firm active: 1907-1921

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

Navigation :: Home :: Selected Works :: Residences :: Commission List :: Parabiographies
Fritz Carlson residence
Purcell and Elmslie
Minneapolis, Minnesota    1917/1923

Parabiographies entry, Volume for 1910
Text by William Gray Purcell
for 1917

Job Date (in Parabiography): March 1917

[Fritz Carlson residence, Minneapolis, Minnesota]

[This text is from a rough draft of the late 1930s]

Fritz Carlson was a warm hearted young Swedish foreman, and excellent craftsman with an orderly and logical mind, and the way in which we related our designing to the way in which he had to put the building together made a tremendous appeal to him, and I have never seen any workman so delighted over the fact that he he did not have to "fight the construction." The way that he naturally wanted to put the pieces together was the way that best served the design. He came to me saying that he was about to be married, and wanted to build a little house for himself, but he would not live in anything that we had not designed, so I told him that he could pay us $100.00 and charge up the rest of the architect's fee to a wedding present.

I took this occasion to make a basic study of a house type, and reorganized all that we have learned of the type of which he had tried so many variations - Atkinson, Goetzenberger, Heinlin [sic: Hineline]. My idea was to reduce this whole program to its minimum plan for decent comfort and minimum materials for normal architectural expression. The result is interesting and satisfying. Carlson made one peculiar misinterpretation of the front entrance canopy, making it too short, so it has a stumpy appearance which was never corrected.

When I went to Portland I tried a further re-study of this project with the idea of producing some similar houses if a person interested in housing development could be found. But at that time the only persons so interested were the lowest type of contractor builders who were interested only in getting space that would sell. The least possible expenditure - construction, convenience, and everything else not considered, even if the houses did not stay sold was not concern of theirs, for the moved the second mortgage paper at 25 to 30 per cent. discount as soon as the sales contract was made.

The result was that within a year or two these houses came back on the holders of the paper. Typical examples are one lot of thirty houses averaging $5,500.00 a piece which came back when some of them were still unsold, and others even uncompleted. The builder departing with such down payments as he had been able to secure on the completed ones before the loan period expired.

Another instance - forty-five houses way out in Rose City Park, and which had been sold on well watered paper, were jobbed around for months, and the equity, if any, finally traded off for a miscellaneous collections of income property, farms, etc. During the '20s, the real estate and building picture in Portland was filled with shoddy, high-pressure building and selling campaigns in which everybody but the original promoter lost money, and even he in most instances finally was trapped by his own inequities.

   Collection: William Gray Purcell Papers, Northwest Architectural Archives, University of Minnesota [AR:B4d1.11]
research courtesy mark hammons