Hundreds Tour N.C.'s Modern Houses

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Robert "Judge" Carr's 1955 Dillard Teer House is one of the hundreds of modern houses in North Carolina's Triangle Area.

Credit: Triangle Modernist Houses

Spring is the season for home tours, and last weekend more than 250 North Carolinians hopped a bus to glimpse not Victorian, Tudors, or Colonials but three modern houses.

George Smart, a leadership development consultant who launched a Web site called Triangle Modernist Houses earlier this year, organized the tour. Smart's site has catalogued more than 400 modern houses in North Carolina's Research Triangle area. Many of those are for sale and could be torn down for new construction.

"They're all endangered," says George Smart, whose father was an architect. "Land values have gone up. Most owners are unaware of the opportunities that are available to them."

Smart points to the loss of a dramatic 1954 house designed by Argentinean architect Eduardo Catalano. Although Preservation North Carolina tried to find a buyer for the house, whose swooping roof had disintegrated, a developer razed it in 2001 for several new mansions. (Today Preservation North Carolina is seeking a buyer for one of the state's most celebrated moderns, the Paschal House, priced at for $5.7 million.)

Aside from New Canaan, Conn., North Carolina's Triangle has one of the largest concentration of modern houses on the East Coast, thanks to a college that opened in 1948.

"You can't underestimate the importance of the North Carolina State College of Design. That's the reason we have so many of these modern houses," Smart says. The Raleigh-based college celebrates its 60th anniversary this year; its professors have built hundreds of houses in the area.

On the May 17 tour, guests strolled through two midcentury modern houses designed by Brian Shawcroft and Robert "Judge" Carr; the third house was completed this year by Durham architect Bill Waddell of Distinctive Architecture, who uses sustainable materials to build modern-looking houses. 

"The more that people are exposed to a variety of architectural styles, the more they find a style that speaks to them," Wadell says. "For me, it was the modern style."

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