed. As a result, civil defense officials looked to large public buildings which, at that time, included the Pacific Bell Building at Watt and Marconi, Memorial Auditorium, the State Department of Transportation building downtown, and the Federal Building and Courthouse on Capitol Mall which, reportedly could hold 11,135 people. Other reports I've run across include a small shelter in the old Broadway Hardware site, a residence in Land Park, and a small shelter undeneath the Taggart building on Alhambra and J.

For further reading I recommend: 
The new (super-sized) doomsday shelter 
Baby Boomers: Life in the Freezer 
1962 Fallout Shelter Handbook from Wardomatic
Photographs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

I'd love to hear from you if you recall other sites or homes in Sacramento that had a bomb/fallout shelter!

Remembering Joseph L. Eichler

It has been 37 years since builder Joseph L. Eichler passed away (July 25, 1974). As such, it seems fitting to talk more about him and his work.

In addition to being the owner and overseer of Eichler Homes, Inc., he was a progressive, intellectual humanitarian. His attention to detail set him apart from his colleagues. For an outstanding and in-depth look at his life and achievements, I highly recommend reading "Joe Eichler Profile" by Paul Adamson from the Eichler Network.

I'd also like to share Joseph L. Eichler's obituary that I found on the front page of the San Mateo Times dated Saturday, July 27, 1974:

Joseph L Eichler, 74, whose Peninsula homes won national recognition — many of them built in central San Mateo — died Thursday at Sequoia Hospital, Redwood City, of a heart ailment.

Hailed as the "sympathetic builder" by Architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and known at one time as the butter-and-egg builder," Eichler built more than 15,000 homes and 15 major apartment complexes and even in his recent years of semi-retirement, continued Peninsula home building.

His glass and redwood homes, with, their advanced, open styling, won every major award for architectural excellence the firm ever competed for on an international scale.

His Geneva Towers in 1966 — a federally assisted, low-rent, high-rise housing project, was the largest of its kind in the country. Although the firm he founded in 1947, Eichler Homes, Inc., went bankrupt after he sold it to two Los Angeles investors in 1966, Eichler returned to the field subsequently and developed the J. L. Eichler Associates, Inc., which in 1972 merged with the Klingbell Company, a Santa Clara-based firm which operated thousands of rental units.

Eichler was born in New York City and attended New York University, where he received a degree in accounting. He moved to the Bay Area in 1924, and made a fortune in the wholesale dairy business.

He applied merchandising principles to home building, after founding his firm in 1947, and hired top designers and architects to build homes in the developing Peninsula market.

One of his most controversial experimental homes was the X-100. built in the mid- 1960's in the Eichler Highlands, west of San Mateo.

It contained garden areas with translucent walls, sliding doors instead of windows: glass dividing walls, sky domes (to enjoy the stars on clear nights and to cut electric bills), a concealed cooking surface in the dining table, and a plumbing "core" with two baths, laundry, utility and kitchen in one location, separating free activity and living areas.

A strong proponent of civil rights, Eichler quit the Associated Home Builders organization because it would not endorse civil rights legislation.

Active as a Democrat and conservationist, he was county co-chairman of the Adlai Stevenson presidential campaign, and was Northern California chairman of the presidential bid of Pierre Salinger. Active also in philanthropic endeavors, he was the 1958 recipient of City of Hope's "Man of the Year" award. It was pointed out at that time that Eichler had donated major scholarships to colleges and universities, made liberal contributions to various charitable institutions, and had a major interest in aiding building funds for colleges and the Family Service Association.

Survivors include his widow, Mrs. Lillian Eichler of Burlingame; two sons, Edward, and Richard, and four grandchildren. Funeral services will be conducted at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Roller and Hapgood Funeral Home, Palo Alto.

Free Screening of "The Greenest Building" Documentary at the Crest!

"The greenest building is... one that is already built."
- Carl Elefante, AIA, LEED AP

On Monday, July 25th, 2011, The Greenest Building,” a new hour-long documentary will be shown at the Crest Theatre, 1013 K Street, Sacramento. All ages are welcome, and there is no charge for admission. Doors open at 6:30 for the 7PM show. A panel discussion will follow at approximately 8PM, highlighting the ideas in the film in relation to recent and upcoming preservation projects in Sacramento.

Per the event flyer, "The Greenest Building provides a compelling argument for conservation, rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of our existing building stock as the single-most effective strategy for reducing, reusing, and recycling one of our most important consumer products -- our buildings."

Screening of the film is presented by the Sacramento Old City Association (SOCA) and the Crest Theatre. More details are available via a Facebook event page, which encourages: "If you are interested in buildings, community development, sustainable communities or just plain want to find out if existing buildings really are worth keeping, plan to attend this special event."

I started this post with a quote by Carl Elefante. He has some thought-provoking ideas about modernist buildings in his June 2008 essay, "Renewing Modernism" from Places (Forum of Design for the Public Realm):

As modernism becomes historic, the 'modern-era' building stock, as it is often termed, is moving into a period of refurbishment.... Numbers alone indicate the importance of preserving and transforming modern-era buildings. Structures from the 1950s, ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s represent more than 55 percent of all nonresidential buildings in the United States.... over the next generation, renovating modern-era buildings represents an even larger and more difficult endeavor than designing new buildings....

... working with modern buildings is redefining preservation thinking and technology. Modern architects and builders were famously forward-looking and quick to innovate, frequently incorporating materials and methods with little track record and no established methods for maintenance, repair and reconditioning.... The preservation of modern-era buildings will be driven by sustainability, and making modern-era buildings sustainable will be no small undertaking.....

The challenge lies in three areas. First, the fractured urbanism and far-flung suburbanization of modern-era cities presents tough problems.... Second, improving the exterior envelopes of modern-era buildings will be difficult and may favor replacement over enhancement. Third, modern-era buildings were designed in an era of cheap energy, and nearly all depend on fossil-fuel-consuming systems to be
habitable, even on the most basic level....
These implications and challenges are not what lovers of mid-century modern architecture necessarily want to hear, but they are indeed food for thought. In another essay Elefante highlights the important role of historic preservation: "To fully capture the value of the existing building stock requires merging two disciplines: historic preservation and green building. It requires an understanding of how to respect and renew what is already here and a vision for where and how to transform the legacy of the past into the promise of tomorrow."

Further links and ideas regarding green building and historic preservation:
- CA State Parks Green Preservation in the News
- Sustainable Historic Preservation
- Smart Growth and Sustainable Preservation of Existing and Historic Buildings
- Calculators for embodied energy
- the Original Green

I'm looking forward to seeing The Greenest Building and hearing what the panel has to say. Hope to see you there.!

With great delight and admiration I'd like to announce a website my friend and colleague, Justin Wood, has been preparing: an "informal archive" of works designed by Sacramento's beloved architect Carter Sparks. Please visit for a look at Sparks' works and additional detailed information.

Per Justin's welcome section from "This project originally started as a private repository for notes and research related to the Sacramento, California area architect, Carter Sparks. Sparks practiced a contemporary style of design from roughly the mid-1950's until the early 1990's. He was best known for his design work on behalf of the Streng Brothers designing 'modern' tract homes."

I "met" Justin on Flickr a couple of years ago and was thrilled to discover someone else in town with similar interests. Since then we have been freely discussing and sharing our research findings about mid-century modern architecture in the Sacramento region.  I've posted about Carter Sparks many times in my blog (look under "posts by topic" in the left margin) and am so happy to see Justin's diligent and thorough research developed into a resource now available to all of you!

Please contact Justin if you have any additional information regarding any home in the archive -- or any home you believe should be in the archive. As Justin states: "There are more works out there, and some that are gone forever. One of the intentions of this archive is to catalog and bring awareness to Sparks' works so that they may be appreciated and saved when they are threatened."

One of my favorite features of the archive is the Visual Index of All Custom Homes. It allows you to see the evolution in Sparks' designs over time.

While you're at it, check out Justin's cool art work and his other MCM-related site, Modern Valley, which features "post and beam mid-century style architecture in the Sacramento Valley..."

California State Fair -- Something for Everyone!

It's that time of year again - only five more days until the California State Fair, where "Big Fun" has been happening since 1854. The first CA State Fair was in San Francisco and showcased things such as a three foot long, ten lb. carrot (Bugs Bunny would be jealous!); 72 lb. beets; and two inch long peanuts.

Sacramento has been home to the Fair since 1859. In 1909, the fair was moved to a new site at Broadway and Stockton Boulevard (as seen in the postcard above) where it continued for the next 58 years. In this post I'm sharing a sampling of images from the Stockton Boulevard site.

It just wouldn't be a Fair without entertainment, right? Check out what they did for kicks in 1913: crash two locomotive engines together!

Even though this scene below is from over 50 years ago, anyone who has been to the Fair should recognize this familiar parking situation!

This postcard states: "The California State Fair is housed in its own seven-and-a-half-million-dollar plant in the capital city. It is the largest state fair in the United States, featuring a two-million-dollar livestock parade, harness and running races, a nightly horse show and a brilliant nightly stage review."

The postcard above says: "Flowers in riotous profusion border the lagoon in front of the Agricultural Building at the State Fair."

California State Fairgrounds at the Broadway & Stockton Boulevard site - from my personal postcard collection

Here is an example of the entertainment in 1964: check out Rocket Man!

Per the article: ".... Using a rocket belt developed by the Bell Aerosystems Company, the Rocket Man, by means of jet propulsion, shoots up to heights in excess of 60 feet and travels at 60 miles per hour. The belt is the only known means of propelling a man above the ground in controlled free flight.... Literally free as a bird, the Rocket Man puts on a fantastic Buck Rogers demonstration which would only have been considered science fiction a few short years ago." That's entertainment!

1967 was the last year the Fair was held at the Broadway and Stockton Boulevard site. Since then, most of the buildings have been lost to fire or destroyed by the wrecking ball. In 1968, the Fair was opened at Cal Expo, where it remains today. I look forward to sharing some cool information about the "modernistic" buildings at Cal Expo designed by Wurster, Bernardi and Emmons in another post.

In the meantime, put on your favorite comfortable shoes, wear sunscreen, and bring your sunglasses and a hat. It's time for some Big Fun!