Starkey House, 2620 Greysolon Road East, Duluth, Minnesota

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Starkey House

Address: 2620 Greysolon Road E
Neighborhood/s: Endion, Duluth, Minnesota
Duluth, Minnesota
St. Louis County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Country: United States
Year built: 2620
Primary Style: Modern
Historic Function: House/single dwelling or duplex
Current Function: House/single dwelling or duplex
Architect or source of design: Marcel Breuer

Endion Duluth St. Louis County

Architect's Description

The Architect, Marcel Breuer insists that one or two houses be on the drafting table at all times. Says he: "A house presents so many problems that the man who can design one successfully can build anything." A prime example of such a house in the over-$100,000 class is the Starkey house in Duluth, Minn., completed less than a year ago, which not only provides specific solutions to the client's living pattern and selected site, but incorporates so many of Breuer's trademarks (e.g., sliding glass panels, bold use of color) that it has become a showpiece of the best in modern design. When young, recently widowed June Halverson Alworth (now Mrs. Robert J. Starkey) first walked into Marcel Breuer's office more than two years ago, she knew only that she wanted a house large enough for herself and her three children that would make the best possible use of her rocky hillside site with its sweeping view of Lake Superior. The site problems were made to order for Breuer, who feels the hillside house can ideally combine both the snug, down-to-earth feeling, where the building is anchored to the upper slope, with a soaring, cantilevered view out over the landscape. Because his client planned to do her own cooking and housework, liked to entertain frequently, he laid out the house area in well-defined zones, separating the sleeping and children's quarters from the living and dining rooms, paid particular attention to timesaving housekeeping details, e.g., a handy pass-through between kitchen and dining room. In the construction Breuer suspended the living areas from two massive, laminated double beams placed above the roof to give an uncluttered expanse of ceiling stretching from wall to wall. Then, to emphasize the airy, floating effect, he left space between the box structure and retaining wall, connected house to ground with gangways. The main supporting columns reinforce the theme by stopping just short of the ground, where the weight is transferred to iron rods (which also protect the wood from termites). Says Breuer: "Where there's structure, it is always nice to express it." For color, Breuer followed his own favorite recipe, leaving the rich contrasting texture of fieldstone and natural woods exposed wherever possible. "Where you can have white, why use anything else?" is a favorite Breuer adage. For contrast and added visual impact, Breuer used outside sliding panels of cadmium yellow and vermilion red, white and grey as sun shades, silk panels of cobalt blue inside. Though the Starkeys have lived in their new house less than a year, they have nothing but cheers for the result. June Starkey finds that she can manage her one-level home with only a twice-weekly cleaning woman and a college girl live-in helper. Features she likes best:

The zoned living space provided by Breuer's "binuclear" plan, which separates living from soundproofed bedroom and children's area; The separate, skylighted playroom, with built-in storage wall, direct access to the upper terrace; the stone-paved dividing hallway, ideal for children's muddy shoes. The curtained, full-length wall windows which are protected in summer by Breuer's sunshade of solar glass and sun slats; The sliding-panel windows opening on the porch—"You just slide the windows open and put everything onto a table." The main fireplace, which acts as a room divider between living room and dining room, houses a charcoal broiler. The long, narrow kitchen ("You don't have to run all over") and teakwood counters that double as cutting boards. The undercover, flagstone patio with its open fireplace—"We can have a barbecue even in the rain." Low, easy-to-use furniture (most of it designed by Breuer or Knoll Associates) and the contrasting textures of rush matting, raw silk, teak, and a specially woven Moroccan rug.

Duluth's reaction is still one of intrigued skepticism, as even June Starkey admits. "People will stop and stare," she says. "But once inside, they say, 'Well, it is nice looking.' They seem surprised. As a matter of fact, I think they are glad we did it. They wouldn't themselves, but they get a kick out of seeing ours."

Time Magazine, 1956

Starkey House, 2620 Greysolon Road East, Duluth, Minnesota
(46.810577,-92.063383warning.png"46.810577.-92.063383" is not a number. )


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