firm active: 1907-1921

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H. P. Gallaher residence
Purcell and Feick
Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota  1909

Text by William Gray Purcell
Parabiographies entry, Volume for 1909

Job Date (in Parabiographies entry): October 26, 1909


Mr. Gallaher had a hilltop overlooking Lake Minnetonka. He wanted to put a summer home on top of the hill.

He had a pet contractor, Mr. Robert [Ralph] B. Pelton, a remarkably able and farseeing man of fine feeling with considerable skill in design.

He had a friend--our friend, too--Mr. E. Fitch Pabody, Minneapolis manager of the American Bridge Company, who believed in the new and inspiriting "Form and Function" philosophy, with all his bridge-building soul.

Pabody persuaded Gallaher that no matter how good his contractor was in design, an architect was a needed expert, and we were called in.

[Annotations by WGP on draft: Ralph B. Pelton of New England - A unique character - beautiful craftsman - a "grand" Christian character. We must remember these men. (top of next page): Pelton made that 2328 lamp. Dave Gebhard has it (1963). He did it nights in his home shop -- worked weeks at it -- brought it to the office "That will be about $60.00" in 1914! I said, "Not enough." Said he, "I wanted to do it - its so beautiful I'd have done it for nothing--" (Further text, below )]

In the first interview, my respect for the age-old principle of first fixing the correct relation between structure and site stood me well. I told a surprised Mr. Gallaher that the top of the hill was no place to put his house, because he would at once destroy the only available level place in all his outdoors--his grounds falling away on all sides as unusable hillsides. Any summer visitor, stepping out, would have the feeling of skidding into the lake--winter weekenders actually so.

Thoroughness Makes Two Friends:

It was therefore proposed to place the main floor of the house level with the top of the hill, but sufficiently to one side so that the filled-in earth from normal shelf excavation for basement, plus the hilltop itself, would give him a nice level lawn at one side, at no expense for grading or walls, and another useful area at a lower level on the other two or three sides, level with the basement floor, with service approach and a garage (then a very new idea) within the basement. The proposal struck him as such good sense and the savings in dollars was so obvious, that the job was ours. The New England contractor, R. B. Pelton, was glad to be rid of plan making and conferring on details of living use.

Pelton was a New Englander, a true craftsman carpenter, and a person of gentle and considerate deportment at all times. He always seemed to make every job a personal rather than a business transaction. With his own hands he made the very difficult mahogany shelf lamp for 2328 Lake Place which later stood for twenty years in the living room on Georgian Place in Portland.

    Collection: William Gray Purcell Papers, Northwest Architectural Archives, University of Minnesota [AR:B4d1.3]
research courtesy mark hammons