This Space for Rent

Three Stickley Houses

  1. The Lewis T Gilliland house, in Portland, Oregon, is a "True Craftsman" house. It's based on a plan in Stickley's Craftsman magazine (which was based on drawings sent in by George Rand, who designed (and had built) it for his summer camp in New Hampshire.) Before the Gilliland house was built, the plans from The Craftsman were modified by the Portland architect Ellis Lawrence, but nevertheless it's still a Twue Cwaftsman™ house.
  2. The Nicolai-Cake-Olson house, also in Portland, Oregon, is not a "True Craftsman" house. It's a mirror image (the architect Emil Schacht's name is applied to this house) of a house that was built from a plan in The Craftsman at 1727 NW Aspen in Portland. But it's not a Twue Cwaftsman™ house. Why? Um, good question. Presumably because Mr. Nicolai didn't mail the "can you please send me the plans for this house?" letter off to Mr. Stickley, but instead got copies of the plans for the completed house at 1727 NW Aspen, and had Mr. Schacht flip it over for his house in Irvington?
  3. This house, which is a slightly modernised version (modernisation done by Todd Stanley, of Gordon Stanley Architecture) of A Cottage Planned with a Special Idea to Economical Heating is still not finished, but I'll bet that the idiots who coined the phrase "True Craftsman" won't consider it to be one. Why? Really good question. It's obviously not an identical copy (the front roof does not have the graceful swoop that the original plan has), but it's really close. You'd think that by any meaningful definition that this house (built approximately 100 years after the plans were published) would count, but I suspect that the whole point behind the whole "True Craftsman" label is to set up some sort of artificial category that people can use to extract more money out of credulous homebuilders.

It would be kind of neat, in a "hey, look at this!" category, to live in a house that Stickley actually had built to his blueprints. But, as far as I can tell, there's aren't very many of those houses (the clubhouse at Craftsman Farms in New Jersey is one,and it's been seized by the local government as part of a scheme to retain the remaining parts of the farm as open space in a still-rapidly-urbanizing part of New Jersey, so even if I had US$100 million burning a hole in my pocket it's not likely I could purchase it.) But, aside from this one house, it looks like the arrangement Stickley had with house plans in The Craftsman is that people were expected to take the plans and either build the house themselves or hire local housebuilders to build the house. It's not like a FLW house, where for a mere few thousand dollars (in 1900s money; in today's money, you'd probably be talking something on the order of US$500,000 just for six sets of blueprints) he'd make a house plan that you could use to build a single house, never to be (officially) duplicated. So if the plans were readily available, and the houses were to be built by local people, is there any meaningful way to take one modified houseplan and call it a Twue Cwaftsman, but then take another modified houseplan and not?

No. The people who say differently just have too much time on their hands.


I’d fallen a bit behind on the referrer logs, but I wanted to follow up on this discussion. You raise good points, ones we haven’t thought through very deeply since we’re a bit busy, you know, building the damn thing.

I’m not familiar with the True Craftsman movement, but I’m not surprised by it. Humans always are trying to one-up each other in the authenticity department. We picked the Stickley design because it fit the site, fit our needs, and fit our aesthetic. That pretty much sums up Stickley, doesn’t it? Function, simplicity, and beauty all given equal consideration. Luckily, we’re not purists, so that’s enough for us.

Cherie Wed Jul 19 04:42:38 2006

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