CTA IN THE NEWS: Spanish Revival house, rich in history, goes on the market
A BILLINGS, MT, HOME DESIGNED BY FIRM FOUNDERS CUSHING AND TERRELL (BACK IN 1939!) IS ON THE MARKET FOR THE FIRST TIME IN FOUR DECADES; TEAM MEMBERS RECEIVED A TOUR FROM CTA’S VERY OWN HISTORIC PRESERVATION ARCHITECT.
One of the most distinctive old houses in Billings is on the market for the first time in nearly 40 years. The Last Best News reports that the white stucco house with a red tile roof, at 2306 Virginia Lane, is being sold by two sisters, Carmen Forsman of Seattle and Lou Hegwer of Billings. It is notable not only as a splendid example of Spanish Revival architecture. It was also among the earliest private residences designed by Ralph Cushing and Everett Terrell, the founders of CTA Architects. They formed a partnership in 1938 and designed the house on Virginia Lane in 1939. CTA Architects Engineers is now the biggest architectural and engineering firm in Montana, with offices in nine states.
Lou Hegwer discovered the CTA connection when she was cleaning out one of her mother’s closets and found Cushing and Terrell’s original blueprints, the earliest portions of which were dated November 1939. After doing more research, Carmen got in touch with CTA and suggested having a reception at the house for anyone from CTA who was interested in seeing it. Fifty or 60 people turned out for the reception earlier this month, including Lesley Gilmore, director of historic preservation services for CTA in Bozeman.
“I was thrilled with how little they’d changed the building, and how little the other owners had,” Gilmore said. Gilmore also said that many of the architects were “blown away by the detail” in the house. As Carmen put it, “When it was designed, every single thing was designed for that house. All the door knobs were designed, even the toothbrush holder. Nothing was taken off the shelf.”
Mike Tuss, a principal with CTA in Billings, who has been with the firm since 1984, happens to live just a few blocks from the house. He said what struck him was thinking what the house must have looked like when it was built. Virginia Lane might have been a dirt road in 1940, and since there were so few trees on the north end of Billings then, the house must have really stood out. “The house was probably out in the country, at least by a few blocks,” he said. “It was really quite an estate there.” He was also impressed that Cushing and Terrell, and the owners of the house, took the trouble and went to the expense of making the exterior walls more than a foot thick, so they looked like the adobe walls of houses in Spain and Mexico. “They carried through on those details, even though it wasn’t made out of adobe,” he said.
Other CTAers who attended the tour had some enthusiastic comments afterward…
Jim Beal, CTA Director of Design
“Lesley’s passion and enthusiasm for historic structures was really evident. She did a nice job setting up the context under which the home was designed by Cushing and Terrell in the 1930s, and complemented her knowledge of our architectural heritage with insight into important details of the home — like the living room trusses, fireplace mantle, and unique steel windows.”
Shannon Christensen, architect
“It was an honor that the current owners opened the house up to CTA for one last party, as some of their fondest memories of the home are of the large parties their mother loved to host. The fine detail and craftsmanship of the house and original drawings were amazing. It is a hidden treasure in Billings! It was especially interesting to me as my grandmother grew up a couple blocks away on Beverly Hill Boulevard – I imagine that my great-grandparents knew the original owners that commissioned Cushing and Terrell to design the house.”
Madeline Rajtar, interior designer
“It was remarkable to walk through the house that signifies CTA’s first residential project, and incredibly moving to hear the stories of those who called it home.”