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Hamilton Beatty (April 25, 1907 - September 25, 1992) was an American architect who worked for Le Corbusier and Jeanneret. Beatty built his first structure, a house, in the late summer of 1931 in Madison, Wisconsin, in collaboration with his wife Gwendydd.
The diaries Ralph Lorenzo Warner kept during a 1928–1929 trip to Europe show a very sociable man going to the theater and dinner parties and chatting up shopkeepers. The published stories also noted he made multiple trips abroad. During his 1928–1929 trip in London, Warner engaged with two young men. One was Hamilton Beatty of Madison, whom Warner knew was in the English city and eventually discovered at the theater several rows in front of him one night. “Ham,” Warner wrote, “certainly looked good to me and I had the warmest little feeling bout my heart all evening. He did make me feel he was glad to see me.” He subsequently asked the Madisonian to dinner for “a real visit.” On another occasion, he recorded lunch with “Ham.”
Born in 1907, Madison, Wisconsin, the son of Prof. Arthur B. Beatty, Arthur Hamilton McCutcheon Beatty was a graduate of the University of Wisconsin. Studied at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College, University of London. Worked with Le Corbusier in Paris. Practiced architecture with his wife, Gwenydd Beatty, in Madison. He was awarded special prize in the Milwaukee Home Show Small House Competition in 1932.
Beatty and Allen Strang met as undergraduates at UW-Madison in 1925. Strang was studying engineering but transferred to the University of Pennsylvania to study architecture. Beatty followed his father’s wish that he study English. But after graduating in 1928 Beatty enrolled at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London. In 1929 he worked for the modernist architect Le Corbusier who was fashioning his own vision for affordable urban housing. Beatty and his wife, Gwenydd, returned to Madison in the early 1930s; Strang followed a few years later and the two men opened an office on State Street.
Hamilton Beatty and Allen Strang joined forces in 1935, early in their respective careers. Their partnership was relatively short, but productive. Over the next six years they designed some 50 International Style homes in the Madison area; as a result, says Jim Draeger of the Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison is home to one of the highest concentrations of International Style homes anywhere in the country. A large cluster of these homes is found in Monona’s Frost Woods neighborhood near Lake Monona. Those who bike the lake loop have likely whizzed by the structures numerous times. Distinguished by their flat roofs, corner windows and strong lines, several of these cutting-edge domiciles were featured in Architectural Record, a monthly magazine that highlights important design and architecture. One such article, “Four Houses in Frost Woods,” was published in May 1937.
In 1931 Madison's first view of the utility type of architecture was possible for two new homes designed along these modern lines. The homes, owned by Prof. Charles Wright Thomas and Hamilton Beatty (5907 Winnequah Road), were located on the new lake shore scenic boulevard being constructed around lake Monona. Both were on lake shore lots in Frost's woods, at the time Madison's newest residential section. Both residences were designed by Hamilton Beatty. C.W. Thomas, an English professor at UW-Madison, and his wife Edna Shepard, commissioned the first International Style home built in Monona at 5903 Winnequah Road. Beatty, who had not yet teamed up with Strang, designed the home, completed in 1931. The commission was eased through a connection: Beatty’s father, Arthur Beatty, was a colleague of Thomas’ in the English department. The stucco home sits on the shore of Lake Monona; a charming circular patio with iron pipe railing is in the back. “The front door is the backside when you are lake property,” says Draeger. An addition was put in over the garage to accommodate the growing Thomas family. The original built-in bookcases in the living room remain, as does the fireplace.
The houses on Lake Monona were totally devoid of any decoration, being square and almost box-like in appearance. Shaded white, they formed a sharp contrast to the wooded shore line. Certainly all tradition had been cast aside in their construction. In discussing the new architecture, Beatty pointed out that the new school totally eliminated waste room and utilized every inch of space. "When a house is built along ordinary lines, the exterior is first considered and the utilization of the interior must needs conform as best it can. Accordingly there is considerable waste room. In the new architecture the Interior is first planned, then the exterior must conform. As a result the new designing allows for no waste room". The new school of architecture had an acute housing problem world war. The devastated area had an ascute housing problem that had to be met immediately. Economy in construction methods was necessary. And so the new type of home was developed. It utilized the most modern of building construction methods and allowed the most "home" for the money, according to Beatty. "We are more concerned with mass and color than we are with traditional detail. For instance in these new homes in Frost's woods, we believe the shadows and reflections of the trees on the outside walls furnish us with interesting detail, far more beautiful than we can furnish in man made details," he stated. "We attempt to bring the modern developments of constructions into home building. Just as the motor car manufacturer had discarded old carriage ideas to allow for the latest mechanical improvements." A great share of the furniture was built right into the house, everything except chairs, beds and tables. And even the latter pieces were built into Beatty's home. For the most part it was of the steel tubing variety, most modern in design. A complete ventilating system was installed that insured good heating in the winter and a practical cooling system in the summer. The building themselves were built of slag blocks, covered with cement waterproof paint. The windows were glazed with luster glass to allow the penetration of the sunshine vitamins. The windows covered over 30 percent of the floor area.
The Edward and Irene Thomas House at 809 Owen Road, named after its first owner, Edward Thomas (no relation to C.W. or Edna), a manager for the University Club, was built in 1935. It’s a one-story home featuring a creamy brick exterior and flat roof, as well as corner windows and two decorative cornice bands. This was one of the smallest of the homes built by Beatty and Strang.
The Paul Fulcher House at 6008 Winnequah was built in 1935, and named for its first owner, who, like C.W. Thomas, was a professor in the UW-Madison English department. When featured in the March 1937 issue of Architectural Record, the magazine noted the home’s brick exterior, “Fenestra steel casement” windows, and built-in features including a buffet and bookcases in the living room and “filing cases” in the study. At about 2,500 square feet, it’s one of the larger of the original International Style homes. The attached garage, a novelty at the time, is typical of the style.
Jim Draeger House is at 6106 Winnequah Road (historical name: Marsha Heath House). Draeger is a member of the Wisconsin Historical Society. Set back from the street, the home, which was built in 1936, sits majestically among tall trees, green grass and bushes. The brown wood siding was meant to blend into the woods, says Draeger. But the architects also aimed for a “conscious juxtaposition” of rustic materials — including wood and stone — and severe design. “A machine-in-the-woods aesthetic,” says Draeger. “They were going for the contrast. The houses were meant to jump out of landscapes.”
In 1933 Hamilton and Gwenydd Beatty exhibited at the Young Architects in the Middlewest at the Museum of Modern Art, New York city. They displayed a model of a satellite community in which the hazards of traffic would be eliminated. Planned for a plot of 50 acres the model community would house 1,500 persons in 12 apartment houses of 24 homes each. All of the buildings in the plan embodied the latest architectual developments emphasizing an abundance of windows. They would face a central street, entered through a nine-story commercial building which would house the community's stores and municipal offices. At the opposite end of the thoroughfare the school, theater and gymnasium would be situated. Pedestrians would not have to cross highways or roads at any time nor would the highways be marked by cross walks in this plan. "This plan does not attempt to create an ideal community, but merely to organize a community to a practical neaithy unit," Hamilton Beatty explained. It would be situated in the so acres centered in a 150 acre wooded plot so that other communites could not encroach. Philip Johnson, director of th exhibition and chairman of the department of architecture at the Museum of Modern Art, said of the exhibit. "The work of the men represented in this exhibition is a worthy continuation of the exhibition of the pioneers of modern arcnitecture held at the. musuem last year and serves as a further proof of the value and vitality of tne international style."
Beatty and Strang disbanded by the U.S. entry into World War II in 1941, when Beatty went to Detroit to work in factory design for the Austin Company. He was transferred to the Cleveland district staff in 1942 and was named manager of sales development in 1958, and vice president in 1959. Strang worked for the Federal Housing Authority in Chicago before returning to Madison to establish the Weiler and Strang firm with architect Joe Weiler. Weiler and Strang, now known as Strang, Inc., designed churches, schools, and offices in the postwar period, and grew to specialize in mechanical buildings such as hospitals. Strang served on the Plan Commission in Madison and helped found the architectural school at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.
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