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September 21, 2010

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I stumbled across your blog today and noticed the pieces you did on architect Ralph Fournier.

Like you, numerous other bloggers have commented on Mr. Fournier’s Sun Swept development in Creve Coeur as well as single homes he designed in the St. Louis area.

However, IIRC, Mr. Fournier was also the principal architect for the Alfred H. Mayer Company in the 60’s and early 1970’s. Mayer’s developments included Paddock Hills, Paddock Meadows, Paddock Estates, Wedgwood and Wedgwood Green in Florissant, Paddock Woods and Paddock Forest in Black Jack and Green Trails Estates in Ladue and Pheasant Run in Maryland Heights. Despite the great designs of their homes and the planned communities they developed, the Alfred H. Mayer Company will forever be linked as the lead defendant in the in the Jones vs. Alfred H. Mayer Company housing discrimination lawsuit which went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The company went out of business in the early 70’s, despite being one of suburban St. Louis’ preeminent home builders for at least 15-20 years.

I saw an interview Mr. Fournier gave about two years ago and he never mentioned this body of work for AHM. Have you ever interviewed Mr. Fournier, and if you did, did he ever acknowledge this particular body of work.

As I mentioned above, Mr. Fournier’s designs for AHM were ahead of their time, with separate entrance foyers, separate dining rooms, large master bedroom suites and rear entrance garages. Each floor plan could be had in various facades, later developments including French Provincial, English Tudor and Spanish Hacienda, in addition to colonial and contemporary. Pretty kitschy.

If you go on-line, you will see many of these homes in North County going for a small fraction of the price they would command if they were in West or South St. Louis County, or St. Charles. Worse, many of these homes, especially in Paddock Woods and Paddock Forest in Black Jack, have been foreclosed on recently and are in dire need of repair.

As prime examples of mid-century design, I think it would be tragic if these homes were allowed to deteriorate further. In addition to AHM, Fisher and Fritchel (Frostwood, Carrollton, Towne South and Chatelaine) and Robinwood Homes (Robinwood North/South/West and Oak Tree Farms) were also mid-century buildings with great designs. I now live in the Philadelphia area, and I’ve yet to see mass market developments in this area built during this same time period that had the advanced designs of these builders. And I’ll include Levitttown, Pennsylvania and Levittown (now called Willingboro) New Jersey in that lot. And while the Levittown in Pennsylvania is holding its own, the New Jersey Levittown (now called Willingboro) is facing severe threats of blight and abandonment. I don’t think St. Louisans realize the treasures they have in these tract developments and would hate to see these developments follow Willingboro’s lead.

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