Survey Number: HPS-423
Year Built: 1940
Architectural Style: Ranch w/ Spanish Colonial Influences
THEME / CONTEXT
Designed by prominent Tempe architect Kemper Goodwin in 1940, the Selleh Residence is an excellent example of a custom home wherein various stylistic influences in vogue during the transitional pre-war era are successfully resolved into an overall cohesive design. Borrowing tenets from as diverse a range of styles as California Ranch, Moderne, and Spanish Colonial Revival, Goodwin infused this hybrid with his own brand of regionalism and with simple massing of clean planes and basic forms to produce a one-of-a-kind custom home with a strong sense of architectural design.
Kemper Goodwin was born in Tempe, Arizona on April 28, 1906. He received his architectural training at the University of Southern California and was licensed to practice architecture in Arizona in 1931. After several years working for Valley firms, he established his own practice in Tempe. Over the next thirty years his architectural firm, which eventually expanded to 40 employees, became one of the most successful in the state. Specializing in educational facilities, Kemper Goodwin is often recognized for having set the design standard for this type of building in the state. Prominent among his more than 200 public educational buildings in Arizona, were those designed for Arizona State University. The Memorial Union, Wilson Hall, and Mathematics Building represent a few of the more notable Goodwin buildings on campus. Joined by his son Michael in 1967, Kemper Goodwin continued to practice architecture until 1975 when he retired. He died December 24, 1997.
The period immediately before the war finds Kemper among many successful American architects searching to sustain the honest and rational design expression popular towards the end of that era of stark functionality called the “Moderne Movement 1920-1940”. True modern architecture on the cusp of World War II was responding to a myriad of social and cultural vagaries rampant at the verge of the nuclear age. Buildings devoid of ornament, with plane surfaces and the latest in plate-glass windows wrapping around elevations were about to yield to the more organic and contextual influences of the so-called “Wrightian Movement 1940-1960”. That Frank Lloyd Wright would go on inspiring architects young and old for generations is still evident. But what of young Kemper? The custom home at 1104 South Mill Avenue seems to draw the best from many stylistic influences. The integrity of Wright’s organic philosophy carries forward in the simple massing and bold planes of this functional design - rendered here in a pallet of regionally appropriate materials including unfinished brick masonry which combines with the full-hip tile roof to create a structure comprehensible from the street yet eminently approachable and comfortable in its human scale at intimate distances.
HISTORIC LANDSCAPE ELEMENTS
The mature landscape at the back of the Selleh Residence is typical for Park Tract homes fronting on Mill Avenue. The character of the nearby flood-irrigated yards and dense landscaping throughout the subdivision has its fragile edge at the arterial street. The building provides a positive contribution to the historic character along Mill Avenue and a preview of, and transition to, the historic Park Tract subdivision, now known as the Maple-Ash Neighborhood.
The subject property meets the following criteria for designation, as found in section 14A-4 (a) of the Tempe City Code.
(2) It is found to be of exceptional significance and expresses a distinctive character, resulting from:
a. A significant portion of it is at least fifty (50) years old; is reflective of the city's cultural, social, political or economic past; and is associated with a person or event significant in local, state or national history; and
b. It represents an established and familiar visual feature of an area of the city, due to a prominent location or singular physical feature.
The Selleh Residence is significant for its association with custom neighborhood development in Tempe before 1950 and for its association with the Selleh Family, one of the community’s prominent families at the post-war era. The home’s custom design marks the neighborhood’s pre-war boom and the beginning of the shift toward ranch housing styles that would proliferate in the City after World War II. The architectural character of the house is conveyed through the use of more expensive, durable materials such as brick masonry walls and roof tiles.
The Historic Preservation Office recommends that the Historic Preservation Commission approve the nomination and recommend to the Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council that the Selleh Residence be designated as Tempe Historic Property No. 23.
Note: Per Chapter 14-A of the Tempe City Code, the application, if approved by HPC, will be forwarded to the Planning and Zoning Commission [PZC] for public hearing and action.
references: Tempe Multiple Resource Area Update, survey #423 [Ryden, 1997]
Arizona State Historic Property Inventory, survey #423 [Janus, 1985]