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POLYCHROME HOUSES

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1934, John J. Earley, Basil Taylor, and J. Robie Kennedy. 9900 and 9904 Colesville Rd., and 9919, 9923 and 9925 Sutherland Rd.
  • Polychrome [House] No. 1, east front elevation (Photograph by David C. Berge, HABS)
  • Polychrome [House] No. 1, doorway detail (Photograph by David C. Berge, HABS)
  • Polychrome [House] No. 1, spandrel detail (Photograph by David C. Berge, HABS)
  • Polychrome [House] No. 1, west rear elevation (Photograph by David C. Berge, HABS)
  • Polychrome [House] No. 1 (Drawing by David C. Berge, HABS)
  • Polychrome [House] No. 1 (Drawing by David C. Berge, HABS)

The Polychrome Houses represent an unusually decorative attempt to produce sustainable and affordable prefabricated housing that combines master craftsmen Earley’s artistic colored concrete mosaics with precast slab construction developed in partnership with engineer Basil Taylor. They are among many such experimental demonstration houses built around the nation’s capital in the wake of the Great Depression. Each sought to derive cost savings from increased automation and utilize manufactured building materials to create a better, more innovative housing future. Through the patented “Earley Process” that combined exposed aggregate rock, ceramics, and vitreous enamels in a mix of concrete, Earley was able to create structures possessing innovative construction and artistic appeal. To overcome the stigma associated with prefabrication, Earley changed colors and patterns to achieve individuality. The thinness of the panels and simplicity of their on-site assembly revolutionized the use of concrete within the building industry. The design of “Polychrome [House] No. 1” as the prototype was undertaken in collaboration with architect J. Robie Kennedy Jr., who worked in the Office of the Supervising Architect of the Treasury, with Polychrome No. 2, built next door the following year. Three two-story Polychrome Houses were constructed to the rear along Sutherland Road in 1935–1936, identical in design but varying in color.

References

Perry, Constance Peterson, “Polychrome Historic District,” Silver Spring, Montgomery County, Maryland. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, 1995. National Park Service, Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.

“Polychrome House No. 1,” Silver Spring, Maryland; HABS No. MD-1077. Historic American Buildings Survey, National Park Service, 1990.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Lisa Pfueller Davidson and Catherine C. Lavoie
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Data

Timeline

  • 1934

    Built

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Citation

Lisa Pfueller Davidson and Catherine C. Lavoie, "POLYCHROME HOUSES", [Silver Spring, Maryland], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/MD-01-CR40.

Print Source

Buildings of Maryland, Lisa Pfueller Davidson and Catherine C. Lavoie. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2022, 313-314.

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