Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Goose-Egg Architect

Architect Henry Evert Wichers was born in Dispatch (Smith County), Kansas in March 1898. After earning his bachelor's and master's degrees from Kansas State College,* Wichers joined the faculty as a rural architecture specialist. Within a few years, property owners sought his advice regarding utilities, remodeling and building typologies. His suggestions frequently included analyses of prevailing winds and geographic position.

The State College of Washington (now Washington State) enticed Wichers to depart his full professorship in 1947. Assigned to the college's extension services, Wichers collaborated with Helen Noyes on a guide to making one's farmhouse functional. The publication presented a recontextualized and pared down version of Wichers' earlier "Better Homes for Kansas Farms" (1942).

Over his decades-long career, Wichers contributed many DIY farm and home publications:

Planning a Home in the Country (1961)
Planning Corrals (1956)
Planning Your Dairy Buildings, with Don Lockridge (1953)
Planning Your Farmstead (1952)
Planning Your Poultry Houses (1952)
An Easy Way of Planning a Farm House (1951)
Homes for Washington Farms (1951)--a series with various plans
Minimum Standards for Good Farm Houses Located in the State of Washington (1950)
Choose a Farm House to Fit Your Farm (1949)
Farmhouse Planning Is Easy (1948)
Floors and Pavements for House and Garden (1948)
Successful Farming Building Book (1947)
Your Farmhouse: Make It Work, with Helen Noyes (1947)
House Framing (1946)
Better Homes for Kansas Farms (1942)
Low Cost Homes (1939)
"The Farm House" in Rural Life 16 (March 1938)
How to Modernize Your Farm House, with Ellen L. Pennell (1935)
Modernizing the Kansas Home (1934)
"The Building Site Dictates the Architectural Style" and "Considerations in Farmhouse Planning," chapters in The Better Homes Manual, ed. by Blanche Halbert (1931)
"Designs for Kansas Farm Houses," M.A. Thesis, 1930
Designs for Kansas Farm Houses (1929)
"Fitting A House to Its Site." American Architect 5 May 1928: pp. 573-580.
The Design of the Kansas Home (1927)

During the Cold War period, he advised regarding inappropriate shelters:


     "A rural architecture specialist advises that when a bomb comes your way, 'stay out of the basement.' Too often, H.E. Wichers said, one hears advice from 'so-called experts' that [it] is the place to hide from bombs. 'It is just not so,' he contended. 'Even in small houses with concrete block basement walls, an A-bomb explosion will prove about as comfortable as the wrong end of a bowling alley.'"

The Times Record (Troy, New York) 15 March 1951

Wichers became known as the "Goose-Egg Architect" because of his use of quickly articulated ovoids to help property owners determine their architectural needs. He stressed that the automatic drawing technique was an effective means to sort out patterns prior to hiring a professional architect.

Image above: H.E. Wichers, O.S. Ekdahl, & N.F. Resch. "Plan 6519, For the Southwest." In Wallace Ashby. Farmhouse Plans, U.S. Department of Agriculture Farmer's Bulletin No. 1738. Washington, D.C., 1934.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Wiedorn in Kansas III

In 1924, landscape architect William S. Wiedorn published an article intended for Kansas property owners desirous of improving their yards. "Beautifying the Home Grounds of Kansas" included general advice and a comprehensive planting list. For those struggling to design their gardens, Wiedorn offered the advice of K-State Agricultural College's horticultural department provided inquiring parties supplied a plat.



White elm
Pin Oak
Silver maple
Honey locust


Tulip tree
Green ash
Osage orange
Russian mulberry


Japanese barberry
Van Houtes spires
Common privet
Armur river privet
Bush hydrangea
Butterfly bush
Fragrant sumac
Staghorn sumac
Indian currant
Japanese quince
Golden bell
Morrow's honeysuckle
Red-twigged dogwood
Common lilac
Rose of Sharon
Mock orange


Japanese clematis
Jackman's clematis
Five-leaved ivy
Climbing roses: Dorothy Perkins, Crimson rambler, Climbing American Beauty, Tausenschon



Scotch pine
Austrian pine
Jack pine
Bull pine
Red cedar (best evergreen for Kansas)
Douglas spruce


Fragrant honeysuckle
Low juniper


Memorial rose
Hall's honeysuckle


Prairie Rose


Bulbs (Spring)


Bulbs (Summer)

Tiger lilies


English daisy
Bleeding heart
Goat's beard
Sweet William
Oriental poppy
Garden pinks
Oriental larkspur
Carpathian harebells
Hardy phlox
Evening primroses
Shasta daisies
Yucca filamentosa

From:  W.S. Wiedorn. "Beautifying the Home Grounds of Kansas." The Biennial Report of the Kansas State Horticultural Society. Topeka: Kansas State Printing Plant, 1924, pp. 150-156.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Wiedorn in Kansas II

A previous post introduced William S. Wiedorn's work while employed as an assistant professor of landscape gardening at the Kansas State Agricultural College. During this period, he published "A Brief History of Gardening" and "Beautifying the Home Grounds of Kansas" for the state's horticultural society.

He began his historical essay with Sir Francis Bacon's On Gardens:

"Men come to build stately sooner than to garden finely; as if gardening were the greater perfection."

His survey introduced ancient gardens and exalted the urban ones that had been discovered at Pompeii (Plate I, above). He equally favored the Islamic gardens of southern Spain and those of Louis XIV (Plate II, below).
For early American architecture, his essay highlighted "Spanish" gardens in the South, "High English" gardens in Virginia, "Catholic" ones in Maryland, "Quaker" and "German" in Pennsylvania, "Swedish" in New Jersey, "Dutch" in New York, "Puritan" in New England and "French" in Canada. He included his 1922 sketch of the Patio Royal in New Orleans (Plate III, below) to illustrate the southern garden, which he equated with violets, heliotropes, carnations, lobelia, iris, lilies, tulips, hyacinths, roses, oleanders, rose bay, myrtle and jasmine.
Reflecting on the modern American garden of his day, Wiedorn emphasized an increased formality in design and a growing attention to urban parks:

"The American is becoming more and more a city man, and his civic pride runs high. Evidences of this are seen in our new parks, cemeteries and garden cities. The American thinks and works in larger areas than flower gardens; he is more interested in open lawns, lakes, trees and shrubs. Flower gardening, unlike the European practice, is the last phase to be developed. The American excels in developing parks and is laying the foundations for the finest natural park scenery in the world. Our cemeteries are being treated as natural parks. Garden cities or land subdivisions, in which every house and garden is part of a large unit, are being built everywhere. Such divisions as Forest Hills (Queens), New York; the Country Club District, Kansas City; and Roland Park, Baltimore, have set standards which others are adopting."

Johns Hopkins doctoral candidate Paige Glotzer has been documenting Kansas City financial connections to Roland Park and the subdivision's influence on other real estate developments and federal housing policies. 

More on Wiedorn's Kansas planting recommendations later.

Images and quoted matter (unless otherwise indicated) from:  W.S. Wiedorn. “A Brief History of Gardening.” The Biennial Report of the Kansas State Horticultural Society XXXVII. Topeka: Kansas State Printing Plant, 1924, pp. 127-137. University Archives, Kansas State University Libraries.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Square House

A previous post mentioned the preponderance of flat-topped hipped roof structures in Kansas. They could be found on farms, in rural towns and urban centers. By the 1930s, property owners hoping to modernize these simple frame buildings sought advice from Kansas State College's Engineering Experiment Station.

Architecture professor Henry Evert Wichers (1898-1963) gathered data pertaining to regional house typologies and then proposed economical solutions aimed at thoughtful modification. Using perspective drawings by Luis Cortés Silva (a Spanish exile and 1932 K-State graduate who later established a career in Bogota, Colombia*), Wichers developed six modernization schemes for what he referred to as the "one-story square house."
Henry Evert Wichers (1923)
Luis A. Cortes Silva (1932)

Wichers cautioned would-be-renovators that the one-story square type was especially difficult to modify. He stressed that such buildings were typically poorly built, provided little illumination and hunkered too close to the ground. The four-room configuration allowed minimal flexibility for storage and water closets and the built-up eaves trough resulted in leaks.
Conservative interventions left the exterior walls intact, increased the fenestration, replaced foundations and chimneys, but  reduced the number of sleeping rooms for the sake of kitchen and bath. More dramatic solutions required lengthening the house towards the rear or sides, adding porches and possibly changing the roof. The square type could thus be reconfigured as a bungalow or as a colonial revival house. 

Wichers also advocated site-specific design:

"We should remember that Kansas is a large state, and within its borders there are considerable variations in rainfall and quality of soil. Kansas has swamp land and extremely dry areas, fertile land and poor land, in all degrees and combinations."(1)

He cautioned the state's farmers against adopting catalog home plans geared towards city dwellers:

"The chief difference between the farmhouse and the city house is that the former is a more independent and self-sufficient unit than the city house. . . The farmhouse must, therefore, be proportionately larger than the city house."(2)

Although his modifications of the square house varied considerably, he encouraged farmers to consider more rambling forms suited to the needs of the family home and business.

*Beatriz García Moreno. Arturo Robledo: La arquitectura como moda de vida. Bogota: Universidad Nacional de Colombia, 2010, p. 42.

(1-2)H.E. Wichers. "Better Homes for Kansas Farms." Kansas State College Bulletin No. 43.  Engineering Experiment Station. Volume XXVI: Number 5. Manhattan, KS: The College, 1 June 1942.

Images above:  One-Story Square House, plan and photograph from: H.E. Wichers. "Modernizing the Kansas Home." Kansas State College Bulletin No. 32.  Engineering Experiment Station. Volume XVIII: Number 5. Manhattan, KS: The College, 1 June 1934.

Wichers (1923) from the K-State Royal Purple; Cortes (1932) from the K-State Royal Purple. All available through K-State Libraries.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Paving Paradise

In the summer of 1926, Coffeyville, Kansas was supplying massive quantities of its vitrified brick to Florida cities. Getting the pavers to Tampa was no easy feat due to a railroad embargo:

"Coffeyville bricks were shipped by the train-loads to Florida, to be used in paving the streets that are enjoying a rapid growth. The bricks, 3,250 tons, or 811,500, were manufactured in the plant of the Coffeyville Vitrified Brick and Tile Company here, [and] left Coffeyville by two trains, bound for Texas City, Texas, where the material was transferred to a boat leased by the Company, and was transported by water to Tampa, Florida. The first train contained twenty-nine cars; and were routed over the Missouri Pacific."(1)

Vitrified bricks were touted by their manufacturers as being impervious to freeze-thaw cycles, heat and humidity, excessive weight and tire chains. Beginning in 1927, the National Paving Brick Manufacturers' Association in Chicago advertised heavily in regional newspapers (below) and published The A.B.C.s of Good Paving in order to promote the product's assets. Frugal municipalities envisioned the cost savings.

Hattiesburg and Wiggins, Mississippi implemented vitrified brick pavers on their streets. Brownwood, Texas paved some 42 miles with it in 1928.(2)

The Florida Land Boom brought large quantities of the product into the state. In 1924, Kansas State Agricultural College landscape gardening professor William S. Wiedorn relocated to St. Petersburg, Florida. The street where he lived is still paved in vitrified brick.

(1)"From the Sunflower State." Anita Record 1 July 1926.

(2)"Hitting a New Peak." Brownwood Bulletin 5 October 1928.

Images above:  Ebay; Advertisement. New Castle News 16 November 1927; Advertisement The Charleston Gazette 11 April 1928.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Wiedorn in Kansas

New Orleans landscape architect William Wiedorn (1896-1990) taught landscape gardening at Kansas State Agricultural College from 1920-1924. During part of that time, the college advised on more than 201 landscape gardening efforts in 32 counties. While some 18% were public parks, the vast majority were private residential beautification projects.(1)
Wiedorn worked with horticulture professor Albert Dickens to supervise the improvement of the state capitol grounds in Topeka. They installed an underground irrigation system and recommended turning under an expanse of Sudan grass followed by a blue grass sowing. (2)

Dodge City hired the young landscape designer to superintend the planting of nearly 800 trees and shrubs in its Wright Park.(3) Other projects included the Augusta High School, Kansas State Penitentiary (Lansing), the Osawatomie Hospital and the Kansas State Tubercular Sanitarium (Norton). The latter is shown below.

The former tuberculosis hospital is now home to the Norton Correctional Facility.

(1)"College Lends Aid in Kansas Landscaping." Industrialist 18 October 1922.

(2)"Dickens and Wiedorn Help Beautify Capitol Grounds." Industrialist 28 September 1921.

(3)"Farmers as Guests." The Hutchinson News 13 April 1922.

Images above:  "William S. Wiedorn" in The Royal Purple. Detail enhanced. 1922; The Royal Purple. Detail enhanced. 1924. "Landscape Gardening" in Sixth Biennial Report of the State Sanatorium for Tuberculosis, Norton, Kansas for the Two Years Ending June 30, 1924. Topeka, 1924.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Food Moderne

In 1948, the Carnation Company hired Beaux-Arts educated architect Stiles O. Clements (1883-1966) to design its new corporate headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. The company decided to maximize on the high percentage (30%) of its employees living in California. Staff in Seattle, Milwaukee and New York were relocated and former branch operations such as accounting, advertising and purchasing were centralized.

The new reinforced concrete structure was built on 645 tapered steel piles, each extending thirty feet below grade. Most building materials were acquired in California. The color scheme reflected the corporate identity:  the elevator penthouse's mammoth (17 x 57') "Carnation Milk" sign appeared in solid red letters during the day, and as flashing red and white neon at night. The red granite facing stone on the lower facade could not be acquired locally and was shipped from Sweden on the maiden voyage of the Grace Line Motorship named Los Angeles.(1)
The Frito Company similarly established a stronghold in Los Angeles, building its largest plant at 8734 Bellanca Avenue. The company's general and district sales managers moved into the new location in the spring of 1950. Over 4,000 people attended the grand opening celebration. Executives demonstrated the original hand press that was used to make the first fritos in San Antonio in 1932.
The company also built a new plant at 1420 Roosevelt Street in its hometown. Assistant Plant Manager Ruth Ragsdale touted the operation:

"The most modern and up-to-date equipment was installed. The sacking rooms are a network of conveyors carrying the finished merchandise to the automatic weighing machines --unlike the old days when every bag had to be weighed and stapled by hand. Our continuous Frito press, enormous potato chip machine, the overhead conveyors carrying the boxes of finished merchandise from sacking rooms to the Shipping Department, electric taping and tying machines--all these things have been added to the San Antonio operation since my arrival in 1932. Another really fine addition is the modern lunch room, where employees 'take a break' and enjoy coffee and tea furnished by the company."(2)

The building is still standing.

In fact, all three buildings are at least partially standing.

(1) Carnation Company. Fifty Years of Progress. [Los Angeles?]: The company, 1949.

(2) The Frito Company. Fritos Band Wagon: Twentieth Anniversary Issue.  Dallas: The company, October 1952.

Images above: Clement O. Stiles, architect. Carnation Company Headquarters, 5045 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA. 1949. Detail. From Carnation Company. Fifty Years of Progress. [Los Angeles?]: The company, 1949.

Unknown architect. The Frito Company Western Division Plant, 8734 Bellanca Avenue, Los Angeles, CA. 1950. Detail. From Fritos Band Wagon: Twentieth Anniversary Issue.  Dallas: The company, October 1952.

Unknown architect. The Frito Company San Antonio Plant, 1420 Roosevelt Avenue, San Antonio, TX. 1949. Detail. From Fritos Band Wagon: Twentieth Anniversary Issue.  Dallas: The company, October 1952.

All publications from Clementine Paddleford Papers, Richard L. D. and Marjorie J. Morse Department of Special Collections, K-State Libraries.