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A Dream House

By Harry Glickman, with Jeannette Glickman, October 1998.

1962. We were back on Madrona Drive after the high of building a 'Ralph Anderson' house and the low of the nightmare that followed. There seems to be a natural desire among us humans to build houses to live in. But why the extraordinary effort to have that shelter a work of art? We were caught up in this phenomenon when we decided to upgrade from the house we had built as newlyweds in 1941. Most of our friends lived in the North End, where we were involved with Temple Beth Am and it seemed appropriate to make a change.

Anderson, a recent graduate from the University of Washington School of Architecture was doing extraordinary things in house design. Using lots of cedar, which was inexpensive at the time, his houses had a Japanese flare. We liked the rustic feel, informality, and beauty of detail in his houses. Only five or six had been built, but his reputation was rising fast. Jen found a wooded lot at the end of a street, unbuildable at first glance. The street ended because of a ravine. Ralph Anderson was delighted with the site and actually excited about designing a house for this wooded area. This pleased me as I had just sold my interest in the pickle works and was bored with my retirement. My hobby was cabinet making and I was excited to try this job. An excellent carpenter took the contract to build the shell, foundation, walls and roof; a couple of Danish immigrants fabricated the mill work—doors, windows, moldings, etc. on the site. I was busy that year building stairs, kitchen and cabinets, as well as a deck with railing that almost completely surrounded the house.

We felt from the start that we were creating something special, and when architecture students from the university showed up to photograph, starting with the details on the footings, we felt vindicated in our feelings. With the architect watching every move, I had to be sure that the slots, in hundreds of round headed solid brass screws used in the mahogany stairs, were lined up parallel to the stair tread. The light fixtures were designed by Ralph, who found brass push plates from discarded railroad station doors and had melted brass puddled on them; my job was to actually build the light fixture. A fantastic year; the house was built and we moved in. As expected, our cedar and glass creation was a huge sculpture that looked as if it had grown there among the giant trees looming above. With the dark cedar walls and the vertical frames on the narrow windows, we had the Oriental look that Ralph Anderson was noted for and which seemed appropriate for the Pacific Northwest.

With only two doors and a couple of walls enclosing the bedroom and bath on the 2000 square foot main floor, the large open areas with the exposed beams in lieu of the ceiling gave us an ideal setting for the house-warming party. Ample room for the hundred and more friends who had watched the evolvement of this masterpiece. The party was over.

Within a month we realized that we could not live permanently in this beautiful lodge-type structure. The forest setting caused too much shade not needed in Seattle. The living area was much too large; the ceilings consisted of rafters with the cedar planking following the contours of the roof; the large open stairway from the lower level, where bedrooms for the children were located, ended up in the entry. With the dining area, kitchen, and huge recreation space all open, no walls, we just did not feel like we were in a house. We had had a great experience, but all of our assets were invested in cedar. In just over a year we decided to sell. We needed an extraordinary buyer; he showed up just in time, as I will explain.

The University was looking for a new director for the drama department to stimulate the school. They found such a person in Gregory Falls, who upon arriving Seattle needed housing for his family. Ours wasn't a Frank Lloyd Wright, but to find a Ralph Anderson available seemed to make him just as happy. We had sixty days to vacate.

As mentioned the sale took place 'just in time'. We had sold our first dream house, designed by Jen just out of Home Economics School, to a sailing bachelor friend. Bob Brown was about to get married, and no way would his bride, the daughter of one of Seattle's wealthy families, live on Madrona Drive. We could have our house back, but it would be fair if we paid the $220 for the solid walnut lumber that he used to build the bookcases and cabinets on the fireplace wall. We could assume the new mortgage that he had recently obtained. We gave him the couple of bills and launched into real estate investment with the bundle from Gregory Falls.

hg with jen, Oct. 98

Note: In the sale to Falls, a stipulation by the buyer was that the light fixtures that I had built remain with the house!

Note: It was 35 years later when we built The Masterpiece for Debby and Ron on our farm in Avichail. A highlight in our life experience.

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