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Charleston Ranch Homes in the Atomic Age


Eastern Illinois University

Charleston, Illinois


Coles County



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Tavaras Title Art

            Elements of our history can be found in the present-day landscape. Charleston, Illinois is no exception. Looking at ranch houses built in the 1950s in Charleston, elements of 1950s culture remain evident in these homes. The exteriors, floor plans, and decorative elements of these homes reflect popular trends in design, as well as greater issues of the period. First, it is useful to explore some aspects of this period as they appeared in American residential architecture on the national scale.  

Midcentury Homes in the Atomic AgeInfographic

These principles of family togetherness, modernity, and security might be more visible as trends of residential architecture through how such homes were advertised. Looking at home advertisements from Better Homes and Gardens issues of the 1950s (courtesy of archives.org), there are many commonalities across house descriptions. A collection of the most pertinent terms used to describe these homes is presented in the word cloud below. Many words show up more than once, and the most prominent words show up larger than others: 

Tavaras Word Cloud

Many trends and principles of the 1950s have fizzled out, standing only as residual elements within our present-day culture. Examples of permanent fixtures of 1950s culture, however, are two well-preserved ranch homes in Charleston. Built by Midwest Homes, Inc. in 1955, House A sits at a prime location, being between the university and the city’s courthouse and town square. House B, built in 1957, also sits near the heart of town, being just south of the university.

       The gallery below includes a sample of images of these two homes, putting them up against the trends of the period, While neither house is completely original, they both stand as testament that Coles County was very much in tune with the national trends of the 1950s. 




Adams, Annmarie.  “The Eichler Home: Intention and Experience in Postwar Suburbia.”  Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture 5.  Harrisonburg: Vernacular Architecture Forum, 1995. 164-178. 

Allen, Barbara.  “The Ranch-Style House in America: A Cultural and Environmental Discourse.”  Journal of Architectural Education 49.  Abingdon: Taylor & Francis, Ltd., February, 1996. 156-166. 

Archer, John.  Architecture and Suburbia: From English Villa to American Dream House, 1690-2000.  Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005.  

Boyer, Paul S.  Promises to Keep.  Belmont: Wadsworth, 2005. 

Chase, John.  “The Role of Consumerism in American Architecture.”  Journal of

Architectural Education 44.  Abingdon: Taylor and Francis Ltd., 1994. 211-224.  

Hayden, Dolores.  Building Suburbia: Green Fields and Urban Growth, 1820-2000. New York: Vintage Books, 2004

This webpage was created by Rachel Tavaras, Historical Administration Graduate Student, Class of 2015-2016