In The Weeds 11.8.17: Mid-Century Modern in Denton

In the past decade or so, Mid-Century Modern (MCM) style and architecture has experienced a renaissance for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the popularity of the Mad Men TV series. If you have been bitten by the bug, this blog post will help you find some houses and commercial properties that you may not know existed in Our Fair City. This blog post is also a companion to the exhibit we currently have up in the Special Collections Department at the Emily Fowler Library.

Before we start our virtual tour, what is Mid-Century Modern? At least as far as architecture and this blog is concerned, examples of this style exhibit: flat roofs, lack of ornament, use of rectangular forms with vertical and horizontal lines, emphasis on open floor plans, use of traditional materials (wood, stone, etc) in new ways, liberal use of glass and natural light, and use of modern materials (steel, aluminum) in novel ways. (1)

An excellent overview of the styles associated with MCM is the City of Denton’s Historic Resource Survey of the Idiots Hill Neighborhood which can be read here.

Two architecture firms with extensive examples in Denton are Mount-Miller (M-M, Denton-based) and Ford, Powell and Carson, O’Neil Ford’s firm based in San Antonio. The latter is very well known locally and nationally while the former is less so, but nevertheless contributed greatly to our visual and architectural landscape. To whet your appetite, here are two Mount-Miller examples, the first of which is the former Joe Alford Florist building  on North Elm St., from the 11/28/65 Denton Record-Chronicle:

Joe Alford Florist 28 Nov 1965

The second is a really groovy house located at 1717 Mistywood Dr.:

IMG_7617

They also redesigned the former Voertman’s Book Store on West Hickory and we did a blog post on that last year. More about Isabel and Tom Polk Miller can be found in the Images of America Series of books on Denton by Georgia Caraway and Kim Cupit (2009).

Without further ado, slip into your cardigan sweater, pour a martini, put some Keely Smith and Frank Sinatra on the hi-fi, and let’s get going!

606 Roberts St. (with Martha and Beau Mood ceramic lamps over front entrance-more on them below):

EnhancedFordHouse1.jpg

A little further west on Roberts St:

IMG_7621

The Mount-Miller designed Unitarian Universalist Church at 1111 Cordell St.:

DentonUU

At 711 Ector St.:enhancedEctorHouse1

On Kendolph St, there are several unique houses including this M-M designed at 1220:

IMG_7641

and this personal favorite at 1403 (possibly a Mount-Miller?), front:

EnhancedMondrian2

…and south-facing:

EnhancedMondrianHouse3.jpg

A related commercial architectural style originating in Southern California in the late-40s and lasting through the 1960’s known as “Googie” has a few possible examples in Denton.(2) These aren’t strictly Googie but seem reminiscent of that era and possibly influenced by it. For example, the Holiday Lodge sign on E. University and the E-Z Chek sign on Eagle Dr.:

IMG_7651

There are many more examples of MCM to be found in Denton in the older areas (Idiot’s Hill, just south of I-35, old Central Denton, etc.). Mount-Miller deserve a book by themselves and then there’s the fantastic ceramic lighting created by Martha and Beaumont Mood which can be seen at City Hall, the Civic Center, Fowler Library and, until recently, at the old Selwyn School campus. So much research yet to be done! Drop by the Emily Fowler Library and we can help you find and learn about these places.(3)

Don’t forget to lift the needle from your vinyl album on the hi-fi and turn it over!

Written by Chuck Voellinger. I can be reached at chuck.voellinger@cityofdenton.com

Notes:

  1. a2modern.org: http://www.a2modern.org/2011/04/characteristics-of-modern-architecture/
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Googie_architecture
  3. Mount-Miller vertical file: https://denton.bibliocommons.com/item/show/1463157127

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In The Weeds 8.16.17: We’re Hungry!

We have four old menus for local businesses here in the Special Collections Dept at the Emily Fowler Library: The Flying Tomato, The Duck Inn and Jim’s Diner. We think “The Tomato” example is from the early 2000s after they were no longer franchised and the “Flying Tomato” menu is from the mid-to-late 1990s. The Duck Inn menu is probably from the early 2000s, as well. Finally, the Jim’s menu is maybe from the early ’90’s? We would love to hear from anyone who knows who worked at any of these establishments. Contact us at the email below.

The Duck Inn existed for nearly 60 years at the same location in Lake Dallas from 1945 to mid 2000’s and were known by the famous and funny motto, “Duck Inn and Waddle Out!” The Flying Tomato was established in 1984 at 1226 West Hickory Street on a location formerly occupied by The Crossroads Club and Bullwinkle’s. Jim’s Diner existed at 110 Fry Street from 1980 to approximately 1997 and was the sight of many a performance and poetry reading from some folks you may have heard of like Brave Combo, Little Jack Melody, and Norah Jones.

Now, without further ado, here they are and we cannot be held responsible for your hunger pangs…

DuckMenuOutside

DuckMenuInside

Here’s an ad from the January 2, 1958 Record-Chronicle advertising the newly “Rmodeled” (oops!) Duck Inn:

DuckAd

Two Tomato menus, donated by Melinda Rule:

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TomatoMenuInside

TomatoMenuBWoutside

TomatoMenuBWInside

Here’s a 1986 Alec Williams photo of the Flying Tomato during the Fry Street Fair of that year:

Tomato

Finally, the piece de resistance: a hand drawn menu from the late and much lamented Jim’s Diner at 110 Fry Street followed by a Denton Record-Chronicle photo, both courtesy of Martin Iles:

JimsMenu

JimsDRC

Many thanks to Melinda Rule, Martin Iles, and Alec Williams for their contributions.

(I had too much fun tagging this blog post with words like, “Gutbuster”, “catfish”, “hushpuppies”, etc.)

Written by Chuck Voellinger. For questions or comments please email me at chuck.voellinger@cityofdenton.com. Thanks for reading!

In The Weeds, 5.9.17: Victoria Ebbels

In the early 1920’s, a young New York-trained artist moved to Denton to teach at the College of Industrial Arts, now known as TWU, and apparently became an assistant professor in Fine Arts. There is a bit of a mystery here, something in which we like to delve here at “In The Weeds”. Nowhere is she mentioned in the Daedalian yearbooks from 1921-1923. She is however listed as a faculty member from those school years in the College Bulletin, Historical Sketch of TSCW, The First Thirty Three Years 1903-1936 by E.V. White, Dean of the College. Why wasn’t she listed as an Assistant Professor in two editions of the yearbook?

Searching the 1923 Denton City Directory, she is found living at 1213 Carrier Street, which real Denton History geeks will recognize as the former name of the current Austin Street. Here is a photo of the house that occupies that address but we are not sure of its date of construction:

Ebbels 095

Interestingly, in the 1921 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map for Denton, the lot for that address appears to be empty: dentonjune1921sheet15. Was the house pictured above brand new when she lived there?

Here is the page from the City Directory with another mystery:

EbbelsDirectory002

Who is “Grace Ebbels” also living at this address? According to the 1920 census, she was Victoria’s mother.

Ms. Ebbels went on to have a fairly high profile career in art under the professional name of “Victoria Hutson Huntley” with her work in the collections of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Metropolitan Museum in New York, The Chicago Art Institute, etc.  The Smithsonian American Art Museum website has some examples of her work. She went on to have a long career and passed in 1971.

Written by Chuck Voellinger. Questions and comments can be directed to chuck.voellinger@cityofdenton.com.

 

 

 

In The Weeds, 11.9. 16: Swing, Ken Lasater, Swing!

From the 1930’s to the early ’60s, Honky Tonk music in Texas, to a large degree, resembled Western Swing in its harmonies, rhythm and instrumentation. A man and an instrument collided in the mid-’30s to create a sound that would influence Country and Western Music for decades to come. The man was Bob Dunn and the instrument was an early prototype of the “steel guitar”. That is to say, he wanted to incorporate an electrified Hawaiian guitar into the Western music he was playing. Leon McAuliffe of  Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys made this concept famous with the “Steel Guitar Rag” in 1936. Suddenly, there were hundreds of innovators and imitators of this style and one of the folks who came along in the aftermath of that musical Big Bang was Ken Lasater.

Bob Dunn was making his name with Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies in the 1930s when Ken first heard him.

First page tease from biography in “Lake Cities Legacy” which we have at the Emily Fowler Library:

lasater002

Ken worked with many bands over the years and finally settled in Lake Dallas. The work linked above is from 1986 and likely one of the dozens of Texas Sesquicentennial commemorative publications available at that time. Here are a couple links that go into more detail:

http://wired-for-sound.blogspot.com/2010/11/homer-zeke-clemons-on-imperial-8091.html

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeke_Clemons

https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/xgm01

Written by Chuck Voellinger, Special Collections Librarian, Emily Fowler Library
chuck.voellinger@cityofdenton.com

In The Weeds, 8.10.16: A Square By Any Other Name…

….is still called a “square”. There are 254 counties in Texas and, much like the state itself, their squares represent the varied cultural and architectural influences of over 300 years of Spanish/Mexican, European and early American settlement. We have a volume in our Texas Collection that offers a very detailed and “in the weeds” analysis of them entitled “The Courthouse Square in Texas” by Robert E Veselka.

Denton’s Square falls under the “Shelbyville-related” plan. That is to say, it has a square lot in the center of a grid with nomenclature based on a system developed in 1968 by E.T. Price in his study of courthouse squares from Pennsylvania to Texas and named after a prototype in Shelbyville, Tennessee. Here you can see that plan juxtaposed with others:

shelbyville2003

Denton shares similarities with Archer City, Brownwood, Cleburne, and Jacksboro in that they all feature a symmetrical arrangement of smaller partial blocks on the periphery. Here is a Sanborn Map of Denton from 1926:

Denton1926

 

Shelbyville squares and their variants are the most prevalent in Texas and can be found in 157 counties, or 61% of the total. This style was first adopted in the northeast corner of the state in Clarksville and San Augustine and were familiar to settlers from the eastern United States with their simple grids and focus on the courthouse.

There are three other major influences on the square design in Texas: Spanish/Mexican, German and Railroad. Briefly, in the Hispanic tradition, town squares allowed for a plaza that was not to include any building with nearby locations for the Catholic Church, a military plaza and a courthouse. A quarter of Texas’ squares are based on this influence and naturally include such towns as San Antonio de Bexar, Gonzalez, Goliad, Refugio, etc. Here is a map of San Antonio de Bexar from 1896 showing the Military and Main Plazas:

SanAntonio

 

 

The many thousands of German immigrants in the mid-to-late 19th Century to the Hill Country left their mark as well. Both New Braunfels and Fredericksburg have central squares for public use without buildings and in some ways resemble Anglo design otherwise.

newbraunfels006

Finally, the importance of the railroad in settling and development of vast areas of Texas meant that their planners had no little influence in how towns were laid out. In some instances, the railroad “split” the town with the court house very near the tracks:rr005

If you’ve made it this far in our little trip around Texas court house squares, thanks for joining us. We won’t think you are “square” for peeking around these court house areas on your next trip through Texas.

Written by Chuck Voellinger, Emily Fowler Special Collections Dept. Questions or comments can be directed to chuck.voellinger@cityofdenton.com.

In The Weeds 5/11/16. Voertman’s Teachers College Store

Voertman’s College Store has to be one of the longest operating businesses on the same location in Denton. According to an oral history done by UNT in 1977 with Paul Voertman, they have been at the same location on West Hickory since his father Roy opened the store in 1925, 91 years. Here is an ad from the 1925 NTSTC Yucca yearbook:

vcs002

Here it is in 1942, long before the renovation by Mount-Miller architects in 1968:

Voertman's1942

Picture courtesy of the UNT Photo Archive.

Who were “Mount-Miller”? We’ll do an extended blog post and exhibit at the Emily Fowler Library about them later in the year, but for now, Tom Polk Miller (1916-2000) and Mary Isabel Mount Miller (1916-2007) owned an architecture firm that designed or renovated between two and three hundred homes and commercial spaces in town. You’ve probably seen their work but didn’t realize who was responsible. Their work in many cases could fall under the Mid-Century Modern era of design. Some notable examples are: The Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Church at 1111 Cordell St., the former Yarbrough’s Pharmacy (now Denton Camera Exchange) on 117 Piner St., the small shopping center at 531 North Elm that formerly held Joe Alford Florist, etc.

Here is a scan of a slide taken by Isabel Mount-Miller in 1972 given to us by their daughter Abigail:

Voertman's at North Texas 1972

Roy Voertman passed on Sept 20th, 1951 at his home while his son Paul was in the Army. Obituary from the Sept. 21, 1951 Denton Record-Chronicle:

Voertman1Voertman2

The business was sold to the Nebraska Book Co. in 1990 and further changed hands in 2013 when it was bought by out-of-state investors, The Weitzman Group.

Written by Chuck Voellinger, Special Collections Librarian, Emily Fowler Library. For questions please contact chuck.voellinger@cityofdenton.com

 

In The Weeds 4.06.16: Fist Fights, Snakebites and Polygamy

We have a collection of 19th and early 20th Century newspaper articles and gleanings about Denton people and events from in and outside the county. They make for fun reading and an opportunity to re-evaluate how we think people lived and behaved in an era we tend to think was so different. There is quite a bit about the sadder side of life such as crimes, deaths, and health issues (“If it bleeds, it leads” is the news axiom). We won’t go into those but, rather, focus on some humor and more lighthearted events. And it was fun to come up with tags for this blog post…

From the Denton County News, Sept. 29, 1898, p.8, c.3:

“BITTEN BY A COPPERHEAD. W. H. Durham, who is employed in Long, Williams & Co’s grocery store, was bitten on a finger last week by a copperhead last Thursday night while engaged in picking up some articles in a dark corner of the store. He immediately drank a quart of whiskey, but the bite was so poisonous that the whole arm swelled considerably. At last accounts, Mr. Durham was improving and is now considered out of danger.” –We think the cure might be worse than than the cause.

From the Legal Tender, Dec.2, 1897, p.1:

“The Green Valley School is progressing fine, and the Algebra class say they can work any thing by the X.Y.Z.”

From the Denton County News, Oct 29th, 1896, p.5, c.1:

“PONDER ITEMS. Ponder, Oct 25. There was quite an interesting wolf chase experienced in Denton creek bottom last Saturday, one being killed by Mr. M. W. Hedrick; also a wild goose and three squirrels.” –A real “wild goose chase”.

From Denton County News, March 2, 1899, p.4,c.3:

“AGAIN IN TROUBLE. Rev. Logan, who conducted a series of services at the Advent Church in this city a year or so ago and who ran away with a young lady of this city is in trouble again, having been arrested in Fort Worth last week charged with having too many wives.”

From the Dallas Weekly Herald, June 6, 1874, p.1:

The editor of the Denton Review takes a whole column of space to tell his readers that he got thrown from a horse and didn’t get killed.” – Ouch! That’s going to sting.

From the Denton County News, Sept. 24, 1896, p.8, c.4:

“Mr. M.D. Saunders, of Fort Worth, has located in Denton and opened a bicycle store in the brick building in the rear of the Masonic building.” –Bicycles. Denton loved them then and loves them now.

From the Denton County News, Sept. 21, 1893, p.3, c.2:

” W.R. Staples and Arthur Smith, living near Stony, had a rough and tumble fight on the farmer’s place Monday which resulted in a number of bruises for each. Mr. Staples came to town and had a physician extract two of his fingers from his own wrist which he had grafted there by rapping Smith too rudely on the mug.” – That must’ve been some punch. How does one graft one’s own fingers to the same wrist?!

From the Denton County News, Jan 31, 1895, p.2,c.2:

“At the residence of Mrs. Stark of Roanoke, can be found a little black bird that can talk as plain as any body in the county.”

Written by Chuck Voellinger, Emily Fowler Library. chuck.voellinger@cityofdenton.com