Modern houses in Portland

Advertisement for Rummer Homes, Sunday Oregonian, 4/21/1963.When I saw that last Thursday’s episode of Think Out Loud featured a story Rummer homes -- distinctive mid-century modern houses built by local builder Robert Rummer in the 1960s -- I thought it was the perfect moment to highlight some resources for learning about modern residential classics like the Rummer homes.

So far as I’ve been able to discover, there aren’t any books devoted to Robert Rummer’s houses (maybe you should write one!).  But fans of Rummers have a virtual gathering place, the Rummer Network, home to all sorts of great stuff, including contemporary and historical photos of Rummer houses and some helpful links to information about Eichler houses (Eichlers are California ranch houses developed by Joseph Eichler -- they were the inspiration for Rummer houses).  And, there is an informative article about Rummer houses at the California-based Eichler Network website: “Meet Builder Robert Rummer,” by Joe Bartholow.

Modern Historic Resources of East Portland Of course, Robert Rummer wasn’t the only local builder who spent the post-war years specializing in a new, fresh approach to house design -- cleanly-designed, open architecture was popular everywhere.  To get a sense for the trends in modern house styles in mid-Multnomah County, take a look at the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability’s survey, Modern Historic Resources of East Portland (pdf, written for the City of Portland by Historic Preservation Northwest, Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, April 2011).  It focuses on buildings on the east side of 82nd Ave., where many 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s-era subdivisions are located.

Mid Century Home Style is another great source -- especially for mid-century house researchers seeking out primary documentation.  Among other things, the site collects house plan books which were originally published 1937-1963.  These plan books show illustrations of house facades, floor plans, and occasional interior or garden views.  Most are much less avant-garde than Rummer or Eichler houses: primarily these are plain ranch houses, designed for middle America; but nonetheless, many have quite a lot of space-age flair. 

And of course, the library has a lot of great books about the history of modern domestic architecture.  The list below should get you started!

Do you want to learn more about the history of your Portland-area modern house? The library's House history page has lots more resources to help you with your search -- but for specific advice or help with your research challenges, do please Ask the Librarian!


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