Real Estate Report: Midcentury in Fresno Needs Love, $699K



Fresno gets no respect. On the other hand, there’s a burgeoning interest in its unique midcentury architecture, and this Usonian-style house from 1954 is a gem.

The Basics: Four bedrooms and three baths on a beautifully landscaped lot in Fresno, with a boomerang pool plus a cabana, built in 1954/5 and asking $699K. 

Not So Basic: Nobody says it better than Pierluigi Serraino, eminent architectural scholar and writer:

Architect Morgan Shaw of Berkeley, designed a Usonian residence in Fresno built in 1955 for Dr. and Mrs. Sidney S. Ames. Although not listed in the directory of members of the Taliesin Fellowship, Shaw undoubtedly embraced the aesthetic of Frank Lloyd Wright, producing a pinwheel plan whose center is the entry to four functional wings extending into the landscape. Within the organic language of architecture, modern residential design of the post-war period came with its standard architectural moves and Shaw followed suit: modular plan, indoor-outdoor amenities, clerestory windows, custom-designed built-in furniture, and deep overhangs. Walls of concrete masonry units are the counterpoints to striation of redwood siding to implement the horizontality Wright so much strived for. Despite savvy siting in relation to the solar path, air conditioning was necessary to meet the clients’ requirements for comfort. Virtually nothing is known about Morgan Shaw, no address is given about this house, and current information on its state is unavailable. 

Well, now we know where it is. As for the condition, the concrete block, redwood planking and trim on the exterior have been uniformly covered in battleship grey and hidden behind the landscaping:

Inside, there’s entirely intact redwood detailing. Below, what had been a family room is used as a dining room. The original dining area off the kitchen, with its unfinished concrete block fireplace, is now a sitting area. All the interior concrete block has been painted, although the redwood lathe and fiberboard ceilings are almost all original, The cork flooring has disappeared under tile and carpet, but the original kitchen cabinets, storage systems and baths remain.

Above, Eames chairs. Below, the living room with chintz, Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona chairs, and more painted masonry.

Below, the master bedroom in redwood, in its own wing of the pinwheel plan. There’s a wing of  children’s bedrooms  that open onto the back yard, two of which have a sliding panel wall between them; they line up along a narrow hall with storage and a band of windows, straight from the Frank Lloyd Wright playbook.  And while the cabinets in the public rooms look like ash, the kid’s bedrooms are probably entirely Philippine mahogany.

Above, the living room on the right. To the left, the kitchen/dining/family room is behind an immense striped awning. It gets hot in Fresno! The landscaping- boxwood hedges, white roses and what may be olive trees- we can live with. All together, a remarkable survivor in need of a little sandblasting. Dozens of interior and exterior images here, and a vintage floor plan below.

Fresno realtor Eldon Daetwiller and his firm, Fresno Modern have been active in preserving Fresno and the San Joaquin Valley’s modernist heritage. He provided the link to the Architect & Engineer, the source for the vintage images.

Quote from Pierluigi Serraino, Fresno Architecture@Mid-Century [AIASJ Newsletter]

Listing: 750 East Santa Ana Avenue, Fresno [MLS]

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