Editors' Letter: Into the future past
It was fully 20 years ago that the thought struck me: Suburban ranch neighborhoods are now desirable. I was taking a long walk in a leafy suburb between New York City and Princeton, N.J., a place of old farms that had been developed after the second war and through the 1960s. The sun-dappled streets, curved in the manner of Olmsted’s and Vaux’s parks, were embowered by tall trees on each side, which met overhead. Each green, roughly same-size lot was neatly kept, each house set back at a private and dignified distance. Rhododendrons had matured and naturalized. To my surprise, the mid-century houses my parents had disparaged (my mother preferred Colonials) were not all alike after all; cladding materials, entries, wings, and landscape varied. Consistent massing and heights gave the neighborhood an identity and feeling of serenity.
The October 1998 issue of Old-House Journal marked our 25th anniversary. In a birthday mood, we heralded the Ranch as a historic house style. The Arts & Crafts revival was in full swing and the Bungalow (1900–1925) would be the next decade’s restoration darling. Outside of academia and a few pockets of enthusiasts, the old-house audience was vocal in its insistence that anything postwar was suspect.
This issue marks 45 years of OHJ. Among the tours we feature is a visit to a glass-walled, 1957 house in California. The accompanying style article provides a context for Mid-Century Modern houses, of which the Western Ranch and its variants is one type. My own feelings about all those ranches and Contemporaries of the Sixties have changed. I’ve been introduced to well-designed mid-century enclaves not only in New Jersey but also in Minneapolis, Des Moines, Palo Alto, and Seattle. Imagine big windows, a now-familiar and livable modernism, and no clutter! Imagine having a private stone patio instead of a wood porch that always needs work. Imagine neighborhoods where that postwar optimism seems embodied still.
I think I am in love.
~ Patricia Poore, Editorial Director of Old House Journal
Look below to see stories from this issue.