Docomomo US/MN caps off eventful spring and summer seasons


Michele Racioppi


Docomomo US staff


chapter, Minnesota, newsletter august 2019
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From film screenings to Lustron houses, the Minnesota chapter of Docomomo US has had an eventful past few months. Here's a recap of some of the great events that have taken place.

If you are interested in getting involved with the Minnesota chapter, contact


Film Sceening: The Experimental City

On April 16 Docomomo US/MN hosted a sold-out screening of The Experimental City, a film by Chad Freidrichs (The Pruitt-Igoe Myth) that explores Athelstan Spilhaus' futuristic attempt to solve urban issues by creating a full-size city—from scratch—in Minnesota’s northern woods.

Using retro film clips and archival material from the Northwest Architectural Archives, Freidrichs’ film takes viewers back to the 1960s, when Spilhaus’ predictions of home computers and remote banking seemed more fantasy than reality.

At the event, Northwest Architectural Archives interim curator Cheryll Fong and former curator Barb Bezat shared insights about the process of using archival material about Minnesota Experimental City (MXC) to research and develop the film.

Going, Going, Gone! Mowhawk Trail

Nearly 65 curious Docomomo members and mid-century architecture fans flocked to 6625 Mohawk Trail on Wednesday, May 22, for a "Going, Going, Gone" event to see the house architectural engineer Marvin Fergestad designed for his family, which is currently on the market.

After Fergestad’s wife Sonja won the house in a divorce, she sold it to the McQuarrie family. They brought in Roark Kramer Roscoe Designs, specifically Peter Kramer, to make several significant changes to the original house, which Kramer has characterized as a “classic California banana-shaped rambler” with a lovely glass walled living room. Kramer completed an addition to the master suite, beneath which he added a garage that connects to the main house via a tunnel-like “art gallery space” with structures for displaying artworks. He also added the lower level bedroom and studio space, which features one of the last shipments of a particular species of Brazilian mahogany. He also added an elevator.

As Mrs. McQuarrie was a passionate gardener, Kramer added a semi-circular garden room to the main house with glass walls, tile floor, tiled steps and faucet, adjacent to a potting room. He also designed an adjacent garden house /guest house featuring an elaborate “German steel wire enclosure” to protect the outdoor plants in raised beds from deer. Visitors delighted in these features, along with the home’s extensive woodwork on bedroom ceilings and walls.

Expressions of Modernism through the Decades: as found in the Northwest Architectural Archives

A special presentation on June 12 by the Northwest Architectural Archives’ interim curator, Cheryll Fong, and former curator, Barb Bezat, “Expressions of Modernism through the Decades: as found in the Northwest Architectural Archives,” was a lively introduction to mid-century architectural treasures found and preserved by this hard-working team.

About 40 Docomomo US/MN members attended the members-only, behind-the-scenes event. Fong and Bezat selected an array of rarely seen materials - including a Ralph Rapson model, drawings of a double-decker recreational vehicle and a futuristic town created by John H. Howe during his incarceration during World War II as a conscientious objector, and a variety of plan books - that members perused with delight.

The evening also included a tour of the storage caverns below the Elmer L. Andersen Library and discussions of how materials are discovered and secured, stored and preserved. Fong and Bezat, stewards of the amazing and invaluable archive, also talked about working with researchers and what they’re currently focusing on for acquisition.

Going, Going, Gone! Lustron House!

Docomomo members and mid-century aficionados had an exclusive visit to a well-preserved Lustron House on Wednesday, June 26. The lovingly maintained gem of post-war modernism remains in rare original condition, and the homeowner of the past 26 years was on-site to talk to members about the house and its history.

The Lustron Corporation formed to address the post-WW2 housing crisis for returning GIs. Using a similar, prefabricated approach to the kit houses popularized decades earlier by companies like Sears and Gordon–Van Tine, Lustron's low-maintenance, durable structures were assembled out of prefab porcelain-enameled steel panels and shipped to the buyer's home site via specialized trucks. There were approximately 30 Luston houses built in Minnesota between 1948-50, of those the most visible are row of 4 examples on the 5000 block of Nicollet Avenue in South Minneapolis.

The home at 5009 Nicollet is the Westchester Deluxe style in a two-bedroom layout in a gorgeous “surf blue.” Additional improvements by the homeowner included: Japanese red dyed Masonite tile floor; Swedish tight wool loop installed carpet; light fixtures including George Nelson Cigar Bubble Light and Phillipe Starck Luci Fair wall sconce; Poul Cadovius Danish Teak Wall Unit. A small addition was added to enclose a previously open front porch—harmonious to the overall architectural integrity. 

Alas, the Lustron Corporation did not last long: a combination of production problems, distribution issues and a corruption scandal bankrupted the company by 1950. Of the 2,680 examples built across 36 states, less than 1,500 are believed to remain—and far fewer in the excellent condition of the one toured for Going, Going, Gone. This house is currently on the market and in need of a buyer passionate about MCM!