White Gates, iconic mid-century home in Phoenix, facing demolition by new owner

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2024/03/21/iconic-mid-century-home-in-phoenix-facing-demolition-by-new-owner.html


Whenever I see a story about a stupid 20th Century demolition either planned, underway, or completed, I always find myself repeating the wise words of Colonel Taylor:

“You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you! Goddamn you all to hell!”


Possibly unpopular opinion incoming: I don’t think all things need to be saved. Here’s what the interior looks like right now.

I’m not a huge mid-century modern fan to begin with, but in my opinion, that’s a particularly ugly example of the style. And boring, frankly. The only interesting part is those screens with the oval holes on the front of the house. Other than that, it’s a concrete box. Save the screens, stick them in a museum with photos of the original house as it was in the 1950s, and let the new owner actually build a usable home.


I’ll engage with that, for sure.

This interior shot is essentially of a blank canvas. There are SO many ways in which a new home could be appropriately worked into that shell. Want to build something totally different? Do it somewhere else, where there isn’t already a beautiful thing made of several tons of embodied energy.

Edited to add: Here’s a nice example of a recently restored house from a similar era, here in Scotland. Places like this are special. They’re worth preserving.


This is where you and I disagree, and that’s ok. I think this building is ugly, other than the screen of ovals.


I hoped it would be that one.

This is an attractive building in the location – everything seems to be still there to make it wonderful again.


I have no problem with historic preservation, but when something is on the market, if people want to preserve it, they have the option of buying it. If you are desperate to preserve something that somebody else already owns and doesn’t care to preserve, I’m sure with a polite request they’d let you photograph it to your heart’s content.

It’s funny to think about the arguments in favor of right-to-repair w/r/t property rights.


I’m sure that the McMansion that the owner no doubt replaces it with will be worthy of Kate Wagner’s blog.


seriously, do whatever you want with the gutted interior, but please leave that outside intact. it’s stunning.


Yes they are. Here’s a great example of a restoration of an iconic mid-century home in my neck of the woods:

If someone has the passion and the know-how the home in Phoenix will be beautiful again. Otherwise, yeeesh.

Bonus fun fact: Gil Scott Heron lived in a MC home in that neighborhood. He later sold his home to Roberta Flack.


Yeah, I think I’d do the same. That’s one shipping-container-ass waste of concrete building materials. (Disclaimer: I’m someone who believes residential architecture has been on a steady decline since Sears stopped offering houses in their catalog — I fantasize about winning the lottery and going around buying HGTV project homes and putting walls back up.)


While I’m usually a huge fan of your posts, I’ll respectfully disagree with you here. I absolutely love mid-century modern design, and I find this example stunning. As Daveybot says above, that gutted interior makes is a perfect blank slate for a reno that respects the original. I doubt whatever the new owner builds will be anywhere near as cool. And I’d bet there are plenty of less iconic, unique properties in that general area that this person could justifiably raze.


Do we really need to gatekeep what is good taste in housing? Is that strictly necessary?


I’m expressing a dissenting opinion. Sorry if that sounds like gatekeeping. When I see beautiful things being destroyed because someone doesn’t appreciate them, I feel the need to speak up and defend them.


My thoughts exactly.



GODS YES. Especially when you stop to think if some of the walls were _Structural_and their removal has since caused problems. When I was looking for a house in 2012, one of the vacant homes we looked at had a sagging ceiling, because some chucklehead removed the wall that divided what was probably a dining room and the living room. I passed on that one for that and other reasons. (like the laundry being in a room outside on the back of the house.)

… and in the exhibit, maybe build a couple appropriately scaled models to show the original interior layout as well.


Mid Century Modern house design isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. I find it delightfully subversive.

In 1953, Elizabeth Gordon, the imperious editor of the prestigious House Beautiful magazine, launched an astonishing, Trump-ish attack on Modernist design under the title, “The Threat to the New America.” Gordon warned of a conspiracy to subvert American taste in favor of “foreign” design. She saw the buildings of architects such as Johnson and Goodman as being “barren” and “grim” and attacking the very heart of American society - the home. “Two ways of life stretch before us,” wrote Gordon, “one leads to the richness of variety, to comfort and beauty. The other…to poverty and unlivability.” -AtlasObscura

Even the great American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, declared purveyors of the style “not wholesome people.” In a perverse piece of logic the inhabitants of a glass house—by exposing themselves to the world so blatantly—clearly had something to hide.


You should check out Kansas City. There are a ton of those houses there, and others in a similar style that didn’t come out of the Sears Catalog.


I’d like to. I lived in a 1925 Sears Gladstone in northeast Ohio for 17 years. Loved that house.


Personally I’d say yes, it’s definitely a good thing for societies to organise and protect their built heritage, based on aesthetics. The details of how that may or may not happen are prone to all sorts of errors and problems, of course, but I’m still broadly in favour of the principle, at least. It’s not ‘strictly necessary’, but I believe it can be beneficial.

Many places will automatically protect buildings once they hit a certain age, beautiful or not, and I don’t necessarily have a problem with that, either.

More than aesthetics, though, it’s definitely worth having a general sustainability-based approach of simply ‘not demolishing perfectly good buildings’. Of course there are reasons that demolition may be necessary, but the bar to allow it should be high. And if there’s a big outcry based on something even as subjective as aesthetics, heck, we should at least listen to those crying out, to hear what they have to say.