Our August was very eventful – Mary and I got married, and then went to Hawaii for our honeymoon. So much so that I only made one update to the blog during August. Now that I have also fixed the uploading problem for images, we’re back in business!
Not too many people have these for their house, much less have them hand drawn by your own Grandfather – but I am in possession of all of the original house plans that were used to construct the house. My grandfather sat down in 1958 and, having decided on a general house that he wanted, put pencil to vellum and whipped off a set of architectural drawings. You may ask if he was an architect? No, he was an electrical and mechanical engineer who worked at IBM as a Manager. But, he was a talented individual and apparently along the way felt he could do this himself. I never got a chance to sit down with him and discuss at length how he came about drawing the house plans, something I wish I had. I envision he probably picked up some books on the subject and studied up and had a bunch of books or magazines on popular house plans to start from.
I do know bits and pieces of the story, having heard them from both of my Grandparents over the years: My grandfather wanted a house near IBM where he worked, and this neighborhood was the “fancy” one. At the time the developer, a man named Bob Relyea, had shown my Grandfather lots on Courtly Circle, and had encouraged him to build here because of the style of house he had planned. Bob would very soon afterward build his house next door. (it is equally as cool.)
As you will see in the drawings, the house was drawn opposite the way it was built. This happens fairly regularly in home construction – the plans are drawn, but then there is a decision to “flip” the plans so the house faces the other direction. In 1958, drawing a new set of plans would be a large undertaking since it was done by hand. So what would have happened is when the blueprints were created (copied from the original drawings I possess) and given to the builder, they would have had “REVERSE HAND” written across the top to tell everyone “build it backwards.” My brother works construction and he says sometimes you still see plans with that written on it, but with the advent of computer drawn plans, reversing them is usually a fairly easily task. What I have done is uploaded two copies of each drawing where applicable – one is how it was drawn (so you can read all the text) and the other is “As Built” – with the plans flipped correctly. There are other small elements that are different – the plans say there was brick only on the front of the house. My Grandfather’s mother called from Chicago and said (I quote from my Grandmother) “Artie, brick houses are better,” to which he said he could not afford it – so she mailed him the $300 it cost to add brick around the entire house.
Our house is a split level house, but it is a special and very uncommon type of split level known as a “back split” – typically in a split level you can see from the street all three (or four, counting the basement) levels of the house. In our case, from the street our house looks relatively small because you only see the front level and no second story windows – they are all on the back of the house. Split levels are common in our area, but I very rarely encounter other back splits – I know of three so far, and I’m pretty observant.
The other thing you may notice is that while these plans include a lot of detail…they are not nearly as detailed as plans you would get today. With the advent of computer drafting and houses being built in subdivisions from pre-selected plans instead of a one-off stick built house like ours, and stricter codes, architectural plans today contain a lot more information.
Here are all of the house plans in a single gallery:
Additionally, here are exterior shots, so you can match up what the place looks like to the plans:
And here is the house being built, in 1958 and 1959:
I always felt this was one of the coolest aspects of the house.