There is nothing better than watching an old Cary Grant movie, and Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, a 1948 comedy, is no exception. The film is based on the novel Eric Hodgins published in 1946, a fictionalized account of a house Hodgins built in New Milford, Connecticut.
Movie mogul David O. Selznick and his publicity man, Paul Macnamara, a former editor of Cosmopolitan, came up with an idea to promote their new film. They would build replicas of the Dream Home and raffle them the night of the premiere in each city. They planned to build 100 houses. RKO’s publicity department sent blueprints of a four bedroom colonial to contractors across the country. 73 ‘dream houses’ were built, two in North Carolina; one in Greensboro and one in Rocky Mount. (I must add that one home was built in Evanston, IL. where I grew up, which I never knew about until researching this story.) If you’re interested, the original plans are still available on the internet. Selznick involved General Electric in this promotion who showcased their appliances in the dream home kitchens. A fine advertising opportunity, local businesses contributed their products to the building of these houses. Upon completion, the houses were open to the public to tour, the price of admission given to local charities. The dream homes were sold by raffle or lottery.
As a party game, I know you’ve been asked what famous people you would like to sit next to at a dinner party or marooned with on an island. In connection with this Mr. Blandings Dream House story, I have invited a short, but meaningful list of wonderful people to spend time with.
We will begin with James and Kate Farris Tharin, along with their daughters, Mari Robin and Frances who are the current owners and caretakers of the Rocky Mount Dream House built in Historic West Haven on Lafayette Road. Here is a wonderful, talented couple that grew up in Rocky Mount, NC and after college returned to nourish the deep roots they have here. They are perfect stewards of the house, committed to preserving the architectural integrity of the original home while slowly making changes that suit their family’s dreams. Take a moment and CLICK HERE to watch a short PBS Video on The Dream Houses.
Here is Mr. Blandings Dream House as you will find it today. The front porch roof and pillars were added by Marianne & David Farris when they bought the house in 1988 from Sam Arrington’s estate. Sam and his wife were the 1st occupants.
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5 thoughts on “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House In Historic West Haven – Part 1”
Very interesting post. I’ve been researching the Mr. Blandings Dream Houses built in 1948 and I’ve started a Pinterest board of photos of the houses I’ve found-https://www.pinterest.com/ericesveda/the-real-mr-blandings-dream-houses/ I live not far from the Blandings House near where you grew up. As someone from the Chicagoland area you might get a kick out of my other Pinterest board-https://www.pinterest.com/ericesveda/movie-premieres-in-chicago/. I also see that you’re a University of Kentucky alumni, you might find it interesting that there was a Blandings Dream House built nearby in Louisville but I haven’t been able to locate that house yet. Still working on finding the other houses.
I feel like I have just met a great new friend. Thank you for taking time to leave your comment about the Dream Houses. I love Pinterest and will visit your boards ASAP. I lived in Louisville and Anchorage at one time in my life but had no idea about the houses at that time. I will ask a friend in Crestwood area if they can do a little research and find the house in Louisville for you. The home and the owners I wrote about in Rocky Mount have a great connection with this home. Thanks again for reading the post and leaving word.
Thanks for the offer of having a friend look into the Louisville area house. I haven’t found anything on that house yet other than mentions in ads by General Electric for the kitchens they provided for most of the houses. The houses got loads of press in the summer and fall of 1948. Newspaper archives have been a big help but many are in local libraries and not accessible online. Feel free to contact me offline with any questions or if you, or anyone else, have information on any of the missing houses. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org Send me a message and I can email you a full page ad for the Evanston house from the Tribune. Thanks again for your response. Eric V.
Sam and Aeitha (pronounced Eye tha) lived across the street from my grandparents. Sam was an attorney.wit a very distinctive laugh. His office was on the third floor of the old Peoples Bank building. Aeitha was a wonderful friend to my grandmother and was very talented at arranging flowers. There was a wonderful doorbell in the front hall which I hope the Farrisses and Tharins kept.
Thank you, Frank, for this good information. Everyone will appreciate more information about the first owners of Mr. Blandings Dream House. Your first-hand knowledge is invaluable to the story Main Street Rocky Mount is telling….certainly about good people like Sam and Aeitha who pursued the American Dream of owning a home, prospering through hard work and determination to better their lives while contributing to the greater good.I will find out about the doorbell and let you know. Thanks again for taking the time to add to this post. A flower arranger myself, I will now think of Aeitha as a kindred spirit.