03 June 2022

Authentic Midcentury Home by Harris Armstrong Available

Harris Armstrong designed this home at 616 Hickory Hollow Lane, Kirkwood, Missouri. Street view. (Photograph: © Andrew Raimist 2022)

A beautiful example of a single-story, post-and-beam home has come on the market. The house was designed by Harris Armstrong, FAIA, for Ernest K. Newmann. It was constructed in 1963 as a simple, elegant volume with high ceilings and large glass walls facing out onto a rear patio.

While the size of the house is relatively modest, 1,200 sq. ft., it includes everything a functional home in Kirkwood requires. The features include a living room with a classic Armstrong corner fireplace, a dining area, a kitchen that opens to the main living space, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a two-car garage.

Its L-shape composition is divided into two intersecting rectilinear volumes. The covered porch welcomes you; the lovely solid wood door makes the entry stand out visually and formally. To the left, screened from view, is the two-car garage. The layout couldn’t be more straightforward. The contrasting exterior textures of the horizontally aligned cedar shingles and vertically separated panels that suggest the structural system make for a rational, aesthetically pleasing composition.

Harris Armstrong designed this home at 616 Hickory Hollow Lane, Kirkwood, Missouri. Detail of entry porch. (Photograph: © Andrew Raimist 2022)

Previously, the house was painted in contrasting colors and tones that drew your eye to its elements. The current color scheme successfully unites the exterior. Given the relatively small size of the house, it makes for a harmonious, attractive home.

The home has been thoughtfully, lovingly restored to a coherent, aesthetically pleasing whole in sync with recent midcentury modern trends on the interior and exterior. The new landscaping is striking, making the house particularly impressive from the street.

It’s located at the end of a cul-de-sac off Craig Drive, near West Woodbine Avenue. It is a walkable residential area with nearby local businesses offering amazing croissants, drinks, dinner, child care, auto repair, convenience store, and more. This area of southwest Kirkwood is well-developed and maintained. There has been reasonably-sized in-fill housing built in the area in recent years that don’t overwhelm the neighborhood’s scale and eclectic styles. Other parts of Kirkwood have been entirely transformed by inserting oversized new homes out of scale with the original residential fabric.

Harris Armstrong designed this home at 616 Hickory Hollow Lane, Kirkwood, Missouri. View of rear. (Photograph: © Andrew Raimist 2022)

This design is the most compact of Armstrong’s 1960s work. In that era, many of his residential commissions were for large-scale custom homes for corporate executives in Ladue, Hilton Head, upstate New York, and beyond. This project is roughly contemporary with Armstrong’s celebrated Ethical Society of St. Louis on Clayton Road, by far, his best work of the decade. Armstrong essentially retired from active practice in 1965 and did only a handful of projects after that. His architectural office was located in Oakland on Singlepath Lane within the 63122 zip code, and he used “Kirkwood 22, Missouri” on his letterhead. He always identified his practice as located in Kirkwood, Missouri, and he identified personally and professionally with the community.

In past decades, I was concerned that the property might be targeted as a teardown like so many modestly scaled homes in Kirkwood. The improvements make that prospect unlikely as lovers of midcentury modern architecture are plentiful today. Its market value has risen steadily as appreciation for this home style has penetrated the St. Louis real estate market.

This part of southwest Kirkwood is quite desirable and sought after. Children walk to Robinson Elementary School, housed in a lovely William B. Ittner historic brick and stone structure. The location is roughly equidistant from Kirkwood Park to the north and St. Louis Community College, Meramec to the south. Kirkwood Park still features two Armstrong works from this era: the Amphitheater and the Community Center, which have been modified and improved over the years. The Amphitheater is particularly noteworthy and has been kept in excellent condition with repairs and upgrades to keep it fully functional for outdoor spring, summer, and fall events. Its design was donated to the City of Kirkwood by Armstrong in 1963.

Harris Armstrong's published sketch of the Kirkwood Park Amphitheater.

To find out more about this house which will undoubtedly sell quickly, see the listing on Zillow, which includes many more photographs and reveals the sound judgment of the current owners in updating the interiors. I have to offer kudos to them for taking a house with great potential and turning it into a leading example of restoring an Armstrong home consistently, thoughtfully, and beautifully. It will undoubtedly attract interested buyers who will appreciate its aesthetic simplicity. Even if you’re not in the market to purchase a house right now, this is an excellent opportunity to see a well-appointed example if you’re interested in Armstrong’s design work.

22 April 2022

Becoming Charles Eames: St. Louis (1930–1938)

I'll be presenting "Becoming Charles Eames: St. Louis (1930–1938)" on Tuesday 26 April 2022 at 6:30 p.m. as part of the online lecture series sponsored by the Steedman Architectural Library and the Society of Architectural Historians, St. Louis Chapter.

This presentation challenges the accepted narrative of Charles Eames's career and life in St. Louis. Preregister for the Zoom presentation by clicking REGISTER on the St. Louis Public Library page.

16 November 2021

Emil Frei Studio talk tonight on Zoom webinar! (Tues. 11.16.2021 @ 6:30 pm)


If you’re at all interested in 20th Century religious architecture and exceptional stained glass design, you must make time for this evening’s talk by Aaron Frei, President of the Emil Frei Studio (https://www.emilfrei.com/). 

He will be giving a Zoom webinar today at 6:30 pm Central Time in our “Architecture Around the World” series sponsored by the Steedman Architectural Library of the St. Louis Public Library. Please join us at the link below!

 ~ ~ ~ ~ 

You are invited to a Zoom webinar.

When: Nov 16, 2021 06:30 PM Central Time (US and Canada)

Topic: SAH-St. Louis Chapter/Steedman Architectural Library-  Aaron Frei  -  The Art and History of Stained Glass

Please click the link below to join the webinar:


Or One tap mobile :

    US: +13126266799,,96558484610#  or +16465588656,,96558484610#

Or Telephone:

    Dial(for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location):

        US: +1 312 626 6799  or +1 646 558 8656  or +1 301 715 8592  or +1 346 248 7799  or +1 720 707 2699  or +1 253 215 8782

Webinar ID: 965 5848 4610

    International numbers available: https://us06web.zoom.us/u/ko4khBEQJ

If you have any last minute questions, we will be monitoring this email to address last minute issues: finearts@slpl.org

 ~ ~ ~ ~ 

I’m sharing photographs from two modest sized churches they worked on back in the 1930s. One was designed by the firm Eames & Walsh (yes, Charles Eames when he practiced architecture in St. Louis) for St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Paragould, Arkansas in 1935-36. Emil Frei worked to create impressive stained glass following a modernist compositional approach in most of the church.

The other church by Nagel & Dunn is St. Mark’s Episcopal church of 1939 here in St. Louis which is magnificent in every way. The stained glass designed by Robert Harmon and produced by Emil Frei is one of the masterpieces of socially conscious religious art in St. Louis, perhaps in the country. This talk will motivate you to go back to visit St. Mark’s and see it again with fresh eyes. If you’ve never seen it in person before, then you are in for a feast for the eyes and the soul.

Andrew Raimist, Architect

Saint Louis, Missouri 63122


314 640 6878

19 June 2021

1951 Armstrong-designed Kirkwood Home for Sale

A 1951 Harris Armstrong-designed home is now on the market in Kirkwood. It's located in a special neighborhood, a cul-de-sac with 10 Armstrong-designed homes of the same overall design with exposed heavy timber beams supporting low-sloped roofs. The neighborhood is compact and the homes are coordinated in scale, design, and detail. The series of floor plans vary according to their location (north or south side of the street) and other requirements of the original owners. The street was recently given a Neighborhood of Distinction award by the City of Kirkwood. The ensemble is well-preserved with a consistent mid-century charm.

501 Woodleaf Court
501 Woodleaf Court, Kirkwood (Harris Armstrong, 1951), Photo: Raimist.

The property for sale is 501 Woodleaf Court located on the corner where it joins Woodlawn Avenue. The house is typical for developments of that era with a compact floor plan (1,354 sq. ft.), three bedrooms, and 1-1/2 baths. The neighborhood was developed by Marshall Berry with whom Armstrong collaborated on many projects in the 1950s. He designed Berry's own home on Danfield Road in Ladue in 1949 and his real estate office in Brentwood the year before that. The Berry home had a floor plan following the same principles as the Solar House and these homes on Woodleaf Court. Subsequently, they collaborated on many commercial projects along Manchester Road and several residential subdivisions. The Woodleaf Court development is unique in that every home was of Armstrong's design.

Woodleaf Court Subdivision, Site Plan (Armstrong, 1951), Base image by Susan Halla.

The overall design of these homes fit into the concept for a Missouri Solar Home that Armstrong published in 1947. The overhanging eaves and glazing are coordinated to keep out direct sun in the summer months and to allow direct sunlight to warm and brighten the interior during winter. Each house is a split level with a garage tucked under the upper level, the main level with living, dining, and kitchen, and the bedrooms located on the topmost level. The public spaces of each house feature tall ceilings and glazing facing toward both the street and backyard. The continuous heavy timber beams span from front to back and are exposed within and on each elevation.

513 Woodleaf Court, Kirkwood (Armstrong, 1951), Photo: Raimist.

The floor plans vary according to their position on the north or south side of the street. The small, compact functional rooms and closets of the house are grouped on the north side of each plan. For the houses on the north side of the street, that means these rooms are grouped facing the backyard. For the houses on the south side of the street, these smaller rooms are grouped on the north side, appearing on the street facade. For the houses along the south side, pairs of small windows on the main facade indicate the bathroom and kitchen. (Note: the floor plan shown below is for Armstrong's 1949 house for the developer Marshall Berry.)

Berry Residence, Ladue (Armstrong, 1949)

Each house is unique in its materials, colors, and finishes. The volumetric shape of each structure is generally consistent but the openings and cladding of each vary. The functions of each interior spaces are telegraphed by the fenestration. Large, fully glazed walls indicate the public gathering spaces each one with a masonry fireplace. The bedrooms have mid-sized windows and the bathrooms and kitchens have the smallest openings. The plans are predictably skewed by the gender roles common in the period. The kitchens are quite small and divided visually and spatially from the main living spaces. Fortunately, the houses allow for expanding the kitchen to meet late 20th Century needs and desires. Many of the homes have been renovated in just this way.

500 Woodleaf Court, Kirkwood (Armstrong, 1951), Photo: Raimist.

The families in the neighborhood have been good caretakers of their homes and properties. They typically are long-term residents with a strong commitment to Kirkwood and their unique piece of 1950s mid-century modern design. As I've been photographing and documenting these homes this year, I've learned that each has a story to tell of its succession of owners and the ways they've adjusted the spaces to fit their own needs.

519 Woodleaf Court, Kirkwood (Armstrong, 1951), Photo: Raimist.

From a planning perspective, Armstrong chose to design each home so its main entry door was directly visible to those driving in from Woodlawn Avenue. Each entry is surrounded by glazing and marked by a tilted column rising from a modest front porch. The entries are set back from the front wall of the house to provide additional protection from the elements. The deeper shadows create an inviting spot next to the center of each facade. The garages are recessed in elevation and located on the east end of each home so it is not the first thing one encounters. Instead, landscaped, gentle slopes frame the formal entry and the two-car garages are deemphasized.

533 Woodleaf Court, Kirkwood (Armstrong, 1951), Photo: Raimist.

The Open House for 501 Woodleaf Court is being held on Sunday, June 20 from 1 to 3 pm. I anticipate this will be the only open house showing. Houses in Kirkwood sell very quickly. You can see the complete listing by Coldwell-Banker Premier Group here.

07 May 2018

Danna House: Kirkwood Case Study

Danna House (1960) –– Front Elevation facing East

The Danna House will be celebrated on Wednesday, May 9 at Kirkwood City Hall at its Favorite Building Awards. The event begins at 7pm. Please join us to honor this historic Mid-Century Modern home! The event is free and open to the public. Doris Danna and members of her family will be in attendance. Many other homes will receive awards!

This architectural gem is a classic mid-century modern home drawing upon Case Study houses and Bauhaus precedents. The home is efficient and economical in its design and construction. Its structure is clearly expressed, yet the form is restrained and disciplined. This modernist structure thoughtfully respects its landscape, climate, and solar orientation. The house has maintained its essence over more than five decades.

Charlie and Doris Danna met in 1952 at Washington University in St. Louis while attending the School of Architecture. They married soon after and began searching for a natural site on which to build their family home. In 1953, they were fortunate to befriend Russell and Ruth Kraus who were building their Frank Lloyd Wright designed home on a wooded lot near Ballas and Dougherty Ferry Roads. Wright had designed a proposed subdivision of architect-designed homes on the eastern portion of their property. The Danna's were the first to realize their home in this neighborhood.

Doris Danna had been working as a site planner for architect, landscape architect and planner Emmett Layton. She took on the job of redesigning the proposed subdivision which builders were unwilling to undertake. Initially, Charlie had begun working for William B. Ittner before moving to the newly founded architectural practice of Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum.

Danna House –– Living Room with continuous window wall on the South (right side)

The Danna's were inspired by the Case Study Homes published in Arts & Architecture magazine. They drew inspiration from the work of Richard Neutra, Charles & Ray Eames, and Craig Ellwood. The philosophies of architectural modernism expressed by Bauhaus architects Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer were clearly informed their approach to the design.

Danna House –– The floor plan clearly delineates the four cardinal directions: passage at the East and West, protected openness toward the South, and protection and privacy to the North.

With an eye toward practicality, efficiency, and simplicity, they kept their design minimal, logical, and economical. The plan is thoughtfully oriented to the four cardinal directions. You enter the house from the East crossing over a porch that doubles as a bridge over a gravel drainage path. A porch with a matching width extends out toward the West.

Danna House –– West Elevation with projecting above-grade porch

Toward the South, a balcony extending the full depth of the house admits sunlight, while providing an overhang which helps to keep direct sun out on the hottest summer days. Deciduous trees were thoughtfully deployed to provide additional summer shade while admitting the warming ray of the low winter light. The views from the house are breathtaking. The extensive glazing brings the changing seasons into the home as an integral aspect of its atmosphere.

Danna House –– South Elevation with continuous cantilevered balcony

The house is compact and efficient. The first floor space is open with entry, living room, dining room, kitchen, flowing around a central hearth. Three compact bedrooms and two bathrooms are arrayed along the North Elevation which is more enclosed with narrow windows.

Danna House –– Living Room features clerestory windows at East and West ends

Plants and musical instruments (like the grand piano and modernist harp) become sculptural elements in the open, light-filled interior. A massive masonry hearth fills the wall opposite the view South. The fireplace, together with the Kitchen and Utility Room anchor the center of the house leaving the exterior walls free of intervening elements. The Danna's later commissioned the neighbor Russell Kraus to design stained glass for the clerestory windows at the East and West ends of the main living space.

Danna House –– Looking from the Dining Room to the East

The home's design is particularly expressive of the structure within its walls. White bands at the top and bottom of the exterior walls express the horizontal floor and roof structures while the vertical white accents highlight the locations of structural wood columns. In this way, the home has the classical grace and clarity of the much more expensive, elaborate Farnsworth House in Plano, Illinois fashioned of steel and glass.

Danna House –– Balcony cantilevers to the South protecting the openings at the lower level

The house declares its presence as unapologetically modern with fieldstone walls highlighting its geometrical simplicity and marking its separation from the natural environment within which it stands proudly.

Danna House –– Site Plan reveals original driveway accessing Dougherty Ferry Road

The house is intelligently oriented on site to capture the most compelling natural views toward the South and West. Their property abuts the land that is now a part of The Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park which is a modernist house museum of the highest quality surrounded by the natural landscape intended by Wright's design. The rolling hillside connects to the nearby Sugar Creek Nature Preserve along Ballas and Adams.

Danna House –– Original Treehouse mirrors the geometry and logic of the home

The raised porch employs the same structural forms as the Treehouse. These structures make explicit what the cladding of the house suggests. Vertical and horizontal structural elements predominate. Elegant and efficient structural design reveals the home's profound and clear design conception and realization.

Danna House –– Protected Porch extends toward the West

The design of the Porch and Treehouse allow the children to appreciate how special their elevated preserve up in a massive elm tree truly is. They can look down on the adults at the house and understand the formal and structural elements which support each house.