HRA BUILDERS AND THE DIFFERENCES AMONG OUR HOMES John Purvis
The Historic Register Committee has asked me to share with you what I know about the three builders and the products they built, over a 10-year span, that we know today as Holmes Run Acres. The purpose of this effort is not to give a history or timeline of the community as much as it is to cover the differences between the community's three builders and some of the modifications to each product that we find today.
A Tract Project On or around early 1950, Luria Brothers Builders and Developers began the “tract” project that became known as Holmes Run Acres. Luria Brothers, who are survived today by either sons or grandsons under the name of Jade Builders, delivered its first Holmes Run Acres products in 1951. They offered the public a unique opportunity to own a contemporary style home modeled after the California Ranch style popularized on the west coat. The interior was hallmarked by the open wood beamed cathedral ceilings and huge expanses of glass found throughout the main or upper floors, along with oak hardwood floors in the two-story models plus an unusual four-foot door leading out from the living room or lower level foyer. In addition, the homes featured gas utilities for heat, hot water and cooking. At that time, dryers and central air conditioners were not found in most tract-built homes. This community was a radical departure from the mainstream architecture found on the east coast. Coupled with a location of what was then considered to be “in the country,” builders had what most then would have considered a real uphill struggle to complete. But the product proved very attractive to buyers, and Luria Brothers were off and running.
Luria Brothers Homes Of the nearly 355 homes that make up the community, approximately half were built by Luria Brothers. They offered two basic models. The first was an 864 square foot slab rambler that was neatly sited on quarter-acre lots. The siting of this model provided for, in most cases, a carport that appeared either as an L-shaped protrusion to the front with a squared-off flat roof, or an angular extension to the side of the home with approximately half of the structure extending forward of the base home. The interior of each of these elevations would have been the same. The floor plan allowed for two bedrooms, one bath, kitchen, living room with huge brick walled fireplace, small dining or entry area plus a partial partition wall that divided a portion of the living room area into a den area or dining area. The wood beam cathedral ceilings and large expanses of glass allowed for a larger feel for living space than the otherwise small square footage actually provided. Over the years, especially during the Baby Boomer era, the partition area was permanently walled into a third bedroom. Since they were first built, the Luria single-story model has grown in size with major modifications and additions including the most popular and economical – enclosing the carport into finished living space.
The second model offered by Luria was a two-level version of the slab model, offering 1728 square feet, also sited on quarter-acre lots. This home appeared as either a rambler with a basement or as a bi-level style from the front. In either case, the home's interior was the same, but the home was positioned on the lot differently. Each home had walk-out ground level at both front and rear. In some cases, the rear had a walk-up-and-out stairway due to the topography. This home featured finished living space on both levels with an interior staircase connecting the two levels. There were two brick fireplaces, one in the living room the other in the lower level family/recreation room. There were five choices to select from for this model. Where the topography allowed and the unit was two stories out of ground facing the street, the buyer could select a version that offered a built-in one car garage on the ground level along with the entrance foyer, family/recreation room, laundry/utility room and a bath, either half or full.
It is my understanding that the original owners had the choice of either a half or full bath on the ground level. I know of at least one unit where no bath was found on the ground level. Whether or not the options were no/half/full baths I am not sure. Today most units boast at least a full bath with a freestanding shower stall for bathing. The upper floor plan for the garage model offered either 3 finished bedrooms, smaller living room, dining area, kitchen and full bath with tub and built-in shower or a version with the same arrangement except with only two bedrooms, thus making the living room larger and the “master” bedroom slightly larger.
If the buyer opted not to get the garage version but had the same two stories out of ground facing the street, then in place of the garage space there was a finished bed room to the front and an unfinished smaller room to the rear accessed from the finished room. Where the topography provided for a rambler model with only one level facing the street, the lower level faced the rear or in some cases to the side yard. In all cases, for the rambler there were the same two choices of floor plans: either the three bedroom or the two bedroom top floor. The lower level space was then the same as the plan with no garage, described above, an additional bedroom and storeroom plus a rear foyer entrance, family/recreation room, no/half/full bath and laundry/utility room. In a few rare instances, the topography allowed for the home to be side to side on the lot, so both levels might face a street, as is the case on corner lots (talk about confusion on front doors!). Also in rare instances, the two-level model had a carport attached, as was found on the slab model.
Over the years, the interior changes to the two-level model include enclosing carports and removing the walls of the third bedroom on the top level, creating a walk-around staircase in the living room and new open space for dining or lounging. I have also seen remodels in which only the walls separating the third bedroom from the “master” were removed, thus creating a larger master. Again, loads of additions and modifications are found in the Luria two-level models, just like in the slab model. The style and construction of Luria's homes begged for expansion.
Luria's building started on Holmes Run Drive and continued through to the intersection of Hartwell Court and Executive Ave. The topography for most of Luria's homes was flat cleared landscape. Today's tree-covered lots represent 56 years of growth to trees planted by the early owners. At one point, in what is now Luria Park, a road connected, or was supposed to have, to what we now call Hartwell Court.
Gaddy Brothers Homes Luria Brothers continued to develop and build Holmes Run Acres until early 1953 when they sold the remaining lots to Gaddy Brothers Builders. The transition occurred on Hartwell Court where Luria's models are found on the lower dead end of Hartwell Court backing to the homes on Executive Ave. Then Gaddy Brothers took over and continued to build Holmes Run Acres. The topography starting at Hartwell Court provided for more hilly terrain and wooded lots. Gaddy decided to continue the same architecture with open wood beamed cathedral ceilings, two brick-walled fireplaces and large expanses of glass, the oversized four-foot door Luria had introduced, and sited the homes on quarter-acre lots.
It is interesting to note that Gaddy Brothers built a “modified” Luria model to finish Hartwell Court to intersect Executive Avenue. Along Hartwell Court, Gaddy took Luria's basic home and simply enlarged one dimension by two feet on both the two-level model and the slab models found on Hartwell Court. The standard Luria size was 24'x36' either on one level or two. Gaddy made the homes on Hartwell Court 26'x36' and only offered the two-level with two bedrooms on the upper or main level and two on the lower level. The slab models, only of which four were built, boasted a larger living room and a third bedroom as the standard model offering.
The two-level models on Hartwell Court had the lower level with a full shower bath as standard and again a slightly larger family/recreation room. Gaddy also continued with the wood beam cathedral ceilings, large expanses of glass, hardwood floors, and gas utilities. With the transition in builders came the introduction of electric cooking at some point as either an early option or near the end as a standard. Also, Gaddy added another carport adaptation, as it now could appear as an extension to the end of the home instead of a protrusion to side or front as were Luria's choices. Once Gaddy finished the homes along Hartwell Court and turned onto Surrey Lane, he began building what I refer to as the “standard” Gaddy.
At this point Gaddy also offered the option of wet plastered walls. I have been told that Gaddy "imported" or brought in some of his "family" or "relatives" from the "old country" or somewhere to work for his company. It is with this infusion of family and craftsmen that Gaddy offered the option of wet plaster walls for a whopping $300 extra charge! This home resembled the Luria two-level home inside and out but with several subtle but key changes. First of all, he again expanded the home's footprint to two feet longer and two feet wider than the original Luria. His homes were now 26'x38' or 1976 square feet on two levels.
He also eliminated the slab model altogether. In the changed footprint, Gaddy's homes allowed for two bedrooms, a living room, a larger separated dining area, kitchen, and full bath with tub and shower on the upper or main level. The lower level had two bedrooms, full tub with shower bath, family/recreation room, outside access to a foyer through the now trademark four-foot door, and a laundry/utility room.
Clothes dryers and central air conditioners began to appear in the final sections of Gaddy's homes. Gaddy also built a "catwalk" deck (approximately 3+ feet wide) off the living room's large windowed section, using the now famous four-foot door for access to the deck from the living room. In addition to architecturally improving the look of the Luria model, it also provided a practical solution to the problem of cleaning those huge living room windows on the outside, a problem Luria model owners had wrestled with since the beginning. The lower level entry was recessed instead of having the flush door found in the Lurias. This allowed for a covered access to the front or in come cases the back door entries to the home. Gaddy's larger footprint also introduced the upper-level entry through the side of the home and into the living room instead of the dining area as the Luria model had provided.
Down the hallway to the upper level bedroom section, there was a louver door one could close to shut off the bedrooms from the living area. In the living room, Gaddy offered some options like a window next to the fireplace, a closet, or a fixed wall. The living room fireplaces in the Luria models had a large closet built into the brick wall. Gaddy eliminated this and instead provided raised hearths in some homes and just a large brick wall in others. Gaddy fireplaces also had wood storage boxes built into the brick wall.
I have seen a few special changes to the standard fireplaces along with some of the other interior features. The most notable changes appeared in several homes that were built and sold to "family." In those homes, the size of the house could have been larger, appliances were upgraded, and wet plaster walls were added. In all there were only a few of these "family" homes.
Bodor Homes By this time, homes had been built up along Surrey Lane and the cul-de-sacs branching out from it before Gaddy had completed his work in Holmes Run Acres and the final builder, André Bodor, began construction.
I am not exactly sure when Bodor began his work, but from what I can find his first deliveries were around 1960, so I am guessing he started sometime in late 1958 or early 1959. The timeframe was approximately ten years from Luria's start to Bodor's finishing Holmes Run Acres. Bodor contributed approximately 17 homes. Gaddy's headcount of homes was close to half of the total in Holmes Run, but I do believe there were more Lurias than Gaddys. Also worth noting here is that all three builders used the same roofing materials – a raised or built-up tar-and-gravel roof surface. Even though there was pitch to the roofline, the profile was still more of a flat roof design than anything else, thus dictating the roofing materials used.
André Bodor built along the same architectural lines as his predecessors, and like his predecessors, he made his footprint larger and upgraded the materials. The style remains similar, but his finished product looks and feels quite different than the other two builders. The use of open wood beam cathedral ceilings, large expanses of glass, hardwood floors and huge brick walled fireplaces are still there, only in larger quantity and maybe more spectacular presentation. After Hartwell Court 's transition homes, Gaddy built only one real model. Bodor managed two models. One was 30'x40' – four feet in each dimension larger than Luria's original footprint and a whopping 2400 square feet on two levels, sort of. What I mean is that in order to raise the ceiling height in the lower level finished living areas of his homes, Bodor had a two-step-up egress from the living/dining/kitchen area of the home to the bedroom section, thus allowing for nine-foot ceilings in the lower level.
Bodor's two/three level floor plan had the same bi-level theme with a lower level entrance facing the street, offering a true larger foyer entrance with slate floors as well as a fourth bedroom, a full ceramic tile shower stall bath and a larger family/recreation room. In addition, nearly one-third of the lower level space was left unfinished and available for storage, something the prior two builders had neglected to offer! The upper level(s) had oak hardwood floors and a separate dining area along with a small eat-in kitchen. The second model offered by Bodor was much smaller and included a living room/dining room combination and a galley kitchen with no eating space. The lower level foyer disappeared and in favor of a smaller unfinished storage/utility room. Still, the upper bedroom section offered three bedrooms, with a fourth bedroom in the lower level.
The real departure from the first two builders was evident not only in size and floor plan variation, but mostly in materials and design innovations. For example, from the hall, the upper-level bathroom looked normal with bath with sink, toilet, and tub with shower. However, sliding open the glass doors on the tub revealed another set of sliding doors which, when opened, led to another sink and toilet area for the master bedroom. Through the entire middle of the home was a floor-to-ceiling exposed brick wall. The section of this brick wall that ran through the aforementioned double bathroom had an exposed glazed treatment on the brick. Bodor also invested in a "boatload" — literally — of Philippine mahogany wood that Bodor used as interior floor-to-ceiling finished walls in many of the rooms and open areas on both levels. Using such things as brass screws to secure this wood and make it more attractive were the kind of enhancements Bodor used to distinguish his homes.
The kitchen offered a rather unusual cooking appliance, as it boasted ultra-modern fold-down cooktops. These electric cook tops were hinged and able to lift up off the counter and store against the wall when not in use, thus providing more usable counter space. Bodor also offered pocket doors to close off the kitchen form the dining room. Bodor's use of glass and space continued inside, with glass panels above kitchen cabinets to the ceiling thus allowing light to filter into the kitchen form the adjacent living spaces. The large expanse of window glass was similar but different than the nearly identical treatment in the Luria and Gaddy's models. Bodor offered the larger carport and adjacent screened porch as standard features to his home. The carport extended from the home's side much the same as Gaddy's, except it was larger and with a higher ceiling. Bodor's touches and changes made his models stand out as "different" from his predecessors.
Loyal Fans Many a Holmes Run Acre resident has transitioned from a smaller Luria to a Gaddy and/or to a much larger Bodor. Each builder has a following, as many residents would not give up what they had for what the other builder's models might offer. What is true throughout the community is a love of the form and style that these three builders delivered and a willingness to start with what they had and make it bigger and better. There have not been as many large expansions as are found in the Gaddy and Bodor houses, but then that, too, is sure to change!