Previous month:
July 2006
Next month:
September 2006

Saving Bingham House

The great Prairie architect George Maher's Bingham House, in Highland Park, Illinois, will likely not be standing this time next month if its new owners get their way. They originally applied for a demolition permit back in January 2006; their application was stayed by the local Preservation Commission via a six-month reprieve, which expires in a little over a week.

The Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois (LPCI) has prepared a PDF on the structure itself.

Can anyone in Highland Park update us on the status of this property or the Preservation Committee's action? Thanks to reader James Shewmaker for letting us know about the impending destruction of one of the area's most striking and historicall important buildings!

Gary Katz's Craftsman Mantelpiece


Gary Katz devotes his time to trim and finish carpentry and architectural millwork. His name may be familiar as the author of Finish Carpentry and The Doorhanger's Handbook; his website has a number of articles on trim techniques, with lots of good info on mouldings, columns and other detail work.

He also has a terrific and easy-to-follow tutorial on how to build this very attractive and detailed mantelpiece, with cloud lifts and inlaid panels strongly influenced by Greene & Greene. The final result is shown above, but if you have some interest in his technique and the process of building one like it yourself, you'll have to check out the drawings and step-by-step instructions, all documented with photographs.

book review: Country Furniture

My colleague Derek Martin, a woodworker here in Sacramento, was kind enough to review a copy of Aldren Watson's Country Furniture for Hewn & Hammered. The book is a reprint of the 1957 original edition, and includes all original illustrations.

As an avid hobbyist for the last fifteen or so years, I have spent much of my free time focused on wood working. It came as no surprise to me that I would enjoy reading this book after quickly skimming through it to see some wonderful illustrations that would get my immediate attention and spark my interest in reading it as well.

This book not only examined the materials and techniques that were used by master craftsmen of past centuries, but also addressed even the most subtle changes in wood furniture building up to more recent times. Changes to this art form mentioned by Mr. Watson were mainly brought on by wood supply, reengineered tools, and the evolving change in personal tastes.

As a modern day woodworker with fairly modern day tools I now have a greater appreciation for those who developed and made popular the art of crafting wood. I also have a better understanding of how making hand-crafted pieces from wood started out of necessity and not just for the beauty of it’s finished product. All different types of woods from all different places on the map were used initially for their hardness, longevity, availability and then their beauty.

The illustrations in this book alone are worth picking it up for, but just wait until you see and read about joinery that could help you in your next project. I have already experimented with some techniques that I learned in the book and I was fully satisfied with the result.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in woodworking or even collecting antique furniture. I will end by saying that this book was loaded with information and the illustrations were the icing on the cake to say the least.

Craftsman in the News, August 2006

A number of recent articles on historically important or otherwise interesting properties, neighborhoods or trends around the country:

Buffalo group restoring Frank Lloyd Wright home: More than a century after Frank Lloyd Wright designed it, and years after it fell into disrepair, an architectural treasure is being brought back to life in Buffalo.

San Antonio homebuyers looking to historic urban neighborhoods once again: Others go on a more elusive search: trying to identify the next King William or Monte Vista. Interest in San Antonio's older neighborhoods is picking up, in part because of rising gas prices, traffic congestion and a desire for distinctive architecture. Most San Antonio home buyers head straight to the suburbs.

Contemporary custom Craftsman homes win awards in Florida: For the second year, Craftsman-inspired homes near Northwest Florida's white-sand beaches took the top spot in the Aurora Awards.

Arrol Geliner pleads for home remodelers to stay consistent in style: Not long ago, in a pleasant, '60s-era neighborhood of California ranch homes, I came across a renovated house that looked all too familiar. The owner had replaced the original front doors, all the windows and the garage door in a style that could most kindly be described as Home Improvement Store Eclectic.

Union Station Dreams: Finished in 1939, Union Station is the last great train station built in America. It was constructed in a glorious Spanish Mission Revival and Art Deco style. During the nadir of rail travel it languished. But today it is busier than ever before, serving as the hub for Metrolink, Amtrak and Metro Rail.

Americans on a Remodeling Stampede: When the Hills bought their Northwest Side bungalow last year, one thing absolutely, positively had to go: the tiny, outdated kitchen. So the Hills did what an estimated 6 million American households will do this year. They remodeled their kitchen -- an endeavor that has turned into a feeding frenzy in recent years. Even though Americans are cooking less, we're pumping more money than ever into souped-up kitchens.

An article about my most-hated trend in contemporary homebuilding - Craftsman Style Comes Back in New Homes: What's old is new again. Drive around emerging communities in much of the country, and it's hard to miss all the craftsman-style homes. The covered front porch, the gabled roof, tapered columns at the entrance and limited use of bricks are architectural details more in line with 1920s and 1930s home construction than anything built in the 1980s and 1990s.

Philadelphia-area homes added to a preservation watch list: A number of historically important buildings throughout Lower Merion could soon be demolished as developers look to the construction of more condominium developments and single family homes, according to a local preservation group.

Upland, California gets an "extreme makeover": About six years after teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, this city of 70,000 residents is feeling good and is committing to a makeover.

For the Unwary, Fixer-Uppers can Turn Into Money Pits: Julie Hooper hears from people all the time who fantasize about fixing up      an old house. "My favorite thing is when a cute young couple comes in and says they want to redo a house and make it theirs," she said. So Hooper, the owner of King William Realty, shows them a house with the stuff a redo is made of: cracked foundations, sagging front porches, roofs with holes and the absence of air conditioning.

Woodland, California - home to many beautiful Craftsman bungalows - begins selling tickets to their excellent September home tour: Tickets for the 18th annual Stroll Through History historic homes tour will go on sale Tuesday, Aug. 1. This year's event takes place Saturday, Sept. 9, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Woodland, and features the Beamer's Woodland Park neighborhood.

About the House: How Trees Do & Do Not Impact Structures: Your Honor, does this lovely Liquid Amber appear capable of doing harm to anything, let alone Mr. Filbert’s 1926 Craftsman bungalow? No, I tell you, it’s a lie, a myth, a hit and a myth! My friends the trees have been sorely abused. And it’s all based on false information and a general lack of understanding about how they grow and what they do to the foundations of houses. Although I’ve read tracts by engineers and other experts on the dangers of trees, I’m here to tell you that it just ain’t so.

Landmarking a historic fraternity house in Berkeley: In 1974, the Berkeley Daily Gazette published the photo of a “mystery house” on the northwest corner of La Loma Avenue and Ridge Road. The accompanying article solicited information about this house, speculating that it might be the work of architect Ernest Coxhead (1863–1933), who designed two landmark buildings a block away—Beta Theta Pi Chapter House, 2607 Hearst Ave. (1893) and Allenoke Manor, 1777 Le Roy (1903).

Sy Oshinsky visits two Wright properties in the Laurel Highlands: America’s premier architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, once said: "If you foolishly ignore beauty, you’ll soon find yourself without it". I didn’t make that mistake on a recent trip I took to the Laurel Highlands of western Pennsylvania. The area includes not only pretty scenery but two landmark houses designed by Wright, Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob.

Building Heirlooms: A Visit With Whit McLeod

Sharon Letts had the opportunity to meet & speak with Arcata-based furnituremaker Whit McLeod recently, and The Eureka Reporter published her story on August 8, 2006:

Whit McLeod came to Humboldt County as many have — to attend Humboldt State University.

He graduated in 1976 with a degree in biology with an emphasis on wildlife management. Initially, he worked at Redwood Science Lab in Arcata, but soon found himself building wooden boats with the likes of boatwright David Peterson in a shop behind another wooden boat master, Ken Bates, on Gunther Island.

“I started out making boxes for bottles of wine,” McLeod laughed. “Then I made the folding chair.”

The folding chair is now as well known as the boxes the wine comes in, and is a common sight around town. Built from wine barrels, it’s a little folding chair for patio or beach use and it now makes up anywhere from 40-50 percent of sales for McLeod.

Since the chair, McLeod and his team of four — which includes his wife Kristy McLeod — have created beautiful craftsman-style furniture using the same wine barrels, as well as other types of reclaimed and salvaged wood. The furniture is made the old-fashioned way, using the mortise and tenon joint method.

the full article is available online from The Eureka Reporter

shop update

Hi there. I'm still working on integrating our new store - with unique furniture, wood, glass, ceramic, and textile items from a number of craftspeople whose work I really respect - but until then I just wanted to let you all know that I've dropped in an Amazon store at the "shop" link above. Their affiliate store system is still under development and leaves a bit to be desired, but it's a halfway decent way to pull together some good books and a few bargain furniture items that they currently have available.

New York Times: Far Rockaway Bungalows Under Siege

Corey Kilgannon reports on the relentless sublimation of all that is old and/or unique, this time the destruction of the beach bungalows lining the path to Far Rockaway Beach in New York:

Richard George lives in a charming little beach bungalow just off the ocean on the eastern end of the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens.

Like the homes of his neighbors, his small, three-bedroom shack is cooled by the salty breeze and surrounded by wildflowers and the sandy walkways leading to other lovely old wooden homes that form a beach colony, parts of which look more like Fire Island than New York City.

Mr. George’s home on Beach 24th Street has cotton bedspreads, quaint tablecloths and kitschy artwork. But don’t be fooled by the surroundings: it’s really a war bunker from which he defends his ever-shrinking seaside neighborhood.

At the table in his galley-size kitchen, he assembles legal briefs used to sue developers and city agencies to ward off efforts to demolish the bungalows for newer, bigger housing.

Back when the Rockaways was still a popular ocean resort for New Yorkers, these bungalows were abundant, with many built in the 1920’s. Groucho Marx is said to have invested in 24 of them. Now the largest remaining patch of the historic shacks are the roughly 120 that line three city blocks leading to the dunes in Far Rockaway.

With each passing year, more of the bungalows along Beach 24th, 25th and 26th Streets between Seagirt Boulevard and the boardwalk are demolished by developers building new housing. So far, Mr. George has not been able to get the city to declare the bungalows, many of which are abandoned, landmarks. So he fights local development by filing lawsuits claiming that the projects violate federal coastal regulations by illegally diminishing public access to the waterfront.


Read the complete article online at

Obituary: Steven Ballew, Sacramento Preservationist

One of Sacramento's most voiciferous advocates of architectural conservation, Steven Ballew, has died at 63. Thank you, Steven, for helping keep Sacramento's urban neighborhoods beautiful. From the Sacramento Bee:

He was known throughout Sacramento as a committed preservationist. Whether fighting private citizens who wanted to build garages under historic bungalows or forcing Kentucky Fried Chicken to conform to local design guidelines when building a franchise on Alhambra Boulevard, no battle was too big or too small for Mr. Ballew's tireless passion.


The couple married in 1989 and rented a bungalow on 37th Street, which spawned an interest in bungalow history and architecture. Mr. Ballew cringed when he saw similar houses with inappropriate repairs and modifications.

He co-founded the Sacramento Bungalow Heritage Association, whose members gave lectures and organized field trips to teach people how to fix up their historic homes. That morphed into the Sacramento Preservation Round Table, an advocacy group that fights to preserve and restore historic buildings and neighborhoods.

Much of Mr. Ballew's passion for preservation was fueled by his appreciation of aesthetics, Susan Ballew said. His eye for order and perfection extended from his immaculate woodworking shop to the wooden shingles on the side of his home, whose corners he sanded individually so they would be slightly rounded.

Craigslist Finds: August 2006

TurnHere Brings Neighborhoods to Video

TurnHere ("short films - cool places") is a well-organized library of short video snapshots of residential neighborhoods around the world, mostly shot and narrated by the people who live there. This would be the perfect tool for real estate agents - especially those who handle lots of corporate inter-city relocations - to help their clients pick where they want to concentrate a property search. It's also a great way for real estate voyeurs like us to peek into neighborhoods throughout our country and the rest of the world.

Here's Albany, California, where I grew up; one of my dad's favorite restaurants; and my wife's favorite deli. Pasadena has several films, including one that touches on the Gamble House; you can poke through almost every San Francisco neighborhood in a few dozen short bites, and even take a walk through downtown Santa Barbara - a town with some of the nicest bungalow-full neighborhoods on the west coast.

It'd be great to get more architecture-centric tours - maybe video versions of your own home town's historic home tours? - up on the site. Every film on the site was shot and edited by volunteers, though, so there's certainly plenty of room to contribute an architectural tour of your favorite bungalow neighborhood.

Bungalow Basics in Snohomish Closing Soon

Sad news from Sheila Mulligan at Bungalow Basics in Snohomish WA:

After three and a half years of enjoying my business, sadly the time has come to shut the doors of Bungalow Basics. Since January I have been trying to outlast an economy that just doesn't get better and I can't do it any more financially or emotionally.

After closing 8/7 - 8/11 to reprice and rearrange things, I will open Saturday, 8/12, at 11 am for the Going Out of Business sale. Prices will be reduced up to 40% on everything, including display pieces and store equipment, except for this year's release of vases from Ephraim Pottery. Those will not be on sale.

As you know, my displays are mission furniture. It's the perfect time pick up a sofa table or other accent piece. If you call the shop for sale specifics, we'll help you as best we can but might be quite busy. Please be patient.

Antique pieces will be priced fairly, as will the Harvest House pieces I've been using as displays. I will ask that you leave the displays in the shop until what's on them is gone so I have surfaces for merchandise.

Starting 8/12 the shop will be open daily 11 am - 5 pm. Starting mid September I will be closed two days a week, probably Tuesday and Wednesday, as I will no longer have an employee.

Sacramento Brown Shingle Craftsman Bungalow Remodel


My colleague Chris Schultz recently finished restoring his 2 bedroom / 2 bath 1920s brown shingle Craftsman bungalow in Sacramento, CA. He and his wife meticulously restored the wooden paneling, floors, plate rail and many architectural features of the house, installing a new commercial-grade kitchen and beautiful white-tiled bath along the way. They also converted the high-roofed attic to a loft bedroom, which is a particularly succesful addition. Perhaps this project was one reason for his wife's recent acceptance to a graduate architecture program! more pictures are available on Flickr.

Wooden Shutters by Copper Moon Woodworks

Add to the list of things I never really thought about but now, after seeing them, desire or even need: very attractive handcrafted exterior window shutters, in a wide variety of designs and many different sizes and grades of stain. See the whole range of products on Allentown, PA-based Copper Moon Woodworks' website.

A Visit with Randell L. Makinson

the following interview with Randell L. Makinson, by Linda Arntzenius, was originally published in Autumn 1998 issue of USC's Trojan Family Magazine.

If there is a Greene & Greene cult abroad in Southern California, USC architecture alumnus Randell L. Makinson can take most of the credit.

Imagine yourself a keen student of architecture. Eager to assist a visiting professor by bringing him slides for his architectural history class, you approach a large, wooden house on a quiet residential street in an upscale Pasadena neighborhood. No sound save birdsong breaks the late morning silence. Lawns are perfectly cropped, hedges trimmed. No one is about as you set up camera and tripod for a carefully composed shot of the magnificent building. Framed in your viewfinder, the portal is a symphony of oiled teakwood and leaded glass.

Then, just as you are about to click the shutter, the door opens. A gentleman, tall and imposing in a dark suit, steps out. You watch as, unsmiling, he makes he way across the wide, private lawn and asks you to explain yourself.

This is precisely what happened to Randell L. Makinson in 1954 in front of 4 Westmoreland Place. But instead of being sent about his business, Makinson founds himself treated to a tour of the house and garden. Three and a half hourse later, he was seated on the living room floor with Cecil and Louise Gamble, pouring over their home's original blueprints.

much more after the jump, below

Continue reading "A Visit with Randell L. Makinson" »

Subscribe to Hewn & Hammered via email

Folks have asked for a way to subscribe to Hewn & Hammered by email, and while I certainly hope that everyone does come to the site from time to time - clicking on our ads and visiting our sponsors pays the bills - I can certainly understand that it can be a pain to return to the same site several times without any new content being posted.

By subscribing to our feed via email, you'll only get a message when a new article is added; simply fill out the form below, and you're set. Alternately, if you use an RSS reader or a web browser that is RSS-aware, you can subscribe to our regular rss feed, which also includes photographs from our Flickr stream and lots of other goodness.

enter your email address   

Another Auction Record: Kappa Candlesticks, $60,000

Candlesticks60k Our friend Tamara Herrod, who handles PR for the folks at Treadway-Toomey, forwards us the following press release. $60,000! Well, some folks have an awful lot of money, don't they? Not that these aren't gorgeous - they certainly are - but, well, goodness.

Rare Pair of Kappa Candlesticks by Chicago Metalsmith Robert Jarvie Brings Record $60,000 at Treadway-Toomey Galleries' Auction

But man, the twofold creature, apprehends the twofold manner, in and outwardly, and nothing in the world comes single to him, a mere itself, - cup, column, or candlestick.
~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning

OAK PARK, Ill. -- A rare and perfectly matched pair of Kappa model bronze candlesticks handwrought by Chicago metalsmith Robert R. Jarvie fetched a record $60,000 at Treadway-Toomey Galleries' 20th Century Art & Design Auction on May 7.  The presale estimate was $10,000 to $15,000 for the pair. The graceful, 14-inches tall candlesticks had their fine original patinas and removable bobêches.    

Continue reading "Another Auction Record: Kappa Candlesticks, $60,000" »

for sale: Milwaukee duplex, $258,700


This bright 1929 Craftsman duplex is a great value in any market. How I wish Sacramento prices were this good! However, you can certainly still get a good deal in Milwaukee: features include hardwood throughout, leaded glass windows, built-in cabinetry, and some nice original light fixtures. Big closets, updated kitchen in the upper unit, and a neat 8-foot-wide picture window in the finished attic. Jerry Yanasak has the full specs up on his .mac account, along with plenty of photos of the interior (check out the attic and the free-standing chimney - a great use of space).