Purcell-Cutts House, 2328 Lake Place, Minneapolis, Minnesota

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Purcell- Cutts House

Front View of Purcell- Cutts House
Interior Photo
Address: 2328 Lake Place
City/locality-
State/province
Minneapolis, Minnesota, Minnesota
County-
State/province:
Hennepin County, Minnesota County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Country: United States
Year built: 1913
Primary Style: Prairie School
Additions: Independent garage added when Cutts family moved into home
Historic Function: House/single dwelling or duplex
Current Function: Museum
Architect or source of design: William Gray Purcell and George Grant Elmslie
First Owner: William and Edna Purcell
Notes: In 1885, the house was given to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The Museum is still currently the owner and tours of the home are offered one weekend a month.

Minneapolis, Minnesota Hennepin County, Minnesota

Purcell-Cutts House, 2328 Lake Place, Minneapolis, Minnesota
(44.959244° N, 93.300857° WLatitude: 44°57′33.278″N
Longitude: 93°18′3.085″W
)
National Register of Historic Places Information
Reference URL: [Reference]
Certification date: October 29, 1974
Level of significance: State
Primary Style: Prairie School


The Purcell-Cutts House

The Purcell- Cutts House is located at 2328 Lake Place in Minneapolis along the city’s chain of Lakes. The residence was built in 1913, by architects William Gray Purcell and George Grant Elmslie for Purcell, his wife Edna and their children. Originally named the Edna S. Purcell house; now, known as the Purcell-Cutts house, attributed to the first and second owners of the home.

The Purcell- Cutts house is an excellent example of a Prairie Style home. The style follows Louis Sullivan’s ideas that building design should “reflect the structure's place and time in history, as well as be compatible to its site and natural surroundings.” Other ideas of Sullivan and his followers were a careful attention to terrain and to ecological consequences, intelligent application of technological advances and honesty in building form and materials. Both Purcell and Elmslie worked with Sullivan in Chicago so were well aware of his architectural ideas. Sullivan also felt that buildings should be unified throughout by a consistent system of ornament. The unification of ornament is achieved in the Purcell-Cutts house by the use of progressive design elements such as the open plan, nearly flat roof, earthen colors, stencil decorations and banks of art glass windows. Purcell also worked to foster respectful relations between well educated architects and well educated patrons which he felt was necessary in the creation of good architecture

William Purcell wanted to move away from the revival style houses that reflected a different architectural age but were popular at the time. As Roger Kennedy writes in Progressive Design in the Midwest, “Purcell wanted each age to express itself in what he called “the creatively electric, the wonderfully personal- and – all containing Now, for doing things.” He felt that each age should have its own unique style that characterizes that time. Purcell did not want the Prairie Style that he followed to be copied or revived any more than other architectural styles. These revival homes that Purcell disliked were made up of box shaped rooms that determined how people lived in their homes day after day all year long. He designed his home in order to move away from the restrictive layouts of these revival homes. He writes in his Own House Notes that, “Houses should not be clamps to force us to the same things three hundred and sixty-five days in the year; they should not be ordering us about regardless of breeze and sunset, but they should be backgrounds for expressing ourselves in three hundred and sixty-five different ways if we are natural enough to do so.” Purcell also wanted to be able to connect to the natural surrounding outside the home as well as the changing weather.

Through their design Purcell and Elmslie brought nature right up to the house and took advantage of the site in all directions. The house was set back to allow for more privacy between neighboring houses. This move provided a view to the neighbors’ gardens instead of their living rooms. Purcell also made sure that much of the furniture in the house was moveable to allow for many different uses. Again Purcell writes, “The customary Dining Place in this house, still within and a part of the family room, is eight steps above the Living Room, excepting only that in summer the Dining Table spends practically all its working hours out on the porch. In this connection another detail might be mentioned. The rooms are noticeably free from an overcrowding of furniture and its practical absence is taken account of by a group of very dainty folding chairs, stained blue, red, green, yellow, violet and orange. The coming into the room of these chairs as they are needed brings a festive character to the room and any occasion.” Through furniture Purcell also worked towards unification in his home design, especially the built- in window seat, writing-nook desk, and bookcases, as well as pieces of loose furniture that incorporated the angularity of the home.

The Purcell-Cutts house is important in terms of Minnesota’s modern heritage because of its use of the open plan; without individualized rooms that dictated how they were used. Purcell summed up this change in attitude by saying that, "What we needed to do was to lose not so much the parlor as the parlor idea of life." In his house Purcell choose to have the living room and dining room flow together with stairs making the transition between the two levels with the ceiling uniting the space. The space was truly a multi purpose space. The open plan also allowed Purcell to utilize natural light. This new attitude was a major shift in the way that people lived.

The stencil decorations that can be found throughout the house were designed by George Elmslie. The designs were organic in nature and were a part of the “system of ornamentation” that unified the house. Elmslie’s organic designs can also be seen on the windows through out the house. The organic nature of the ornamental designs in the house go back to the love of nature and its affect on Purcell’s design philosophies. Also important to the decorative scheme in the house was the design of furniture, and manmade lights. The light globes were an especially modern addition. The house also features artistic works by other modern artisans of the time, including John S. Bradstreet, who made the current dining room furniture, and Richard Brock, who made the sculpture overlooking the living room from the dining room.

The Purcell-Cutts house also incorporated all the modern and new technologies of the time, especially in the kitchen. This room had ample room for work and storage as well as a gas stove, icebox, and electric call system for the maid. The utilization of new technologies is especially significant in the Purcell- Cutts house because at the time of its building in 1913, Minnesota was going through a time of change. The State was moving from dirt roads and horse-drawn carriages to electric streetcars and automobiles and from vast farms to residential neighborhoods. The house represents the new modern way that people lived in 1913. There are also a number of new creative furniture designs and use of space that make the Purcell-Cutts house a truly modern home. One example is in the upstairs bedroom with the built- in drawers under the bed.


After three short years in the house in 1919, Mr. Purcell sold his Prairie style home and moved his family to Philadelphia. The new owners of the house were Mr. Anson Cutts and his wife, Edna. This family actually lived in the home far longer than the Purcells did, 66 years versus 6. Fortunately the Cutts family realized that the home was architecturally important and therefore made no significant alterations were made to the house. The one change that they did make was to add a free standing garage next to the house.

In 1985, Anson Cutts Jr. son of Anson and Edna Cutts, bequeathed the house to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The museum then went ahead with a three year restoration project on the structure before the house was opened to the public in 1990. The architectural firm involved in restoration work was MacDonald and Mack Architects. Services provided by the firm include Historical Research, conditions assessment, complete architectural services for roof finishes and landscape, restoration and client representative for HPC review. Currently, the Purcell –Cutts house is open for tours on the second weekend of the month. A small fee is asked for a tour. Also, the Purcell-Cutts House is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Purcell-Cutts house is an important part of Minnesota’s modern heritage because it is an excellent example of a Prairie Style home, a style that is notable in the Midwest. Not only does the house represent the architectural style in Form but through its design philosophy as well. The home changed the way that people live breaking through the box style of living. The house also showcases modern technologies and design innovations and exemplifies the modern way of life in the early 1900s. Decorations in the home are fine examples of the new aesthetic of the time, and not only exhibits the designs of the architects but other modern artists as well.

Contents


Memories and stories

Photo Gallery

Related Links

Unified Vision: The Architecture and Design of the Prairie School at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts


Notes

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