20TH CENTURY

MODERN RANCH (1955 1975)

The Modern Ranch home made its way to Alaska during the late 1950s and early 1960s. The popularity of the house type waned during the 1970s. The Modern Ranch typified suburban development in the western United States during this period. The roots of the style are grounded in California and embody the ideals of the Prairie style in a vernacular form. The father of the style is Clifford May. He began constructing these rambling homes in the 1930s, dedicating ample lawn space and creating a horizontal orientation. There are numerous modern ranch subtypes (post and beam, chalet, storybook, western, etc.) that warrant further consideration and creation of their own evaluation considerations.

Primary Stylistic Features
  • One story.
  • Low horizontal massing.
  • Low pitched roof.
  • Overhanging boxed eaves.
  • Wide street façade.
  • Asphalt shingles.
  • Attached garage.
  • Hip, side gable, or gable-on-hip roof.
Secondary Stylistic Features
  • L-shaped or U-shaped.
  • Extended massive roof beams.
  • Wide masonry chimney.
  • Weeping mortar.
  • Large metal frame windows.
  • Clerestory.
  • Brick and stone veneers.
  • Recessed front entra.
  • Picture window with flankers.
  • Flower boxes.
  • Eave band windows

Evaluation Considerations

Modern Ranch buildings are located in residential neighborhoods throughout Alaska. In most situations, Modern Ranch buildings will be eligible as contributing features in a historic district. As in all recent past districts, the subdivision should be used as the boundary. Overall, the district and contributing features should retain design, materials, setting, and location. In order to be a contributing feature in a district, the Modern Ranch must be one story with low horizontal massing, embody a majority of the primary features and some secondary features. Small additions or appropriately placed additions do not negate eligibility. Converted garages are acceptable for a Modern Ranch to contribute to a district.

To be individually eligible a Modern Ranch must be one story with low horizontal massing, must exhibit all primary characteristics, and a majority of the secondary features. Individual properties should retain sufficient materials, design, workmanship, association, and feeling to covey significance. Converted garages will render a Modern Ranch not eligible for individual listing. Additionally, individual Modern Ranches must be associated with a prominent architect, builder or developer for listing.


For Further Information

Clouser, Roger A. The Ranch House in America. (Ph.D) Dissertation--University of Kansas. 1984, 1986

Hess, Alan, Ranch House, New York: Henry N. Abrams, 2004.

Lauber, John, "And It Never Needs Painting: The Development of Residential Aluminum Siding," APT Bulletin 31:2-3 (2000), 17-24.

May, Cliff. Western Ranch Houses. Santa Monica: Hennessey & Ingalls, 1958.