Open Plans

Clarence and Dottie building their Don Hershey designed house in 1947
Clarence and Dottie building their Don Hershey designed house in 1947

Clarence Maier, who died last year at 100, gave us a few photos of our house being built. It was in the late forties and he did most of the work himself, cutting down oak trees on our lot and having them milled and kiln-dried for the pegged floors. His wife Dottie not only helped, as you can see above, but she also suggested that architect, Don Hershey, put a vaulted ceiling in living room because she had seen some pictures of one in a magazine. According to an article on the Don Hershey website Don always insisted on talking with both husband and wife. “Women usually have the best ideas,” he said. “I always said, let me design this house for both of you. After all, the woman is the commander of the house.”

Legend has it Don would show up on your site and start sketching. House should sit here and face that way with a big window here etc. Historic Brighton, a local history club, is featuring Hershey tomorrow in their “Masters of Mid-Century Design” presentation. We plan to be there along with other fellow Don Hershey owners. In fact we met with a couple today who just bought one off Panarama Trail in Penfield. Their’s was built in the mid sixties and they have furnished it accordingly with turquoise and cork and Saarinen tulip chairs and Trent Reznor’s keyboard stand from NIN. Their design sense makes ours look absolutely spartan but the Hershey characteristics dominate. Open plans, sunken living room, angular bump outs, corner windows, big ass overhangs and problematically flat roofs for this climate.

Jeffrey Owen Jones, a film professor at the Rochester Institute Of Technology, who was “Mr. Jones” in Dylan’s “Ballad of a Thin Man” lived in a Don Hershey until died a few years back.

The craziest thing is the fold out carpenter’s ruler shown in Clarence’s back right pocket. That is exactly where I’ve been carrying a similar ruler for the last six months or or so. He and his wife are shown constructing our bedroom. And the commander of our house has been right by my side.


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