In 1968, Polly and I left the four kids back east with their grandma, and came out to Oregon to look for housing. We spent several days, looked at a variety of homes, and decided that none of them was for us. Since we had to return the next day, we were quite depressed. I called the man who had invited me out here and who was to be my boss, and he invited us out to his house in Oak Hills for a drink. When we walked into his place, we liked what we saw-it was on a single floor-it was open, bright, had a small garden (we didn’t know it was called an atrium) in the middle, and somehow or other brought the outside into the the interior. To us, it epitomized Western and contemporary style. After a couple of drinks over which we moaned and groaned about our having been unable to find what we wanted, he said, “What do you want?”, and we said “Something like this”. He stopped for a moment, called his builder, and told him to come out to meet us and have a drink. That’s how we met Bob Rummer.
To make a long story short, we told Bob what we liked, and made an appointment to meet the next morning around the corner from his house in an area called Garden Home where he had some available lots. Although at that time the street was pretty bare, with a lot of open space, Garden Home eventually would contain 62 Rummer Homes, making it the largest concentration in the area. We looked at a house under construction, got some ideas, made some changes, picked out a lot which had an 8 acre meadow next door, and went to his office where he said “sit down for awhile, while I play with some plans to work in your changes”. He came out about a half hour later, and we liked what we saw. We had lunch over which he handed us a long list of options; rug colors and type, floors, wall and ceiling colors and materials, outside, inside, up, down-by the time we were done with lunch we were dizzy. But, we made the choices, and we made our plane that afternoon.
The house was to be an indoor-outdoor one story open plan with post and beam construction, flat roofs, and shallow gables. Simple geometric lines translate into relatively simple construction needs, and the “signature” of the house was an open air central atrium. The concept of bringing the outdoors inside was accomplished with lavish use of glass and sliding doors. Additionally, in-floor radiant heat systems, open ceiling beams and sunken tubs are distinctive design details. Incidentally, Polly later only made one change to those options, that being changing the color of the then popular shag rug from white to a shade that would be more forgiving to kids and dirt. So, in the space of half a day, we arranged for a lot, a house, and a future. We haven’t been sorry since.
Someone asked me what I liked about Rummer homes. I like the openness, and the way the outside and the light enters the house, especially on gloomy days. If you’re a cat, you love the radiant heat in the floor. I like having lots of green things inside the house, growing in the atrium. That same someone asked me what I didn’t like about the house. There are some drawbacks. There is no attic, there is no basement, and storage space is hard to come by. The same copper piped radiant heat in the floor can be a problem, for it may eventually develop a leak. Over 40 years, this has happened to us three times. Each time it first requires a visit from the sonar man to locate the leak, and then a visit from the jackhammer guy to get to the leak. As you can guess, this is not high on our list of how to spend an afternoon. It’s amazing how large a hole has to be on the surface in order to allow working room on a tiny pinhole leak about 8-10 inches below the surface!.
We’ve made some changes over the years, aside from the usual cosmetic additions and maintenance things that people do over a 42 year period. We moved a wall separating the living room, enlarging an adjacent room. We replaced the six outside single pane sliding glass doors and all of the outside windows with double-glazed glass. Remember, in those days, energy was cheap. We even added another sliding door to one of the bedrooms. We used some of that single-paned glass to reroof the atrium, replacing that miserable ripply plastic stuff that was in vogue when the house was built. We installed a bay window in the kitchen, and relocated the refrigerator and hanging cabinets that seemed to separate the kitchen galley area from the rest of the house. We bricked over a corner of the adjacent room and installed a wood stove-great for those chilly nights.
One of the unanticipated advantages of the house has been that it works well for handicap use. Polly spends a lot of time in her wheelchair, and the plusses of having a single-story house are phenomenal. Support rails, ramps and other amenities can be added to almost any house, but open areas for wheelchair maneuvering are a major advantage. Over the years,many changes. And yet, on balance, it has been and continues to be a great house.
Shortly after the Second World War, a developer by the name of Joe Eichler began building homes in the San Francisco area. Motivated not only by a desire to make money but also to develop relatively inexpensive homes for returning veterans, his designs were influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright house, and were considered revolutionary at the time.
By the time he finished in 1974, he had built nearly 11,000 of them, mostly in the Palo Alto and Walnut Creek areas of central California. They have remained popular throughout the years as examples of Western and contemporary indoor-outdoor living, picking up awards along the way from Sunset Magazine, Arts and Architecture, and Better Homes and Gardens.
In the mid 50’s, Bob and Phyllis Rummer had settled in to their newly built, and to-be retirement home in the Newberg area. His insurance business was doing well, and the future looked good. Phyllis had visited her sister in Walnut Creek, and had seen an Eichler home there during an open house. She was very impressed and mentioned it to Bob when she returned. When she later saw that house in a magazine, she showed it to Bob, who was similarly impressed. So much so that he left the insurance business, recognizing a need for such houses in the Portland area, and, in 1960, started drawing up his own plans. He wound up fifteen years later having built about 750 homes in the Beaverton, Oak Hills, Lake Oswego, Clackamas, Sunnyside and several other nearby areas.
By Paul and Polly Herman
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