Between 1956 and 1971, Avriel Christie Shull created a subdivision of mid-century modernist houses on a family farm of wooden land in what was then a small town of Carmel. Called Thornhurst, the neighborhood is representative of Shull’s work as one of Indiana’s most significant residential designers. The house at 704 West Main, built in 1957, is an excellent example of her work.
Surrounded by a neighborhood full of simple, ranch-style houses, Shull’s twenty-one Thornhurst residences feature the post-and-beam construction popularized by the contemporary builders, such as Joseph Eichler in California, which allowed for huge window expanses between the posts. At 704 West Main, a long shed roof with just a hint of gable at the far eastern end features a deep eave that is supported by a single post at the corner of the porch and the long beam that extends from it. Fenestration includes clerestory windows on the protruding wing and a pair of floor-to-ceiling, fixed-sash windows on the facade beside the entry door. There is also a fixed-sash window that is perpendicular to the entry door. On most of the Thornhurst houses, the main facades feature window walls as well as expanses of glass at the rear in the form of aluminum-framed, sliding glass doors that open onto backyard or side patios. A primary visual link between all the residences is their low profile and the low impact on the landscape.
The brick house at 704 West Main has a wide chimney that pierces the roof close to its western edge. The original blueprints show two open skylights in the porch canopy. A tree was originally planted to grow through the westernmost open skylight, a device used by Frank Lloyd Wright, whose work clearly influenced Shull. The interior of this house, and the others in the district, features an open plan, double-sided fireplace, numerous built-in storage elements, and a finished basement. The surrounding yard’s tall trees are part of the original landscape along Main Street.
This house was modified over time: the porch roof was shingled over, hiding the skylights, and the original entry and garage doors were replaced. However, in a recent restoration, the two porch skylights were uncovered and restored and the garage and entry doors were replaced with new versions featuring simple mid-century styling.
In her short life, the self-trained Shull designed more than 85 residences in the state, as well as several other residences and public buildings elsewhere in the country. By the 1970s, national trade journals and magazines sold her home design patterns to people across the United States and Canada. The use of her first name, Avriel, for her business meant that both designer and firm became synonymous with modern design in Indiana.
Avriel Shull Collection, Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis, Indiana.
Zeigler, Connie. “Avriel Shull: A Life lived Furiously.” Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History, Fall 2012.
Zeigler, Connie, “Thornhurst Addition,” Hamilton County, Indiana. National Register of Historic Places Inventory–Nomination Form, 2010. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.