If you have been following my Main Street posts, you know that I have recently been pushing for an updated, honest architectural inventory. Here is one of Rocky Mount’s treasures that is a Mid-Century modern home built originally for Thomas and Marian Hicks at 718 Evergreen Road, Rocky Mount NC. I’ve done some research for us. This architecture is closely associated with the period from the mid-1950s through the early 1960s, With a few pieces of information, we will better appreciate this home designed by George Matsumoto. (Modernism, as a global movement, spanned five decades–from the 1930s to the 1970s.)
Key Elements in these designs • Flat planes. The geometric lines of the house are regular and rigorous. Flat roofs are common, though modern ranch-style houses had gable roofs. • Large windows. Sliding-glass doors and other expansive panes of glass allow light to enter rooms from multiple angles. • Changes in elevation. Small steps going up and down between rooms creates split-level spaces. A midcentury modern might have partial walls, or cabinets of varying heights to create different depths in the space. • Integration with nature. Rooms have multiple outdoor views, or multiple access points, encouraging an appreciation of healthy living.
We are honoring George Matsumoto (July 16, 1922 – June 28, 2016) a Japanese-American architect and educator who is known for his Modernist designs. Matsumoto houses share common characteristics, including; a flat roof, an unobstructed internal view from one end of the house to the other, terrazzo floors, natural woods for walls and ceilings, mahogany cabinetry, large windows in the rear, and small but functional kitchens. We will skip his considerable education but mention his North Carolina years.
In 1948, Henry Kamphoefner, then head of Oklahoma’s architecture program, was appointed the first dean of the School of Design at North Carolina State University. Matsumoto, along with several other faculty and students, left Oklahoma with Kamphoefner to start what became an epicenter for Modernist architecture education in the US. During Matsumoto’s tenure at the NCSU School of Design between 1948 and 1961, Matsumoto won more than thirty awards for residential work. He designed a Modernist addition to the school. (Picture on the left) In 1961 he returned with wife Kimi and their children to California to teach at Berkeley until 1967 and then went into private practice. Raleigh, NC has many mid-century modern homes as a result of the NCSU School of Design.
The original configuration of the front, with the garage, served to make the rest of the residence private. The features such as press-to-open teak cabinets, black countertops, and pass-throughs from the open-style kitchen to the outside were all revolutionary at the time.
Our architecture is one of the greatest assets Rocky Mount has. We must recognize it and protect it.