Photos by Ben Clausen
Where can you find the only Alcoa Aluminum Company home in Minnesota, built in 1958 as a marketing ploy to showcase the virtues of aluminum? Or a house designed by Carl Graffunder in 1955 for his sister and brother-in-law—the latter being the owner of Dale Tile Co., a tad eccentric, and dedicated to filling the home with tile in an array of colors and patterns? Or how about a house that still has its original wallpaper and fixtures selected by the interior designer? Or an elegant, understated home with walnut paneling and the original metal St. Charles kitchen cabinets? You can find them all, and more, on this year’s Minnesota Modern Tour Day 2018 hosted by Docomomo US/MN. This year’s tour of midcentury marvels takes place on Saturday, October 13, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. While searching for houses to showcase on this year’s tour, a theme emerged: Time capsules. That’s because the homes that became available for the tour are all exquisitely preserved and capture—with gorgeous details, delightful surfaces, and arresting materiality—what living with midcentury modern was like when it was fresh and new, and how the current owners of the homes have lovingly preserved those homes.
From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., three houses are available for viewing. Fasth, Hillstrom & Horty, Architects designed the home at 656 Montcalm Place in St. Paul, which has a two-story brick fireplace, swaths of walnut paneling, windows overlooking the woods, accordion doors, numerous built-ins and the original metal St. Charles kitchen cabinets.
Builder Marv Gordon and designer Florence Ulrich worked on the home at 4949 Queen Avenue North, Minneapolis, with its fantastic array of original wallcoverings, fixtures, cabinetry—and décor that follows suit.
On 5055 Bassett Creek Drive, Golden Valley, architect Thomas B. Hendrix built the home that he lived in for many years, before selling to the current owners. The unassuming front entrance opens up in spectacular fashion at the back, with two levels of window walls and balconies. The fireplace, floors, woodwork and furnishings are all drool-worthy.
From 1 to 3 p.m., two additional houses are on the tour—and this is where the jaw really drops. The house at 8000 Westwood Hills Drive, St. Louis Park, was designed by architect Charles M. Goodman for the Alcoa company. The “care-free” house was slated to be one of 50 homes in 16 states to be made using many of Alcoa’s aluminum products. Purchased by its current owners in 2011, after falling into disrepair, the house has been restored to its original glory.
The tour ends with a party at 340 East Diamond Lake Road, Minneapolis. This is the Graffunder or Dale Tile house, where a plethora of midcentury tile is on display—on the walls, on the cantilevered fireplace, on the floor, on columns, as shuffleboards in the basement, even on a chair. The Dale company published a marketing brochure, “Carefree Living With Tile,” in 1956 with photos of the home’s interiors to laud the qualities and usage of Romany Spartan ceramic tile beyond the bathroom. It’s over-the-top and amazing that such a showcase still exists.
Tickets are $30 for Docomomo members and $50 for non-members; $15 students with valid ID. Purchase tickets before the tour at https://docomomomn2018.eventbrite.com/.