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.