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John and Emily Morse House

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1950, John Morse. Not visible from the street.

The John and Emily Morse House of 1950 reflected the frugality with which young families lived at early Hilltop. Morse, who designed eight of the early houses at Hilltop, planned his own house in the shape of a rectangular prism—an inexpensive, simple-to-construct form. Long and thin, the main floor plan was divided into three functional zones: a living room extending east, a central service core with a kitchen positioned back-to-back with a pair of bathrooms, and a nearly square bedroom cluster on the west. The plan enabled the bedrooms to be acoustically insulated from the living room, and for the kitchen and baths to share plumbing stacks, providing cost savings.

Morse used a post-and-beam structural system to provide great flexibility in positioning and sizing windows. Framing the optimal view guided Morse’s choice of lots (he chose #25) and the transparency of the living room’s north and south walls. Seen from the exterior, the house demonstrated the paired joists bolted to a central post consistent with “by-pass” construction—common to many Pacific Northwest modernist houses of the period. Although it was originally a large but minimal plan, later additions changed its frugal character.

Writing Credits

Alan R. Michelson
J. Philip Gruen
Robert R. Franklin



  • 1950

    Design and construction

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Alan R. Michelson, "John and Emily Morse House", [Bellevue, Washington], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

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