firm active: 1907-1921

minneapolis, minnesota :: chicago, illinois
philadelphia, pennsylvania :: portland, oregon

Navigation :: Home :: Commission List :: Parabiographies
Josephine Crane Bradley residence #2
Purcell and Elmslie
Madison, Wisconsin  1914

Parabiographies entry, Volume for 1910
Text by William Gray Purcell
for 1914

Job Date (in Parabiography): [1914]

HAROLD C. BRADLEY, Madison, Wisconsin

Mrs. Bradley really had the house-building fever. Although they have been happy and satisfied all these years in this house we built for them, it seemed to me that the reasons for leaving the old house built in 1907 by Sullivan and George Elmslie, which they sold to a fraternity at perhaps half what it cost them, were not quite convincing. That original Bradley house was a creative setting for anyone, and with some architectural restatements outside, and a thorough-going revamping and re-equipment of furniture inside, would have provided a beautiful setting for living.

However, they thought it too large and inconvenient and wanted to "move to the country," although the first house could hardly be said to be even in the suburbs. In this second Bradley house, the emphasis was on "push the button" living, with the house made into a perfect machine for accomplishing all the household life as automatically as possible. The closets and store-rooms were a maze of specialized subdivisions for every possible article. The kitchen was a pioneer study in scientific arrangement. We even installed an automatic ash hoist for the heating plant, which was installed in a sort of sub-basement with a fifteen foot ceiling. The fuel was supplied with an external underground hopper bottom coal bin.

We gave special attention to roof insulation and ventilation. Although the openings under the eaves and up through to the attic space were made twice as large as we had ever made them before, and in addition a 24-inch Star ventilator was placed on a flat deck at the rear, behind a large chimney, the air moved too slowly, and the upper rooms were very hot in the summertime (when the Bradleys were never at home).

Some idea of the detail of this house, which cost about $35,000, can be had from the circumstance of our keeping Lawrence A. Fournier for over four weeks in Madison, doing nothing but make full size drawings for equipment under Mrs. Bradley's personal direction. [Annotation on draft by WGP: Fournier was very well liked by the Bradley[s] - stayed right there in Madison as clerk of works; made half of the drawings down there on the job.] Kohl and Stiller, Heating and Plumbing, of Minneapolis, went down to do the job, and they accomplished marvels with an unbelievably difficult building in which to secure circulation in a hot water plant. There were no impeller motors available in those days, and the house was very long, we provided every co-operation in the way of inter-construction spaces in which to run pipes and secure free bends. In spite of all this, adequate heating for the maid's room at the east end of the lower floor was nevber available. A few years later the Bradleys added a wing to the west, with servants' rooms and servants' bath.

[Annotation on draft by WGP: Harold living in Berkeley, 1964. very pleasant letter from him in 1961. See files.]

The house is generally interesting, but not inspiring. It was far in advance of its time, with the result that today it takes its place as a distinctly contemporary building amongst later dwellings which have long ago become dated. The grounds were ample, were beautifully landscaped, and the growth has developed in a very decorative setting, especially the lovely groupings of conifers for winter cheer in that snowy climate.

Mrs. Bradley said, "Well, it's a lovely house and we like it, but perhaps we did overdo the machinery a little bit. Sometimes it feels a bit like living in some kind of glorified office building." [Annotation by WGP on draft: Quote from Mrs. Bradley. Also, circa 1964: I've changed my view on this job in the past 48 years - why, don't know.]


   Collection: William Gray Purcell Papers, Northwest Architectural Archives, University of Minnesota [AR:B4d1.8]
research courtesy mark hammons