From Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired homes with their organic architecture and Bauhaus influences to homes with a more Scandinavian influence, many of the homes in Denver were built with the express goal of bringing modernism into post-war Denver. As an alternative to a regular ranch style home, these homes are found in neighborhoods like Harvey Park, Hilltop, Wellshire and Arapahoe Acres, to name a few.
What is the Modern Style?
Modern style homes are typified by one or more of the following features:
- Strong horizontal lines with flat or low-pitched roof
- Open interiors with vaulted or beam ceilings
- Floor plans shaped like “H, U, T or L” that partially enclose outdoor space
- Ample use of glass in clerestory windows, sliding doors, and skylights
- An acknowledgment of the increasing importance of the automobile in suburban life with garages and carports becoming important design elements.
Why Modern Style?
Americans began to reject traditional architecture and its European roots. Society began to change as a whole. The Vietnam War brought protests and divisiveness, and architects became increasingly aware that homes weren’t simply structures to hold goods, but that they had visual appeal. Accordingly, elements of visual arts began to be applied to architecture. By the 1950s, modernism became widely established in the United States.
Pioneering builder and real estate developer Joseph Eichler was instrumental in bringing mid-century modern architecture (“Eichler Homes”) to subdivisions in the Los Angeles area and the San Francisco Bay region of California and select housing developments on the East Coast. George Fred Keck, Henry P. Glass and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe created mid-century modern residences in the Chicago area. Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House is extremely difficult to heat or cool, while Keck and Keck were pioneers in the incorporation of passive solar features in their houses to compensate for their large glass windows.
Many of Denver’s modern homes have their roots in the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, whose work is also represented in the modern bungalow, and California architects/builders Joseph Eichler and Cliff May — hence the term “California contemporary” for many of these homes. Local architects such as Victor Hornbein, Joseph and Louise Marlow, William Muchow, Eugene Sternberg, Gerry Dion, and others brought adaptations of these modern architectural trends to Denver. With the help of developers like Edward Hawkins and Brad Wolff, many homes in Denver were built in the modern style.
The most widely documented example of modernist residential architecture in the Denver area is in Arapahoe Acres, a neighborhood in Englewood developed by Edward Hawkins. Here, Hawkins partnered with architects Sternberg and Dion between 1949 and 1957 to build 124 modernist homes. The general contractor for Arapahoe Acres, Clyde Mannon, later developed another similar neighborhood in Littleton called Arapahoe Hills with architect Bruce Sutherland.