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Architecture Mid-century modern houses

Doohickie

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Cool. that's kind of the flavor of my current neighborhood, but not as fancy as that. But there is some great MCM stock (and more traditional mid-century homes). It's part of what drew me to the area.
 

Gedunker

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That's a pretty cool neighborhood for sure WSUMUP. The grass median strip - grass only -- is kind of disappointing, though.

I live in a MCM-era neighborhood, but there is only one MCM on my block and it's not very good, IMO. Mostly, the homes are ranch house variants with some split-levels coming in later. My house was built from a pattern-book plan (I still have the plans from Garlinghouse out of Topeka, KS) and you can see where there were MCM influences. Unfortunately, the original owners must not have liked them very much because they were left out of the finished product, notably a corner fireplace and chimney that look really cool in the plans. (If money were no object, I'd put that back in the house in a heartbeat.)
 

WSU MUP Student

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Over my holiday break I ran through a neighborhood not far from my house that I had never been through before and there were quite a few MCM and MCM-lite ranches and one in particular really caught my eye. I was cruising Zillow afterwards and it looks like it was listed for sale not too long ago (but remove unsold maybe?) and there was still a shot of the exterior available.

1577982738251.png

Unfortunately, the interior shots were all removed but the write-up was still there and it says this home was built in '57 and was designed by Charles Goodman as one of the Alcoa Care Free aluminum homes. The purple walls, orange door, and blue framed windows are original elements. Goodman also designed National Airport (now Regan) and was the primary designer of the Hollin Hills neighborhood in Arlington that @kjel mentioned earlier.

This was a very cool find and I'm going to have to set an alert in case it ever comes back on the market so I can see what the interior is like (the write-up says it still has "7,500 lbs of colorful aluminum details throughout the house" that Goodman had designed.
 

WSU MUP Student

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That is the most dreadful building I've ever seen.
I don't know if I'd go that far, but it definitely seems out of place in that neighborhood these days (especially with all the glass and steel mid-rise stuff there in that part of Arlington and Crystal City) but when it was built, it probably fit right in perfectly with everything across the river in D.C. or the Pentagon up the street.

I always fly into Reagan when I go to DC for the Marine Corps Marathon and when I am outside on the train or on the platform and turn around and look at that terminal building it does stick out like a sore thumb.
 

Planit

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1578083431711.png

This beauty is down the street from me. There was custom built furniture in it until the new owners bought it. They chopped up a built-in dresser to get it out of one of the bedrooms.
 

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Luca

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That is the most dreadful building I've ever seen.
Well, the MCM style probably hit its nadir of popularity 1-2 decades ago but is only slowly crawling its way back up the incline. it will be interesting to see if minimalist styles will make the full recovery in reputation that, for instance, art nouveau and art deco achieved.

The building in question

The building in question is, in fact, a "machine for living in", on the assumption that the life is quite car-centred and on the reductionist utility concept that sustaining life is consistent with ignoring a sense of visual complexity and delight.

It is a suburban house (place for cars, place for people, lawn) reduced to its simplest essentials.
 

Doohickie

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Well, the MCM style probably hit its nadir of popularity 1-2 decades ago but is only slowly crawling its way back up the incline. it will be interesting to see if minimalist styles will make the full recovery in reputation that, for instance, art nouveau and art deco achieved.
I never saw that building as MCM.
 

WSU MUP Student

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@Luca - I think you're confusing what @Doohickie found dreadful. I think Doohickie was referring to Reagan National Airport in DC, not the house in my prior post, as the piece of dreadful architecture. Both designed by the same architect though.
 

Rygor

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Oh man I love this thread. I'm a fan of MCM architecture and style, which is what inspired me to move into my current neighborhood in Phoenix which is kind of MCM Central for the metro (I'm in Uptown area near 12th St & Glendale Ave for the couple people that know Phoenix here). There are some cool MCM style shopping centers in the area, including one called SunBrite Corner that has a VERY popular coffee shop & store called Luci's.
Capture1.JPG

There's also an old bank building that was converted to a very popular wine bar called The Vig Uptown. It was originally designed by Ralph Haver, a very prominent local MCM architect who designed hundreds (thousands?) of homes, many of which are right in my area (not mine sadly, as they generally command a pretty high premium for same square footage).
Here The Vig:
Capture2.JPG

So lots of Ralph Haver homes right within a square mile radius of me. He is quite revered locally and actually had his firm's offices (which he ran from the early 50s until the mid-80s) about 1/2 mile from my house.

Here is a page with lots of examples of his homes and history, etc. Interesting stuff if you like MCM and history of it, especially as it pertains to Phoenix.
Modern Phoenix: Haverhoods

Here's a local example of a modest Haver home from right by my daughter's school (note the church is the background which is a very cool MCM building in it's own right).
Capture3.JPG

And another in the same neighborhood:
Capture4.JPG

Here's a closer look at that Presbyterian church for S's and G's (my daughter went to pre-school there):
Capture5.JPG
 

Doohickie

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as they generally command a pretty high premium for same square footage).
My neighborhood was built between 1950 and 1960, but most homes are best described as "traditional". There is a portion that is true MCM and yes, they go for about 30-50% more per square foot.
 

Doohickie

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Here's a local example of a modest Haver home from right by my daughter's school (note the church is the background which is a very cool MCM building in it's own right).
Capture3.JPG


And another in the same neighborhood:
Capture4.JPG
That's about the same scale as the MCM homes in my area... maybe 1700-2000 sq ft or so.
 

Rygor

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My neighborhood was built between 1950 and 1960, but most homes are best described as "traditional". There is a portion that is true MCM and yes, they go for about 30-50% more per square foot.
Same here. My house was built in 1951, though it's been updated and additions added since then, but at least it still retains it's outward charm and most of my immediate neighborhood remains intact with no tear downs on my street and most houses all retaining their original brick and character, which is nice.
 

Rygor

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That's about the same scale as the MCM homes in my area... maybe 1700-2000 sq ft or so.
Yep. Haver didn't design many larger homes. Mostly humble homes with good MCM character designed for the everyman/woman. He did design quite a few commercial buildings in the area, though.
 

Dan

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Like I said, Buffalo doesn't have much MCM. However, I found this from an article in the Buffalo Evening New from September 19, 1953: "Modern Home Owners Allow Visits to Aid Radcliffe Scholarship Fund",

mcm.png

236 Treehaven isn't far from where I grew up. Real MCM in Cheektowaga, a little bit past the city line. It was the home of Paul Frey, founder of a large electrical contracting firm that's still active.

mcm_cheektowaga,jpg.jpg

333 Burke is around the corner, also on the Cheektowaga side. It's more like a typical 1950s rambler.

4170 Main has a few MCM flourishes, but otherrwise it's a standard early 1950s ranch. 66 Getzville isn't far away. It's a brick Georgian/Colonial. Nothing to see here. 15 North Burbank is a small contemporary ranch.

66 Dana, in Buffalo's Park Meadow neighborhood, looks more like something from suburban London than the city of Buffalo, but check out the Pacer in the driveway! 84 Hallam is nearby. It's just a brick split level.

1085 Colvin is contemporary but not MCM. The house across the street at 1080 Colvin screams "an architect lives here!" It was originally the home of the son of a prominent local attorney from an old Buffalo society family (the "AB" on the cornice are his initials, "Adrian Block"), but it's now a group home.
 

Doohickie

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236 Treehaven isn't far from where I grew up. Real MCM in Cheektowaga, a little bit past the city line.
The NW corner of Cheektowaga (Cleveland Hill) never seemed like Cheektowaga to me. I rarely ventured up that way; if I did it was usually for Ja Fa Fa Hots and no further. Seemed more like Eggertsville or Snyder.
 
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WSU MUP Student

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I was out running yesterday and ran past a gorgeous house I've run past hundreds of times before. It's hard to see from the road but from what I can tell it always looked like a gorgeous MCM home. I've never seen a for sale sign or anything but I was looking something up on Zillow this morning and decided to click on this particular house to see when it was built. It turns out the house was on the market back in '10 and '11 and the pictures and listing are still online!

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1579620262005.png 1579620292164.png

The house was built in 1955 and it turns out that it was built by Minoru Yamasaki. The photos don't do the exterior landscaping justice but the interior looks pretty nice too. At more than 5,000 sqft, I think this is definitely on the larger end of the typical MCM spectrum but it's actually one of the smaller houses in that particular neighborhood. The house is about a block away from the grounds of the Cranbrook Academy which is a mecca of MCM design.
 

WSU MUP Student

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So.... in/around Bloomfield Hills?
This one is In Bloomfield Hills. Yamasaki lived in Bloomfield Hills for years and years so I imagine there are a few more of his residential designs scattered around. The ones that I have stumbled across seem to be on oddly shaped parcels and make heavy use of natural topography like hills, lakes, and marshes and it seems like he (or his clients) may have had a penchant for utilizing parcels that just weren't selling or that other owners/developers found to be undevelopable or unmarketable.

This particular neighborhood is one of my favorites and it sits between my neighborhood and the Cranbrook Academy, so I go through it quite frequently. There are quite a few very stately estate-style houses that were built atop the small hills in the 1920s and 1930s and it appears that many of those owners parceled off their large lots in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s to new buyers who built "smaller" homes on their smaller lots. There is an interesting mix of MCM, tudor, traditional colonial, Georgian, and some massive ranch houses.
 

Dan

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In my (Victorian/Edwardian) neighbourhood, a rare 1938 modernist house.
That's a nice one! Some great Art Moderne touches.

Here's a few pre-WWII modern-ish house in (or at least a couple of blocks away from) my childhood neighborhood. It's one of those small subdivisions where a few houses were built in the 1920s, the Depression hit, there was a little bit more construction in the late 1930s, WWII came around, and the post-war boom fueled development on the remaining empty lots.



A couple more oddballs from the 1930s elsewhere in town.



Houses with flat roofs are very, very uncommon in a city that can experience an annual snowfall of 5m or more.
 

RandomPlanner

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I attended a party once at this house, built in 1962 -- probably the first MCM home with which I fell in love!
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As you might guess, the inside 'walls' are almost all glass doors and are amazing when they're open wide to the pool. Check out the interior photos at https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/32-E-65th-St-Savannah-GA-31405/14173816_zpid/.

And yes, they had a pianist and singer stationed at the grand piano all night!
 
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WSU MUP Student

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@Luca - That one that you posted reminded me of this one near me that always appeared to be a mix of art-moderne style and MCM.

1579723578331.png

Looking it up on Zillow it appears that it was built in '51. I've lived in the area for about a decade and I don't know if I've ever seen anybody outside of it or a car in the driveway and it always appears to have just the bare amount of maintenance and landscaping done to it so I think it's been sitting vacant for years. It's one of those houses that if it ever comes on the market and has an open house, I'm definitely going to check it out.

There's another house in the same neighborhood that was a pretty generic ranch from the late '40s. It hit the market a few years ago and based on the neighborhood and the price that it sold at, I figured it would be a tear down and some bigfoot house built in its place. Instead, the owners built a small addition but totally remodeled the exterior (and I imagine the interior as well). The renovations totally changed the exterior and it looks like it took something right out of a style magazine from 1957.

Same house before:
1579724209304.png

And after:
1579724251305.png

Side view:
1579724323774.png

 

Luca

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One thing that seems objectively weird about the mid-century style is the fenestration.
So often, rather than a 'portrait' frame it is either a full glass wall (with clear potential issues of privacy, excess sunlight, etc.) OR tiny, slit windows that you can't look out of and provide minimal light.
 
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WSU MUP Student

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One of the smaller FLW homes just hit the market here in Michigan. It looks to be in pretty good shape and knowing the area it's in the price doesn't seem to be too outrageous:

Frank Lloyd Wright Home in Okemos is for sale



This is one of his "Usonian" houses. There are a couple Usonian houses in my neck of the woods including one a few blocks from my house that I often run past hoping it will have a for sale sign on it. This one that's just been listed looks quite a bit nicer than the one near me.
 
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Dan

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One thing that seems objectively weird about the mid-century style is the fenestration.
So often, rather than a 'portrait' frame it is either a full glass wall (with clear potential issues of privacy, excess sunlight, etc.) OR tiny, slit windows that you can't look out of and provide minimal light.
I always noticed the same thing, too. The little slit windows are common even in non-MCM houses from the Buffalo area in the 1950s. Bedrooms and bathrooms had just the slit windows, and nothing else, something that would definitely not meet today's building codes. An example from a small brick ranch house close to the city line:

tiny_windows.jpg

The story I heard about why the small windows were popular: people moving from the city didn't want to look outside their bedroom window and see inside their neighbors' houses. Also, they make it easier to arrange furniture.

Picture windows were so popular in 1950s Buffalo, many older houses in the city had picture window retrofits. Tens of thousands of casement windows ended up in area landfills, and the architectural integrity of a large bulk of Buffalo's pre-WWII vernacular starter housing stock was ruined. Aluminum and vinyl siding was just icing on the cake. IMHO, aftermarket picture windows, vinyl/aluminum siding, and decorative metalwork has never improved the appearance of a single house in Buffalo.

(And, of course, never, ever enter a house in Buffalo through the front door. Side door only, unless you're the Pope.)
 
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Doohickie

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One thing that seems objectively weird about the mid-century style is the fenestration.
So often, rather than a 'portrait' frame it is either a full glass wall (with clear potential issues of privacy, excess sunlight, etc.) OR tiny, slit windows that you can't look out of and provide minimal light.
One of the characteristics of MSM is horizontal lines. They evoke streamlining, making the house look "sleek" or "fast" (even though houses don't generally move).

This house is not full-on MSM but it does have the "slit window" thing going on.


The three-pane horizontal slit is the master bedroom, so placing it high on the front elevation wall provides privacy.... an appropriate use for that type of window. The smaller one to the left is the master bath, so ditto. The more conventional windows further to the left are the dining area and kitchen sink, respectively.

The master bedroom has a second window on the side of the house that is a full length window, but the greenery on the side of the house provides privacy.


The overall effect is quite good I think. Had this house been on the market when we were looking I might have made an offer. (And if they get anywhere near their ask, it means that home prices in my area have jumped about 30% over the last two years :wow:. I'm so glad they didn't bump up our valuation this year.)
 
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Doohickie

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The story I heard about why the small windows were popular: people moving from the city didn't want to look outside their bedroom window and see inside their neighbors' houses. Also, they make it easier to arrange furniture.
This is exactly right. They provide both light and privacy. When you look out through them (especially when laying in bed) you see trees and sky, not brick. My parents' home had one portrait window (on the front elevation in keeping with the architectural style) and one high slit window on the side elevation in their master bedroom. The back bedroom had too high slit windows. Never fear, we would have found a way to clamber out of them in the event of a fire. (The house originally had two bedrooms; two more were added when the attic was remodeled).

Picture windows were so popular in 1950s Buffalo, many older houses in the city had picture window retrofits. Tens of thousands of casement windows ended up in area landfills, and the architectural integrity of a large bulk of Buffalo's pre-WWII vernacular starter housing stock was ruined. Aluminum and vinyl siding was just icing on the cake. IMHO, aftermarket picture windows, vinyl/aluminum siding, and decorative metalwork has never improved the appearance of a single house in Buffalo.
I'm confused here. Are you saying the side casement windows were replaced with double hung? I think that's the way the houses were built. Casement windows are more expensive than double hung so the picture windows in your example were typical of what was built starting about 1950.

(And, of course, never, ever enter a house in Buffalo through the front door. Side door only, unless you're the Pope.)
This was absolutely 100% true! When someone rang the front doorbell it was a clear indication they were not anyone the family knew. Everyone entered at the side door into the kitchen.
 

Dan

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Slightly off-topic.

I'm confused here. Are you saying the side casement windows were replaced with double hung? I think that's the way the houses were built. Casement windows are more expensive than double hung so the picture windows in your example were typical of what was built starting about 1950.
Basically, left = as-built Buffalo-style bungalow (1920s) with double-hung windows, right = typical facade "update" (1950 - ~1990) with picture windows and decoreative shutters. Not shown: wrought iron railings and column, and a last initial (Ks and Ss were especially common, for some reason) or Ye Olde Colonial eagle on the screen door.

buffalo bungalow.png

A touch of CLEEEEEEYASS.

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cleeyass_4.jpg

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Doohickie

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Basically, left = as-built Buffalo-style bungalow (1920s)
Still confused. Those aren't casement windows, they're double hung sliders. Casement windows swing out to open. It looks like casements are what they converted to in your example, not what was replaced.

And the house in the post you originally mentioned picture window updates was probably built as shown, with the two picture windows, each with a pair of double hung sliders on each side.
 

Dan

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Maybe I used the wrong term originally. They're definitely double hung windows, converted to crank-out picture windows.
 

WSU MUP Student

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One of the characteristics of MSM is horizontal lines. They evoke streamlining, making the house look "sleek" or "fast" (even though houses don't generally move).

This house is not full-on MSM but it does have the "slit window" thing going on.
Scrolling through the thread I thought this was a picture of a house in my neighborhood. The majority of my neighborhood are 1950s brick ranches and there are more than a couple here that look exactly like this one except the garage would generally be side or rear facing.

Our house has windows in the bedrooms and bathrooms that are slightly taller than the typical slit windows and I don't really care for them. They just don't look right for the time period. I'd rather just have the slit windows or have much taller windows. A few of the houses in the neighborhood have taken out the smaller slit (and whatever size we have) and replaced them with windows that are 4' or 5' tall and they look much nicer (I don't know the proper names for the different window types/sizes).

I always heard another reason for the migration towards smaller windows in the later '50s through the '70s was because they were more energy efficient and it made it more economical as energy prices increased. Once the technology caught up and companies could make large windows that didn't leak out heat as badly, the window sizes began to increase again.
 
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Planit

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mendelman

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1st - Awesome especially with the rooftop deck

2nd - more Usonioan (FLW) than MCM...though maybe a transitional type/period for sure.
 

luckless pedestrian

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The slit window look is difficult now that building codes require an access window in each bedroom - I love the look but I will admit, you'd be trapped in that bedroom - my parent's hose had the slit windows on our 1954 ranch in Syracuse but when they did window replacement, they had to make one window in each room access-sized. Luckily they could do it on the side of the house and not the front.
 
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2nd - more Usonioan (FLW) than MCM...though maybe a transitional type/period for sure.
Have no idea what those terms mean.
The upshot:
"Usonian" is a Frank Lloyd Wright "brand" of architecture.

Details here:
http://2paragraphs.com/2013/08/frank-lloyd-wrights-america-or-is-it-usonia/
Summary:
"The word ['Usonia'] was coined in 1903 by American-born writer James Duff Law., [who] wrote: 'We of the United States, in justice to Canadians and Mexicans, have no right to use the title ‘Americans’ when referring to matters pertaining exclusively to ourselves.' "
"Usonia" can refer to a large land swath of the U.S.., or, in the broadest of terms, the entire U.S.
FLR greaatly popularized the word "Usonia" to the point that it has become a distinct architecturial style.
FLR's Usonian Homes were "typically economical in size (single-story), location (inexpensive plots), and material (constructed with native materials, flat roofs and overhangs instead of garages."

A picture being worth way over1000 words, you may want to do an online image search on "Usonian Houses".
 

WSU MUP Student

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The Usonian style is popular here - there are a couple genuine FLW Usonian homes in the neighborhood north of mine and some of the Saarinen architecture in the area seems to sort of influence the Usonian architecture here.

Though it started a bit earlier than the MCM movement, I think Usonian could definitely be a sub-set of MCM, or at least a very big influence on it.

When we were house shopping about a decade ago now, we looked at a Usonian-style house in a neighborhood with a bunch of them. It was a nice house and had been well maintained but the tiny bedrooms and chopped up kitchens and bathrooms may have been "cool" back in the day but didn't really work well with how we like to live these days. Our realtor found the house for us and I remember approaching it from the road and being puzzled by the almost total lack of windows and no garage (there was a carport though) but once we got inside, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of natural light thanks to all the windows facing the backyard. Still, the house was small and just had an odd layout.
 

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I always liked this house not far from me:


It sold last year and it looks like it was marketed primarily for the land, but the house looked to be in pretty good shape:







I ran past it earlier this week and there is now a sign out front for a construction company. The particular company seems to build pretty nice (and often MCM-inspired) homes so I'm hoping this one is just going to be a renovation and not an actual tear down.
 

Dan

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We don't have a lot of true mid-century modern here -- the vast majority of housing around here was either built before 1910 or after 1960 -- but occasionally I see something interesting on the real estate web sites.

This looks like it's at the very edge of the mid-century modern era -- built in 1970. $407K.

mcm1.jpg

mcm2.jpg

mcm3.jpg
 
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