Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House In Historic West Haven – Part 2

 

The war was still reverberating in 1946 when the former editor of Fortune magazine, Eric Hodgins, wrote the novel Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. There was a national housing shortage. The American dream of the returning G.I.’s included home ownership. The film correctly read the mood of those who wanted to move on to pursue the American dream. (See Part 1 for further information on the genesis of the Dream Houses.)

In 1988 Marianne Stanley Farris & David Farris bought Mr. Blandings Dream Home from Sam Arrington’s estate to become the second owners. Their daughter, Kate, was 8 years old at that time. (Above, The Dream House photograph as it appeared in 1988.) The Farris’ began to modernize the house while keeping in mind its architectural integrity. It took six months to redo the interior, lay a brick path to the front door, add a porch roof over the front door. (SEE PHOTOGRAPHS OF TODAY’S HOUSE IN PART ONE)  The photograph to the right is of young Kate, with her parents. She could not have imagined that one day her own darling daughters,  Mari Robin and Frances, would be playing in the back garden in their own playhouse.   

In 2004, James & Kate Tharin were expecting their 1st child when they bought the Dream Home from Kate’s parents. I have written before that I believe we find the memories of the caretakers of a home floating forever in the dust motes seen in the sunlight through the windows. In Mr. Blandings Dream Home the Arrington family, Marianne & David, James & Kate, will always be found.  Mr. Blandings Dream House represents all of our dreams of living a life of peace and prosperity, of those we love, family, and friends around us, our children playing safe and free.

There is a PS: to this story. Kate Tharin, who grew up in this house tells us that the kitchen knives remain in the same drawer and that she and James have no plans in upcoming improvements to remove the radiator covers from the walls in spite of the fact that they are no longer in use. Best of all, the piano that sat in the living room of Kate’s childhood is coming back home and will be placed in the same corner. James Tharin and his family are living their particular dreams in a special house with a unique history. The 8-year-old girl grew up and cast her own spell on the interior design of her childhood home which deserves a magazine spread. James Tharin, handsome and good humored, is a fine stand-in for Cary Grant as Mr. Blanding. The Dream House is yet another reason to appreciate the West Haven Historic District in Rocky Mount, NC.

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Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House In Historic West Haven – Part 1

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.

  

 

 

 

JOIN ME TOMORROW FOR PART TWO

 

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