Thursday, April 29, 2010

The persistence of the individual

I’ve tried to select some of Don’s lesser known buildings to detail the breadth and depth of his work. Known principally for Indian Lakes, there are many of his designs that have gone unnoticed, one of which is the Larson home.

Mr. Larson worked for Bell Telephone; his wife Beverley grew up in Elmwood Park. In fact, Beverley lived across the street from Don and his parents, Ebba and Gunnar. In speaking with Mrs. Larson in 2007, Beverley remembered being invited to the Ericksons for neighborhood parties, dancing with Gunnar, and the remodeling that Gunnar did in his Elmwood Park home, beginning with a replacement of the stairs and ending with hand-crafted kitchen cabinets and built-in book shelves.

Shown, the Erickson home on 77th Avenue, Elmwood Park, Illinois.

Ebba was a reader; she read everything from poetry to biographies and she ensured that her son, at age four, was privately tutored in classical piano. Ebba hailed from a family of church organists in Sweden. It was important to her that Don follow the family tradition, albeit on a piano versus a church organ. But, again, I digress...

By 1954, Beverley was married to Carl Larson, had three children, $10,000 in savings and the couple had a dream of living in a home inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright. Carl purchased a four-acre site in Bartlett, Illinois and, set out to build his own home.

As quoted from "House Beautiful:"

“But an intelligent man knows his limitations. Mr. Larson is a qualified electrician and has handy-man proclivities. . .but he had no illusions about being an architect. So, at the start, he explained his ideas and financial limitations to architect, Don Erickson, whose houses he had seen, and who he knew would understand the kind of house he was driving at. By fall, Mr. Erickson had designed a three-level house of concrete brick, redwood siding, and cedar shake roof . . .While the design demanded materials of high quality, the triple-level plan was a measure of economy. The exterior walls of a house are the most expensive structural parts, and by splitting the floor space of a house into several levels, you can enclose more livable area within your expensive walls. Mr. Erickson acted as advisor and consultant throughout the project. . ."

By December 1957, the shell of the house was built. . . “For nearly four years [Mr. Larson said], all I did was work, sleep, eat, and build my house. It was rough, but then nothing can compare with the swell of pride you feel when you look at the place and think, 'I did it myself.'"

House Beautiful, July 1960.

Like Don, Carl Larson built his house with material, tools, and sweat equity. Today, the house still stands in Barlett but the Larson family outgrew the home. However, Beverley still remembers people driving up the driveway, as the family stood outside to rake leaves or mow the grass, to ask them about their unusual home. . .a home which they discussed with their visitors with pride.

Drawing from "Alit I Hemmet," article entitled,"Hos Carl Larson Illinois," November 1961.

The house is located somewhere near the junction of Sutton Road (Highway 59) and Lake Street, in Barlett, Illinois.

Please contact me, or provide comments on this page, if you would like to submit information that you may have on the work and/or its history. And, if you would like to contribute to championing the preservation of the Don Erickson Legacy, please email me at the address posted under my profile.

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