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GEORGE MATSUMOTO, FAIA (1922-2016)
George Matsumoto grew up in San Francisco in Nihonmachi (Japantown), attending Lowell High School in the city and taking Japanese classes at Kinmon Gakuen. He attended the University of California at Berkeley in architecture. In his final semester, he and his family were sent to an internment camp in Poston AZ as part of the forcible relocation of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Matsumoto completed his undergraduate degree at Washington University in St Louis MO in 1943. With a scholarship to attend Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, Matsumoto studied under Saarinen and graduated in 1945 with honors. He worked for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in Chicago and in 1946 he joined Saarinen and Swanson.
After a year of private practice in Kansas City with Runnells, Clark, Waugh and Matsumoto, he became an instructor at the University of Oklahoma.
In 1948, Henry Kamphoefner, then head of Oklahoma's architecture program, was appointed first dean of the School of Design at North Carolina State University. Matsumoto, along with several other faculty and students, left Oklahoma with Kamphoefner to start what became an epicenter for Modernist architecture education in the US.
During his tenure at the NCSU School of Design between 1948 and 1961, Matsumoto won more than thirty awards for residential work. He designed a Modernist addition to the school, above. In 1961 he returned with wife Kimi and their children to California to teach at Berkeley until 1967 followed by a successful private practice. In part because of Trudy Taylor in Chapel Hill, Matsumoto swore off designing houses because he did not want to “deal with the wives.”
Matsumoto houses share common characteristics: a flat roof, an unobstructed internal view from one end of the house to the other, terrazzo floors, natural woods for walls and ceilings, mahogany cabinetry, large windows in the rear, and small but highly functional kitchens.
2011 Interview about his years in a US Japanese concentration camp, Part 1. Part 2
1997 - Interview from Preservation North Carolina's Farfetched and Dear Bought: Four Architects Who Changed North Carolina." Produced by Mark Spano. Narrated by Charlie Rose. Also appearing: David Jackson, Charlotte V. Brown, and Frank Harmon.
Former student Henry Johnston shares:
"I had George for freshman Descriptive Drawing ... and sat on the front row where he would put his cigarettes on the edge of my drawing board ... George at the end of the Semester would read out the grades of everyone to the class, when he got to this student he gave him a "D" whereupon the student replied that he wanted to transfer to Carolina but needed at least a "C" to make it ... After completing the read out, he paused and said " Mr. X, if you will be so kind as to promise to never return to State College, I will give you a C. Mr. X promised and never came back."
Additional Resources: Douglas Plywood Second Homes for Leisure Living * Westinghouse Houses: pages one, two, three, four * Weyerhauser ad from 1957 * NCSU's Matsumoto archives: pages one, two, three, four, five, six * Awards
1947 - The James Ingraham Clark Residence, 2400 West 86th Terrace, Leawood KS. Designed with one of Matsumoto's partners, James Clark. The house won a Honorable Mention Award from Progressive Architecture in 1949. Built by Don Drummond.
1949 - The J. Gregory Poole Lake House I on Carolina Lake off of Poole Road, Raleigh. Designed with Milton Small. This was part of a larger Poole family farm which is now Oakwood Historical Park. The house in that park is their former main residence. When they relocated to Cowper Drive in the Hayes Barton neighborhood, this farm remained a family property. Gregory Poole Jr. and his father used their company earthmoving equipment to build the lake. The father commissioned Matsumoto and Small to design a one-bedroom, 1500 square foot house with lots of glass, sliding doors, and a flat roof. Gregory Jr. went to Plymouth NC and retrieved heart pine timbers from a bridge that had been demolished along with quarried Wake County stone.
The lake and lake house was a weekend retreat for the family until the property was sold, first to a company called Dickerson, Inc and then to local developer Judd Ammons. Ammons developed commercial lots but the remote location of the lake house subjected it to repeated theft and vandalism, including shotgun blasts. Before being demolished in the early 1990's, Poole retrieved the heart pine timbers once again for reuse for a project in Wake Forest. Unfortunately, those timbers were later stolen.
Matsumoto also designed the Gregory Poole Equipment headquarters in 1954; everything except Poole's personal office and the Japanese gardens has been altered; a house for Gregory Poole; a house for Poole's daughter Jean; and a second Poole cabin. See entries below.
1950 - The Paul and June Ritcher House, 3039 Churchill Road, Raleigh. 1900 square feet. Built by Frank Walser. Sold to Walter and Albertina Adams in 1952. Sold in 1955 to Jack Peterson. Sold in 1970 to Stephen and Karen Renner. Sold in 1980 to Richard Boyd. Sold in 1988 to Randal Brown. Sold in 2004 to Jill Anderson and Edward Bern Walser, Frank Walser's son. Top right photo by David Hunt.
1951 - The Jackson Residence, Raleigh, designed with Holloway, Weber, and Reeves. Never built, according to Matsumoto in 2008. The owners moved to California.
Featured on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens in 1956. Won an award from the national AIA in 1957. Sold to Banks and Louise Talley in 1961. Sold in 1974 to George and Beth Paschal, who owned a James Fitzgibbon house, for their daughter Huston Paschal. She eventually took title. Still owned by Huston Paschal as of 2016. B/W photos are probably by Joseph Molitor. Bottom photo by Leilani Carter.
The house was selected for display at the US Pavilion at the Brussels Worlds Fair in April 1958. According to the April 1958 Southern Architect, a 30x40 inch 1/4"=1' plexiglas model was designed by Robert F. Geoghagan and sent in a custom-designed shipping box. The model made it back to Raleigh after the World's Fair and stayed in the house for decades. As of 2014, Paschal donated the model to NCSU Special Collections. The
shipping box was given to David Hill AIA of Raleigh NC.
1952 - The George W. and Virginia Kelly Residence, 150 Riding Lane, Southern Pines NC. Sold in 1993 to Marion McCullough. When she died, daughter Denis McCullough bought it in 1996. She added a conventional roof while keeping the spirit of the original design, not an easy task with a Matsumoto home. Photos by Glenn Dickerson. Pond photo by George Smart.
1953 – The C. A. "Gus" and Marion Aretakis Residence, 309 Transylvania in Raleigh. Built by Frank Walser. Two of Aretakis's sons went on to pursue housing as a profession: one as a developer, the other an architect. Still owned by the Aretakis family as of 2017. Landscape architecture by Lewis Clarke.
1954 – The Milton Julian Residence, 101 Ledge Lane, Chapel Hill. Built by Frank Walser. Designed for Milton Julian, locally known proprietor of Milton's Clothing Cupboard and uncle to international designer Alexander Julian. The family had to go to the North Carolina Supreme Court to overcome neighborhood opposition to the home's unique design. Until the area's principal developer Professor Coker's death in 1953, he or his wife had personally approved all house plans prior to construction and apparently required new home builders to consult with the university architects. Coker naturally favored the popular revival styles of the period. This design review process ceased after his death. The neighbors argued that the design was not in character with surrounding houses and attempted to use the deed restrictions in the subdivision governing aesthetic harmony to prevent Julian from building his home. They sued all the way to the North Carolina Supreme Court which ruled the design covenants were personal to Coker and therefore unenforceable.
The area under the deck was soon enclosed to make a living area for the downstairs bedrooms. There is no internal stairway between floors; you had to go outside. The Julians sold to Erik Gustke in 2004. Although structurally sound, some wood beams and walls have rotted from water damage. The bathrooms are small compared to today's standards and desperately need renovation. The kitchen, however, with its 20-foot counter and floating cabinets, still amazes. Gustke had it for sale for a few months in 2008 (see owner brochure pages one, two, three, and four) but decided to pursue renovations built by Runyon Woods.
1954 – The William (Bill) Moore Weber and Marcia Weber Residence, 606 Transylvania Drive, Raleigh. About an acre. Matsumoto designed this in collaboration with Weber who received his degree in architecture from NC State College in the 1940s. Weber was a partner in an architecture firm Holloway, Weber, and Reeves, with John Holloway and Ralph Reeves, and together they successfully ran one of the state’s largest design firms. Weber died in 1963 at the age of 42, Ralph Reeves took over his interest and partnership in their architecture practice, and the firm’s name was shortened to Holloway and Reeves.
The house was featured in the 1954 Architectural Record (b/w photos above). Sold to Paul and Maxine Linney in 1970. Addition in 1975. Sold in 1976 to John and Penelope Sanders. Sold in 1982 to Joanna Johnson. She applied and was approved for making the house a Raleigh Historical Landmark in 2009. Master bedroom addition in 1988 designed by Meg McLaurin. Also on the property are the ruins of the Bloomsbury Park Pavilion, a 20's park destroyed in the 50's (bottom photo).
In 2014, against unanimous denial by the Raleigh Historic Development Commission but approval by the Raleigh City Council, Johnson de-designated her home as a Raleigh Historical Landmark.
1954 - The George W. Poland House, originally located at 3129 Arrow Road, Raleigh, above Crabtree Valley (black and white photo). Over the years, the house became surrounded by commercial buildings and Crabtree Valley Mall. Built by Frank Walser. After his death in 2001, Poland's family donated the house to Preservation North Carolina. PNC put it on the market and imposed a buyer requirement to move the house to a suitable lot.
Buyer Don DeFeo moved it to 23 acres at 502 John Jones Road in Bahama NC in 2002. The move and simultaneous downstairs addition was designed by architect Ellen Cassilly. Frank Walser's son Bern was involved in the move. Was a rental for many years. Sold in 2015 to Mark Osborn.
1954 -The General Electric Demonstration House, designed with Henry Kamphoefner. Unbuilt.
2012 rendering by David Hill from an original site plan showing Lots 18, 19, and half of 20, Ridgewood Addition, Raleigh. That locates to 3437 Churchill Road, which was owned in 1954 by MB and Elsie Mizelle. As shown from the bottom photo, they clearly went in another direction.
1955 - The Thomas and Marian Hicks House, 718 Evergreen Road, Rocky Mount NC. Top photo: The original configuration of the rear facing the Tar River, taken during construction. Next photo: The original configuration of the front, with the garage serving to make the rest of the residence private, taken during construction. Next photo: Daughter Janet Hicks (April 1957) on the outdoor patio platform they called "the coffin." Next photo: Tom Hicks (June 1959) in the kitchen. The features such as press-to-open teak cabinets, black countertops, and pass-throughs from the open-style kitchen to the outside were all revolutionary at the time. Next two smaller photos: The Hicks added a bedroom and bathroom on the side of the house facing the Tar River plus a traditional roof on top of the flat roof which also gave them an attic.
The family stayed until 2003 and then sold to Lewis and Nancy Thorp, still owners as of 2015. The adjacent Tar River flooded and caused considerable damage. The Thorps did repairs, modifying the fireplace and expanding the kitchen. To lighten things up, they painted white over many of the original cherry and mahogany wood. Some of the iconic 50's bathroom features survive in great condition such as a blue tile shower and an alien-looking heat lamp, above.
1957 - The Eric and Jeannette Lipman Residence, 5310 Riverside Drive, Richmond VA. B/W photos from MidCentArc. Color photos by Ryan Tevebaugh. Featured in the book Contemporary Houses Evaluated by Their Owners (1961). Still owned by Lipman as of 2015.
1957 – The F. Wayne Koontz Residence, 817 Runnymede Road, Raleigh. Koontz admired the house his neighbor Matsumoto designed and decided to build one like it himself. Construction by NCSU School of Design students William Ross and John Duncan. Sold in 1957 to George George. sold in 1962 to Ray Pasqualone. Sold in 1965 to EJ (Jimmy) Tyson via Pat Juby. Sold later in 1965 to W. Dean Best. Sold to Don and Betty Adcock. Bedroom addition designed by architect Frank Harmon. Photos by Sam Stephenson.
1958 - The Woman's Day Low-Cost Vacation House, aka the Douglas Fir Plywood Association (DFPA) House. According to Dr. David Hill of NCSU, "between 1958 and 1963 Woman's Day magazine commissioned seven different architects to design summer cabins." Matsumoto's cabin was the first and was sponsored by DFPA.
The top photo is the first version drawn for Woman's Day. They chose his second scheme for publication, bottom photo. Matsumoto was flooded with inquiries as people wanted assistance or customization building his design. As he received no royalties or consulting fees from the Women's Day deal, these inquiries were mostly annoying. Another architect and Homestead Supplies Inc. copied his plan without compensation and called it the Leisure Lodge, even going so far as to build a full-scale build in the LA Arena.
Around 1958 - The J. Gregory Poole Cabin, near what is now Falls Lake, north of Raleigh. This is the Women's Day/Douglas Fir design. The Poole family created a small lake and on the site they built a the published second scheme for $1,500 in materials and a total cost of about $7,000. Received a 1960 Merit Award from the AIANC. Article Page 1, page 2. The Army Corps of Engineers bought the land in the 1970's and the house was destroyed during construction of Falls Lake Reservoir. B/W photos by Joseph Molitor.
In the color photo, on a trip back to the site, Gregory Poole Jr. indicates in the 2010's where the front stairs were.
Late 1950's - The John and Grace Freeman House, aka the Woman's Day Vacation House, somewhere in SC. The clients found George Matsumoto through their parents who lived in Raleigh.Located on 67 acres of land located on the west side of
The land was one of the last large undeveloped plots of land between
Destroyedto make way for a housing development.
Around 1958 - Westinghouse selected regional architects to design several houses around the country:
1958 - Westinghouse Total Electric House, Little Rock AR. Do you know where it is?
1958 - Westinghouse Total Electric House, Atlanta GA. Do you know where it is?
1959 - The Kirkwood Floyd and Sarah Adams Residence, 240 White Avenue, Roanoke Rapids NC. The Adams originally consulted Henry Kamphoefner to recommend an architect and Matsumoto was on that short list. After selecting Matsumoto, the Adams were concerned how a Japanese man would be received in rural post-WWII Roanoke Rapids. Mrs. Adams recalls Matsumoto was "a skilled professional, yet so human. He treated all the people associated with the house with respect and they loved him." Edwin Gil Thurlow was the architect for landscaping which included bringing huge rocks from the Roanoke River. Later the couple added a "teenage room." When Kirkwood Adams, president of the local paper mill, had a stroke in 1982, they added an elevator and ramps. Sold in the early 1990's to Samuel Smith. Sold in 2005 to Rick and Stephanie Gainey. Sold in 2007 to Ryan and Mandy Grizzard. Sold in 2014 to Matthew and Lauren Harris. Bottom photo by Lee Hansley.
1959 - The J. Gregory and Irene Poole Residence, 2745 Lakeview Drive, Raleigh, designed with Milton Small, Jr. Built by Frank Walser. The engineer was Adolphus Mitchell. The landscape architect was E. G. Thurlow. Featured in Architectural Record, March 1960.
The Pooles sold this breathtakingly beautiful three acres property overlooking the lake at Carolina Country Club to Thomas and Molly Castelloe in 1967. At that point, Lewis Clarke redid the landscaping. After their divorce, Castelloe sold it to Thomas Rouse of Texas in 1991. Rouse tore down the house and began construction of a huge new house. At 90% complete, it burned down during a party by trespassing teenagers.
Sold in 1998 to Robert Winston. He hired designer Carter Skinner and built one of Raleigh largest mansions, bottom photo.
As of 2010, son Gregory Poole Jr. did not share his parents' affection for modernist architecture (finding them lacking in warmth) but he described the demolition of the Lakeview house as a "tragedy." He saw the progressive ideas of Matsumoto and the School of Design as very influential and important to the history and development of Raleigh.
1959 - The Tate Residence, Winston-Salem NC. Matsumoto does not recall if this was built. No photo or address. Do you have one?
Around 1960 - Record store owner Kemp Nye ordered the Woman's Day Low-Cost Vacation House plans and built a slightly modified version at 9701 Carrie Road, west of Chapel Hill. A flat-roofed addition to the rear came in the 1980's. Sold in 1993 to Christine Parks. All photos by George Smart.
1960 - 1503 East Northside Drive, Jackson MS. Commissioned 1958. Sold by the original owners around 1967 to Kirk G. Taylor, who doubled it in size about 1970 to 4000 sf. Much of Matsumoto's original plan was eliminated in the addition. Taylor still lived in the house as of 2011.
Around 1960 - The Eugene S. Caldwell House, The Woman's Day Low-Cost Vacation House, aka the Douglas Fir Plywood Association House, aka the Bird House, Forestville CA.
Around 1960 - Another build of the Woman's Day Low-Cost Vacation House, aka the Douglas Fir Plywood Association House, Tacoma WA.
1960 - The Dr. Gwendolyn Sully Hudson Residence, 1905 Woodbine Road, Richmond VA 23225. Situated next to the James River in the Westover Hills area. 1225 sf. Hudson died in 2006 and the house was willed to her neighbor and personal physician John H. Stevens. Dr. Hudson's ashes remain in her treasured house.
1960 - The Clergy Residence, Community Church of Chapel Hill Unitarian Universalist, 106 Purefoy Road, Chapel Hill. Co-designed with NCSU School of Design Professor Cecil Elliott. This house and the original sanctuary was used by church ministers until the early 1980's. It was a group home for a decade and rental property after that. An attractive brick, two-story residential structure with 1,728 gross square feet, it is equally divided between the two floors with four bedrooms and two and one-half baths. The modernist design is "upside down" with the bedrooms on the ground floor and the living room, dining room, and kitchen on the second floor. The second floor has cathedral ceilings on a 300 sf living room with fireplace. The dining room is 146 sq feet opening into the kitchen of 122 sq feet. There is also a half bath and small closet on the second floor. The second story floors are hardwood. The HVAC was replaced in 2004 with gas.
1960 - The Cecile and Bryce Dewitt Residence, 702 Old School Road, Chapel Hill. This was Matsumoto’s largest Triangle area house. The 5-bedroom, 3300 sf ranch on 55 acres was built by Frank Walser for two UNC physicists and their four daughters. Each daughter had her own room with an outside door leading to a play area. After moving away, the Dewitts rented the house to students for 15 years. Sold to David and Marsha Warren who added skylights to illuminate the kitchen and family areas. Sold in 2013 to Elisabeth and Philip Benfey. After considering renovation options, none of which were very practical, they tore down the house. Phil Szostak will design a new Modernist house in its place.
1961 - The Edwin and Polly Thrower Residence, 3219 Forsyth Drive, Greensboro NC. B/W photos by Joseph Molitor. Edwin Gil Thurlow was the landscape architect. Jack Cartwright was the interior designer. Built by Superior Construction Company. After their divorce, the house was sold to John Byerly. Sold again. A pitched roof was added along with extensive remodeling - see color photos. Sold to Mark and Iuliana Phillips.
1961 - The Frank H. and Lillian Norwood Moore Residence, 3705 Camley Avenue, on 1.25 beautiful acres above Crabtree Valley in Raleigh. Sold to Fred and Jane Heaton in 1976. This is a Westinghouse Total Electric Home. Raleigh architect Irv Pearce designed a sizable addition in 1978 including a new rear staircase, family room, and kitchen eating area.
The project involved converting the existing master bedroom to an office, replacing windows, removing built-ins in the children's very small bedrooms, and merging two small upstairs bathrooms to one larger one. He closed in an upper loft area in a downstairs bedroom, incorporated the bedroom's closet into an existing tiny bathroom, and added access to the loft area off the upstairs bathroom creating much-needed storage. The addition also included a lean-to greenhouse and deck off of the rear of the house. Inside, the addition flows smoothly from Matsumoto's original design and increases the home's practicality. Outside, however, it looks like a completely different house (left photo). Starting in 2008, it was empty for a few years. Deed in 2011 to Clay and Alexis Heaton. Photos by George Smart.
1962 - The William A. (Bill) and Jean Poole Watkins Residence, 2749 Lakeview Drive, Raleigh. When the Watkins divorced, the house was sold in 1966 to Joseph and Cynthia Hardison in 1966. Harwell Hamilton Harris designed a garden house addition in 1967. In 1992, Hardison sold to Fred and Georgette Stone. In 2002, the Hardisons sold to John and Catherine McConnell. They destroyed it and built a new mansion, shown in the bottom photo. The lot directly below the golf course island is the 1958 Gregory and Irene Poole Residence. Now look two houses to the right. The Pooles gave this lot to their daughter Jean upon which she and her husband commissioned Matsumoto to design this house.
1962 - Westinghouse Total Electric House, 14816 Iris Avenue, Tampa FL. Sold to Michaelson Construction Company. Sold in 1969 to Vina May Carter. She added son Fred E. Ray Jr. as an owner in 1987. Sold in 2002 to Karenna A. Haughton.
1963 - The Woman's Day Low-Cost Vacation House, aka the Masonite House, somewhere on Cape Cod MA. According to Dr. David Hill of NCSU, "between 1958 and 1963 Woman's Day Magazine commissioned seven different architects to design summer cabins." Matsumoto was the first in 1958. He came back in 1963 with a second design.
1965 - Another build of the Woman's Day Low-Cost Vacation House, aka the Douglas Fir Plywood Association House, 8522 Little Gasparilla Island, Placida FL. Was boarded up when sold in 1990 to Paul and Judy Madsen who did an extensive renovation. Color photos by Troy Campbell and Paul Madsen.
1976 - The Edwin and Elizabeth (Boots) Thrower Residence, 1 Chowan Road, Sedgefield area of Greensboro NC. Sold in 1995 to John K. and Caron Wilson III. Sold in 1996 to Ronald R. and Caryl Silver. Sold in 1999 to Herbert L. and Deborah Mitchell. Sold in 2011 to East Atlantic Properties LLC. Sold in 2012 to Everett Lea Rumley III.
1981 - The Edwin and Elizabeth (Boots) Thrower Residence, 26 East Snapper Point Drive, Key Largo FL. As of 2012, both had died. Status unknown.
Other - The Johnson Houses: These were 1000-1200 square foot houses for Arthur Johnson in Oak Park IL, intended "to be the most house for the least money." They became a purchaseable house plan in Better Homes + Gardens Five Star Homes #2611. The site plan shows seven lots bound by Turner Avenue, Taylor Avenue, and Hill Street -- which no longer appear on Chicago maps (street names must have changed). Gyo Obata stamped the plans because Matsumoto was not registered in Illinois. Obata was Matsumoto's college classmate who would go on to form Helmuth Obata Kassabaum (HOK), a large and influential international firm.
Sources include: George Matsumoto, Devon Tolson, David Hill, Thomas Castelloe, Mary Erazim, David and Marsha Warren, Eric Gustke, Bern Walser, NCSU School of Design, Greg Raschke, Catherine Bishir, Mary Thorp, Sarah Adams, Margaret Adams, Preservation North Carolina, David Hunt, Matt Jones, Dwell Magazine, Janet Hicks Bethune, Matsumoto Archive at NCSU, School of Design: The Kamphoefner Years 1948-1973 by Roger Clark, Cleon Hayes, MidCentArc Photos, Boots Thrower, Architectural Record Houses of 1961, John Stevens, Barbara Koontz Garwood, Gregory Poole, Jr. as told to Bill Mooney, interview with Gregory Poole, Jr., Allen Spalt (Community Church), Christine Parks, DesignWatch by Frank Harmon AIA 2/28/1996.