28 May 2013

An Unlikely Mid-Century Modern Hub

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When you hear North Carolina, what comes to your mind? Maybe, mountains, forests, southern accents, and depending on where you grew up, maybe even hillbillies. While, you can find a bit of all of this list in North Carolina, there is a much less likely topic that you can find a bunch of in North Carolina as well. What topic is it? Mid-century Modern architecture.

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Somehow, it's seems that there was a perfect storm of architects, residents, and investors that all mixed in North Carolina, and made it the third largest hub of mid-century modern design in the U.S. That's right, California and Chicago are the only two locations in the U.S. according to that have a larger concentration of mcm design than the triangle area of North Carolina. Make no mistake that this is quite a surprise to me too.

When I went to Myrtle Beach South Carolina, I was amazed to see all the old abandoned, and still running, motels, diners, convenient stores, and bbq's restaurants that were sporting a mid-century modern aesthetic. Yet, even these, evidently are no dent in the amount of Mid-Century Modern design that the Northern most Carolina sister has.

Much of the Modernist movement was directly related to the efforts of one Henry Kamphoefner who was the first Dean of the School of Design at North Carolina State College. He worked diligently to recruit professors of architecture that where focused in the discipline of modern design. Thru such efforts, North Carolina grew in it's inventory of modernist homes. It's been said that at some point, over 1200 mid-century modern homes where built in the North Carolina state. Unfortunately, as it is with all things, some of these homes, and buildings have been razed to make room for contemporary homes of "better quality".  While, to most of us, the mid-century modern home is the most important style of home, it is note worthy to mention that the North Carolina area is still maintaining a strong hold on contemporary modern design as well.

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Honestly, when I started to write this post, I thought I would probably have to focus a small portion of the post on the history of the North Carolina area, use the one or two houses I could find, and mix something together from a bit of nothing. However, that's not been the case.

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If I went into all the houses that I had found information about in the different sites and blogs, then I would have to do a number of series just to mention a small amount of what I found. Still, I would like to mention a few nice pieces of information and architecture that I found in my research.

First off, I'd like to mention a small, concise blog post that I found on a gallery showing that was held at the Gregg Museum. Good Night wrote the post. Here you'll find out a bit about the influence that modern design had on Raleigh, and why it's so important to North Carolina to keep it protected. At the bottom of the post "Southern Roots of Mid-Century Modern at the Gregg Museum" you will also find a few links that help orient you toward more modern architecture in the North Carolina area. While the site is not 100% mid-century, there are definitely some gems to be dug out of the post provided.

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Second, I like to mention that North Carolina was home to a very influencial house. One that was the first of it's kind, and inspired many adaptations that directly effected the flow and design of many a googie/retro futuristic building*. We are speaking of no other than the Catalano House (Fadum house). Built by Eduardo Catalano, it was a very impressive and progressive house for its time. Even now, it's pretty impressive and progressive. Unfortunately, even with the attentive work that Preservation North Carolina put into trying to keep this structure protected, the Catalano house fail into disrepair and ended up being razed.

Still, there are many wonderful homes to see and learn about. One great source for home and architects of the North Carolina area is While the site is a bit cumbersome to navigate, there are many a good photo and a lot of info hidden within this site. It's well worth the time spent searching thru it.

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