FLW-inspired time capsule delights

The Beal House's park-like backyard

The Beal House’s park-like backyard

Oh yeah. It was the mod gathering to top all mod gatherings. The Beal/Charlton House event on the 18th was fantastic, probably the best attended and most satisfying that Lawrence Modern has ever done. Somewhere up there Frank Lloyd Wright was smiling. George Beal was smiling. Robert Still, the builder, was doing cartwheels. Down here, the Lawrence Modern faithful were in ecstasy. Could the weather have been any better, the backyard any more perfect? Nope. For those of you who missed it — or want to revisit — check out the video.

Dennis, Bill, Tom & Tim

Profs Steve Grabow and Dennis Domer on the architectural significance

KU Professor of Architecture Steve Grabow explains the significance of the Beal House, built in 1951 next to the KU campus. Dennis Domer is to his right.

Prof. Dennis Domer on the microphone

Prof. Dennis Domer on the microphone


A lively scene inside, with owner/caretaker John Charlton at center







Historic modernism on view Oct. 18


Jennifer Steele

Designed in 1950 by KU architecture professor George Beal, the unassuming wooden house at 1624 Indiana — the location of our next event — is an outstanding example of Usonian architecture, a term coined by Frank Lloyd Wright to describe his vision for an organic architecture suited to the United States. Prof. Beal was a Taliesin Fellow and a good friend of Wright, and often hosted him when he passed through Lawrence. He admired Wright’s Usonian ideas and at 1624 Indiana made a significant advancement on Wright’s organic concept by introducing passive-solar design. He accomplished this by inventing a device called the Heliodon to precisely orient the house for maximum heating and cooling. This was long before the LEED rating system for green buildings came into existence.

Lawrence Modern has had its eye on the Beal House since our inception in 2001. When we surveyed 35 + homes in 2009-10, we all agreed that 1624 Indiana was the most important house on our “Bakers Dozen” list. The design, craftsmanship and spatial qualities are simply remarkable. The fact that it retains such high architectural integrity is largely due to former owner Betty Jo Charlton, the first female state legislator from Lawrence. We are also indebted to her son John, the current owner who is equally invested in preserving the home. With the help of Lawrence Modern, John recently applied to get the house on the National and State Historic Registers. He will submit an application for the Local Historic Register later this year.

John has graciously welcomed us for this special gathering. We are also honored to have KU professors Stephen Grabow and Dennis Domer, who knew Beal personally, expound on the house’s significance.

There will be a light potluck, so please bring something simple & delicious to share with modern friends.

Parking will be readily available west of the house in the KU parking lot.

To learn more about the Beal/Charlton house, read on here.

Dennis, Bill, Tim & Tom

Modern fans bask on butterfly roof


“I loved the light and the trees,” said Elaine Blank in response to the question of what she enjoyed the most of her 60 plus years in the house at 2133 Owens Lane. In 1951 Elaine and her husband, local photographer Robert Blank, purchased plans from House Beautiful magazine. Their desire to live in something new and adventurous led them to build this unique butterfly roofed structure. They moved into the completed home in 1953. Last Sunday (June 7) the new owners of the Blank House, KU philosophy professor Dale Dorsey and family, hosted a Lawrence Modern open house reception. After an introduction to the history of the house by Tom Harper, the 75 attendees were treated to an eloquent soliloquy by our resident architecture historian and modernist guru Dennis Domer. Dennis described the 1950’s context that pushed young couples like the Blanks to seek out modernist design. The country was optimistic about the future and the future was all about the new. Dennis reminisced about his own father’s attempt to modernize their home by installing the same type of mahogany paneling as in the Blank House. The paneling in the Blank House is indeed gorgeous, but the question on the minds of most in attendance concerned the roof and its drainage (especially due to our abundance of recent rains). Dale explained that the roof drained into a large center drain that carried the water off the property. A system that many seemed to question, but Dale said it has continued to work successfully. As visitors walked through the house admiring the architecture, observing the light and the views to the exterior trees, Mrs. Blank, our guest of honor, stood in the kitchen and remarked how beautiful the house looked. Although she came mostly to see the wood floors that had been covered with carpet since the mid 1950s, she left with high praise for how the new owners have preserved the house that had been such a part of her life.

Lawrence Modern would like to thank Dale Dorsey and his family for opening up their home and letting our members experience this wonderful example of mid-century modernist architecture.








DIY modernism June 7th

Lawrence Modern event poster

Design: Aimee Wray

Back in the days before Eisenhower was president, Bob and Elaine Blank were a typical young couple driving around Lawrence looking for a place to build their dream house when they found a barren-looking lot south of the KU campus for $2,000. At the time, Blank was a professional photographer who admired the architectural photography featured in House Beautiful magazine, which highlighted the seductive appeal of southern California modernism. After seeing plans for a modern house with a butterfly roof advertised in the magazine, they decided to go for it and build such a house themselves to save money. Blank purchased the plans in 1951 for $100, plus postage, and got to work.

After adding a basement and more windows to the original design, they completed the house with the help of Blank’s father-in-law and local contractors. Later on they added a covered breezeway and a double carport, punctuating the laid-back California contemporary feel of the property. The Blanks made all the right moves with their DIY project, including hiring a young modernist architect named Dick Peters to design their renovations, resulting in one of the most distinctive modern houses in Lawrence. The house is on our Baker’s Dozen list of top midcentury houses in the city. The Blanks lived in the house until Bob passed away a couple of years ago at age 83. We are fortunate that the new owners respect the integrity of the house and wish to share it with us. We look forward to seeing you June 7th.

PS: Please do not park on Owens Lane. It is a cul-de-sac and difficult to navigate with parked cars. Please park on 21st and Alabama.

-Tom, Bill, Dennis & Tim


Lawrence Modern in association with KU’s School of Architecture, Design and Planning presents Mon Oncle, the second film in our mini series that explores modern architecture’s role in cinema. The venue will again be the new Forum at Marvin Hall, the light-controlled glass box designed by students in Prof. Dan Rockhill’s Studio 804 class. Sit back, relax and enjoy the space. Be prepared to be entertained as Monsier Hulot struggles to understand modern architecture, mechanical efficiency and consumerism in postwar Paris. The great film critic Roger Ebert listed Mon Oncle as one of his top 100 movies of all time. Of the film’s director Ebert said, “Jacques Tati is the great philosophical tinkerer of comedy, taking meticulous care to arrange his films so that they unfold in a series of revelations and effortless delights.”

Please join us at The Forum on Wednesday, May 6th. KU Professor of Architecture Stephen Grabow will introduce Mon Oncle at 7 p.m. A short discussion will follow the screening. (The flyer can be enlarged for high-resolution viewing by double-clicking.)

Again we wish to thank the KU School of Architecture, Design and Planning for collaborating with us on this exciting film series and generously providing use of The Forum.

All films are free and open to the public, seating is limited.

Trailer for Mon Oncle | Roger Ebert’s review | Studio 804: The Forum | KU Parking Info

– Bill, Dennis & Tom


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