RETRO ‘50s, ‘60s

Homes: A salute to the classics

June 24, 2012 

  • Mad Men and more In the 1950s, builders inspired by the work of modern architects built new suburbs around Columbia. These days, those rambling, Ranch-style houses — along with 1950s housewares and even fashion — have gained new admirers. For some of the coolest 1950s and ‘60s homes, cruise down Trenholm Road. Drive around Forest Acres and Lake Katharine. A little farther from the core of the city, homes throughout St. Andrews, in Richland County, and Saluda Terrace, in West Columbia, represent the fashionable Ranch-style era well. For a trip down memory lane in home furnishings, toddle over to the Atomic Owl, 505 12th St., West Columbia. Since February, it has been offering real-deal ‘50s collectibles, lamps and small furniture. “I’d say our biggest base of clientele are people who really don’t remember the era,” owner Nelson Dowdey said. “The older crowd that comes in are the ones who say, ‘Hey! We threw this stuff away!’” For those hooked on TV’s Mad Men, it would be easy to imagine advertising executive Don Draper stepping outside the building at Gervais and Barnwell streets for a cigarette break. The purely modern office building at 1800 Gervais St. was built by the Columbia architectural firm of Lyles, Bissett, Carlisle & Wolff for its own use. It was later occupied by the S.C. Arts Commission, which just moved out. The new tenant is the University of South Carolina, which will be using it for its psychology department.
  • More information Dawn Hinshaw

Architect Maynard Pearlstine may have designed 30 houses in Columbia during his career.

By now, many have been renovated.

But a celebrated house on Wyndham Road — unlike many modern buildings from the 1950s and ‘60s — has remained virtually unchanged.

Walk up the wide flagstone steps and enter the living room, where sliding glass doors flood the room in sunlight. In the dining room, the original light fixtures dangle over the table in turquoise, yellow and orange.

It’s like returning to 1957.

That year, Pearlstine’s peers recognized the house on Wyndham Road as one of South Carolina’s best.

Today, the house is for sale.

“I was mostly trying to do — not traditional architecture, but contemporary architecture,” he said, “taking in mind the light and orientation and views.”

Having retired to his native Charleston, Pearlstine remembers the house having a nice, high ceiling to emphasize the comfortable family living space.

“I like a sense of light and brightness and spaciousness, also in entrances,” he said. “Instead of having a three-foot walkway, I tried to have wide and welcoming entrances.”

In the modern home, assymetrical rooms flow into one another.

Wide eaves shade the summer sun and let in the winter sun.

Signs of the latest technology are on display. Here, that means large, dial dimmer switches and an intercom system, a sunburst clock on the brick fireplace and built-in television speakers.

Pearlstine-designed houses are concentrated in Heathwood and Lake Katharine. During a 40-year career, he designed buildings for the University of South Carolina, private office buildings, shopping centers and highrise apartment buildings in Columbia, too.

He’s aware of changes that, in many cases, have destroyed the essence of his original work.

“I guess it’s not old enough to be saved by the preservationists,” he said. “It’s in the middle ground.”

Pearlstine, 89, is working on his memoirs now and painting.

Dawn Hinshaw writes about people, historic preservation and county government for The State.

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