The Homes of Shadeland East

By

David L. Debertin

Professor of Agricultural Economics

University of Kentucky

DLDebertin@aol.com

 

 

Links to related pages:

 

Shadeland East demographics: Census Demographics

Maps and aerial photographs:  : Maps

The Homes of Shadeland East (photos):

            Ranch (One-Story) style homes: : Ranches

            Story and a Half, Split Foyer, and Tri-Level Homes: Story and a Half

            Two-Story Homes: : Two-Story

            Contemporary Homes: : Contemporary

 

Despite damage from ice storms and efforts made by an urban forester to encourage Lexington residents to chop down any Bradford Pear, the Bradford and Aristocrat Pears each April put on a spectacular display in Shadeland East better than any Fourth of July fireworks.

Landsdowne Shadeland East, known by its residents as simply “Shadeland East”, is a subdivision of homes developed in Lexington, Kentucky, near the University of Kentucky in the 1970s. It was developed on farmland near the central city and surrounded primarily by land that was developed approximately 20 years earlier.   The Shadeland East location from the very beginning was considered one of the most desirable locations in the city, both close to the University and near the central part of Lexington, and this was reflected in comparatively expensive lot prices. Given the high proportion of single-story homes, the subdivision has become increasingly popular with retirees, and there are a significant number of owners who purchased their homes new thirty years ago and who continue to live in them.

 

The Streetscape

 

To understand the Shadeland East streetscape, it is important to understand the time path of Lexington residential real estate development as it moved south of the central city at the turn of the twentieth century. In the conversion of vacant land city residences, a number of factors must be taken into consideration.

 

Cost of the land.

 

In general, land located closer to the central city scheduled for residential development will be more expensive than land located further out. Thus, builders often think in terms of making lot sizes smaller if residences are to be located on comparatively expensive land. Further out, with cheaper land prices, lots can be larger.

 

Much of the Chevy Chase and “old” Ashland Park areas adjacent to Richmond Road were built out in the 1900s through the 1930s. Lots sizes were fairly deep but not particularly wide ranging from 50 feet to perhaps as wide as 75 feet for the larger homes. At that point in time, it was expensive to get basic services such as water, sewer and electricity to homes, and a narrow lot width saved on these costs because of the need for shorter lines. These houses were usually strongly oriented toward the street, with generous front porches that made chatting and interacting with neighbors easy.

 

The end of World War II marked the start of modern post-war suburbia. The Landsdowne subdivision began in 1954, and many of the houses along streets such as Albany Road were constructed in the late 1940s, just after the end of World War II. By the late 1950s, most homebuilders were incorporating the latest post-war design features first used in California—space for entertaining in the back yard, sleek low-slung roofs, lower ceilings than were standard in the 20s and 30s, and of course, two-car garages.

 

As subdivisions moved further out, land became cheaper, and builders could include more spacious lots. A comparison can be made between Shadeland East and the Stonewall subdivision which was developed further away from the central city and 10-15 years earlier. Both subdivisions featured lots with generous street frontage, typically 100 to 110 foot wide, which meant that the lots could readily accommodate large one-story homes and large attached two-car garages. But the lots in Stonewall were considerably deeper—usually over 200 feet deep, whereas Shadeland East lots were more typically 135 to 160 feet deep. This meant that the typical Stonewall lot in the original subdivision is a half acre or more in size, whereas Shadeland East lots were commonly 0.3 to 0.4 acre with few reaching a half acre in size.

 

Stonewall is a community of people who love caring for lawns and gardens, and see such activities as an important part of their life. The slightly smaller lot sizes in Shadeland East fit the lifestyles of busy Shadeland East residents better, and residents tend to not be quite as enamored with gardening and lawn care as a weekend hobby. A significant share of Shadeland East residents custom hire-in this work, something that would likely be cost prohibitive for most Stonewall residents.

 

A very high proportion of homes in the Stonewall subdivision are one-story ramblers (or ranch) homes with only a few two-story homes in the entire subdivision. In Shadeland East, perhaps half of the homes are single story, with the remainder made up of other home styles, mainly two-story colonial homes.

 

Lots in Shadeland East were always expensive relative to most lots in other farther out locations. The only lots that were more expensive were lots near Lakeshore Drive with water frontage.

 

Fayette PVA records indicate that in 1973, a typical 110 x 150 foot un-built Shadeland East Lot sold for around $18,000. The late 1970s was a period of rapidly rising inflation and the last Shadeland East lots probably sold for around $30,000 in the late 1970s. These numbers mean little without some perspective. In 1973, the median Lexington home sold for $35,000 to $40,000. Fayette PVA records suggest that the smallest newly-built Shadeland East homes in the early 1970s sold in the low $70,000’s, approximately double the median value for Lexington residential housing, and quickly went up to over $100,000 for the larger homes.

 

At this same time, lots in less expensive subdivisions were selling for between $80 and $100 per front foot, at the point in time Shadeland East lots first sold for $175 a front foot. There are no vacant lots in Shadeland East, but one might speculate what a vacant, un-built lot in Shadeland East would currently bring on the market. I would expect such a lot would sell for a minimum of $150,000-$175,000, perhaps more.

 

One might also speculate on current home prices. Recent sales put the minimum price at approximately $325,000—this is for a 2,200 square foot ranch on a crawl space. The median price for a single-family home on one of the streets in Shadeland East is probably approaching $400,000. The maximum price is more difficult to determine, and there have been a number of houses that have been so extensively remodeled that they might be thought of as new homes. Some of these are in the $750,000 + range with a few pushing a million dollars.

 

Accommodating the automobile.

 

Home designs shifted over time to accommodate changes in technology and lifestyles. In the 1920s and 30s, a major problem was how to accommodate shelter for the newfangled automobile, and few if any people ever considered owning two.  Streets had been laid out to fit horse-drawn vehicles not parked cars. By the 1940s, accommodating automobiles was a critical part of the plan, but garages were generally still built as separate, detached structures to the rear of the lot and usually not attached directly to the house. People who lived in the older homes in the Chevy Chase areas bought automobiles too, and they constructed simple, basic garages at the rear of the lots. By the fifties, one-car garages attached directly to the house were making their appearance (many are seen in the older sections of Landsdowne), but it was not until the late 50s and early 60s when the two-car garage became an essential part of new home design. And two car garages, while standard for expensive homes as far back as the 1960s, did not become a standard feature of nearly all new homes until the late 1980s.

 

Varying homestyles.

 

Many close-in Lexington neighborhoods developed before World War II had extraordinary charm. This was part related to the orientation of the homes toward the street rather than the rear yards, but also related to the fact that builders often intermingled designs on a street that while complementing each other, and gave each home unique characteristics and charm. The 300 and 400 blocks of Ridgeway and Dudley Roads provides some excellent examples of homes that were of only modest size and built on narrow lots, but with much charm and character. Builders did not buy lots in huge blocks and each builder might have constructed only a few of the homes on a given street, and each home design went its own way in terms of design and features. The various designs complement each other but do not repeat each other.

 

Builders in many post-war Lexington subdivisions developed through about 1965 were equally careful about streetscape design, that is, developing home designed that were complementary to each other but not repeating each other with identical or even similar facades. As subdivisions were developed further out, lot sizes were becoming a bit more generous.

 

The “Split-Foyer” period in Lexington home design

 

The period from 1965 through the late 1970s was a very strange one for Lexington home builders.  Builders and home buyers became enamored with split entry, or split foyer designs, and closely related ranch on a so-called daylight basement design. This marked a new era for Lexington home builders. In all but the most expensive subdivisions, homes suddenly were now being turned out assembly-line fashion following a basic split-entry plan, with only slight variations in roof line (Did you want the gable roof or the hip roof option?) and basic design features (We can bump or cantilever out the living room and bedrooms two feet beyond the home’s foundation, at only a slight extra cost.). Builders purchased large numbers of lots on the same street, but most builders were varying only slightly the same basic floor plan and footprint. What emerged were not only individual streets but entire subdivisions consisting of relentless rows of split-entry homes, identical except for slight variations in roof, bump-out options, brick and trim colors. If you came home late at night and accidentally wandered into a neighbors home rather than your own, rooms were either in identical locations or arranged as an exact or as a mirror image of your own split entry plan.

 

Builders loved split-entry plans not only because of low construction costs per finished square foot, but also because generous-sized homes would fit on lots 60 or 65 feet wide.  Buyers felt they got a lot of space for the money. However, it did not take many buyers long to tire of the idea of having to ascend or descend a half stairway to reach any room in the house. It wasn’t long before many of these homes were being discounted in resale.

 

Looking back, the basic problem with these subdivisions today is not so much with the problems of the basic layout of the split-entry design so much as the banality of relentlessly repeating the same basic design, footprint and floor plan over and over up and down a street. The homes had more than adequate square footage and represented good space value for the money, in that a lot of the finished space came from areas partially dug into the ground. The plans actually worked quite well for couples with teenage children who preferred a degree of privacy in the separate downstairs living space. What would otherwise have been dark basement space had substantial window openings, at least on one side of the house. What was missing from these subdivisions was the basic charm and character associated with having each home go its own way yet still complement the others on the street in terms of design.

 

An important historical note is that Shadeland East was developed almost entirely during the period in time when most local builders were enamored with building endless rows of split-entry homes. Yet there are only two examples of true split entry designs in all of Shadeland East plus two more homes that might be loosely categorized as variations on a “Split Level” (sometimes called Tri-Level) floor plan.  But then the builders in Shadeland East typically were not building 20 homes in a row. Further, the more generous lot widths meant that the Split Entry plan had fewer cost advantages.

 

Somehow, the builders who constructed houses in Shadeland East got their act together in terms of streetscape, despite the trend toward cookie-cutter assembly-line housing in the 70s. The generous 50-foot setbacks from the street gave the streets a luxurious feel, and the wide lots allowed a lot of flexibility in terms of the designs and plans that could be accommodated. Each house could have its unique design and personality, and yet the widely varying designs (a traditional colonial home next door to a very contemporary home, for example) seemed to complement each other.

 

Party on the patio, not the front porch.

 

Many Lexington homes built prior to World War II featured elaborate front porches combined with tiny front yards, and were oriented for interaction toward the sidewalk and street. In Lexington as well in many other cities, this orientation toward the sidewalk and street started to change shortly after the end of World War II. All of a sudden, new homes lacked significant front porches, and the orientation was toward the rear of the lot. Essential to this new design was a concrete patio or terrace, and sliding glass doors quickly became a favored means of access. For homes with walkout (daylight) basements, wooden decks jutting out to the rear of the house substituted for the concrete patio.

 

Suddenly, residents seldom appeared at the front of the house other than to do lawn and garden chores to make the front yard presentable passers-by. Interacting with neighbors walking down the street was not considered properly social. Entertaining now consisted of inviting neighbors to the rear-facing patio which invariably featured a charcoal grille for outdoor cooking. Chatting and otherwise interacting with neighbors occurred, but only neighbors as invited guests to such private parties.

 

Lexington builders were quick to accommodate these new trends in entertaining, and builders were quick to compete on the basis of the patio or deck size. By the late 1950s, nearly every newly-built home in Lexington featured a backyard patio or deck of some sort—small on modest homes, but as the size of the home grew so did the size of the outdoor patio or deck.

 

Builders in Shadeland East largely followed these trends. While the smaller homes might get by with simple 12 x 16 foot slabs of concrete, as the 1970s decade progressed the more expensive homes included increasingly elaborate backyard outdoor living areas. These areas were first covered with a roof or awning, and were then screened in to “keep the mosquitos away.”  (Insects were not welcome guests at outdoor patio parties.) These screened-in areas were then outfitted with windows that could be removed during the summer. Still later, owners added permanent heating and cooling. So what began as a very informal outdoor area often evolved into nearly standard interior living space.

 

Many Shadeland East homes feature a front door covered with a roof of some sort—some as simple as pushing the entry in a few feet to create rain barrier, to more elaborate coverings featuring columns and gables, to still larger front porches that extend well beyond the front door. A few of these larger front porches have wood swings or other outdoor furniture on them. These items appear to be more for decoration than for actual use. I cannot actually say I have ever observed a Shadeland East resident lounging on furniture on a front porch, or interacting with neighbors from there although I suppose it could happen.

 

Are Shadeland East homes considered custom homes?

 

This is an interesting question. Technically a custom home is one designed specifically for a single customer, with a specialized floor plan and room layout designed to meet specific needs. A custom home buyer would contract with a builder who would discuss needs and desires, and help the buyer find a lot suitable for building a house designed to accommodate these specific needs. With a true custom home, the builder would agree to never build another home of the same or similar design for another customer. Some Shadeland East homes undoubtedly would qualify as true custom homes based on this definition. They were designed from the start to be a one-off plan for a specific customer, and were never again built.

 

However, many Shadeland East homes share some characteristics of tract homes. A tract home is one build over and over from a plan and not designed specifically for one buyer. There are any number of homes in the subdivision built on the same or nearly the same floor plans. Further, many of the homes in the subdivision were built as “spec” houses by builders, and the construction of the house was underway house before it was sold, and not specifically designed to meet the needs of one particular new owner. In the case of ranch (or one-story) plans if you look carefully, you will see that some well-liked builders repeated a popular plan in many places in the subdivision with only a slight variations in the designs. These builders were clever enough to place these homes in different places, they were not simply built in rows next to each other.  Other builders were even more clever, in that they varied rooflines and other design features such that one would have to look very carefully in order to tell that the floor plans were virtually identical.

 

It was also common for builders to purchase two or three lots next to each other, and then develop home designs for each lot that would complement the others, and yet not appear to be too similar.

 

Lot Setbacks

 

In the original Shadeland East development, a generous setback of the front most portion of the house of 50 feet was required. This setback is deeper than virtually any other Lexington subdivision has used since 1980.

 

Who are the Residents?

Most of the buyers of the new homes were owners of successful small businesses of various sorts, operators of various franchise businesses or at least mid-to upper-level executives in larger businesses, professionals such as medical doctors and lawyers with the occasional senior UK administrator or coach. The typical buyer of these new homes in the 70s was in his 40s. Despite the proximity to UK, prices were beyond the level of most UK faculty salaries of the time. In addition to location, the area was popular because it was in the Morton Elementary/Middle School district, and Henry Clay High School. In the 70s, recently built Henry Clay high school was widely considered to be the top public high school in Lexington.

 

In the 1970s, these were clearly “move up” homes for the buyers.  Buyers in the 1970s were usually well along in their careers. A unique feature of Shadeland East is that a significant share of those who purchased these homes in the 70s are still living here—25 or even 30 years later. This is a subdivision where “For Sale” sign is indeed rare. Maybe a dozen homes out of about 250 in the subdivision change hands annually.

 

As a result, the average age of homeowners is fairly high, and rising. Further, the majority of the homes are occupied by only one or two persons. We can track this fairly easily employing data from the recently available 2000 US Census.  (see detailed information on the age distribution of home owners on the demographics page, link above)

 

Architecture

 

Most of the homes in Shadeland East could be classified as having traditional architecture, but there are perhaps a dozen examples of more contemporary designs. These more contemporary homes are located on lots throughout the development and not concentrated on any particular street or area. The predominant exterior wall treatment is a brick veneer although there are a number of clapboard (sided) homes as well. In the subdivision, there are excellent examples of virtually any home design that was popular in the 70s, from traditional colonials, ranch homes with California and French influences, houses that could have been built on Cape Cod or the Virginia Tidewater region and visually stunning contemporary designs.

 

The architecture of most homes is fairly simple and plain in design and function, that is, classic, honest design, especially when compared with homes currently being built in upscale Lexington subdivisions, which have complicated hip and gable rooflines and multiple gables facing the street. In contrast, Shadeland East builders favored simpler rooflines, and chose either a hip or a gable roof but not both on the same house. They added interest to rooflines by moving sections forward, and occasionally adding a gable to the front. Gables and hips were almost never intermingled on the same house, as is the current fashion. Bay windows were used, but never fan windows. By far, the most commonly used window was a simple double hung, usually alone but also used in pairs and in triple units to create a wider expanse of glass.

 

 

 

Ranch homes

 

The smallest ranch homes in Shadeland East are single-story homes built on crawl spaces with approximately 2150 square feet, but ranch homes of 2250 to 2300 square feet before additions have been made are perhaps the most common. These homes typically had three or, more commonly, four bedrooms and formal and informal separate living areas. There were usually 2 ½ baths on the main floor of these homes.

 

In the 1970s, it was common for floor plans to include large formal living rooms designed to entertain important guests and located in space separate from the more heavily used living areas in the rest of the house. These formal living rooms usually extended back into large dining rooms suitable for substantial and elegant dining room furniture. There is always a separate central foyer that provides access to all parts of the house from the front door. The living rooms commonly were entered from a central foyer, and both formal living and dining rooms are commonly visible to guests upon entering the foyer area. A typical formal living room might be quite large in size, perhaps 14 x 20 ft, and the dining room perhaps 12 x 14 ft, even in the smaller homes. These room sizes were large enough to accommodate a substantial amount of formal furniture. Both the smaller and the larger Shadeland East ranches generally followed this design with large formal areas directly off the foyer. To the rear of the home was a separate den or family living area, often about the same size as the formal living room, if not a little larger. Kitchens were often of modest size in the smaller ranch homes in Shadeland East, and without separate eat-in or “breakfast” areas, although they often had open serving bars that extended into the den or family room area.

 

These homes typically have three larger or possibly four smaller bedrooms, with the smallest being perhaps 10 x 12 feet and each with a closet occupying one wall. One of the baths is accessed from a central hallway while a separate full bath with a tub/shower combination is accessed only from the master bedroom. Master bedrooms are typically smaller than are commonly built today, perhaps 14 feet square in a 2,300 square foot house. Master baths are often a lot smaller than is the current fashion, with tub-shower combinations rather than separate a walk-in shower and soaking tub as is popular currently. Many times master baths had only a single sink or vanity, and a double vanity was considered a luxury touch in some homes. Walk-in closets in the 70s were rare, and most closets still occupied bedroom or master bath wall space. A second bath with hall access serves the other bedrooms. Typically these also have a tub-shower combination and a single-bowl vanity.

 

Most plans also featured a separate utility room, with space for a conventional washer and dryer. These utility rooms are usually located near the kitchen and the entrance to the garage. Within this utility space or immediately adjacent is typically a half-bath. This half bath is not primarily meant to serve as a bath for guests, but is more nearly for use by  owner-occupants entering the house from the garage with the combination of utility room and half bath serving as the “mudroom”.  

 

There are also many ranch homes in Shadeland East that were larger than 2,300 square feet. Commonly-built variations retained the structure entirely on a three or four foot high crawl space, but the square footage increased, depending on the builder,  to between 2,500 and 3,000 square feet. The additional space allowed for more variation and flexibility in floor plans and how space was used, while retaining many of the same general features. There were several key differences in these larger floor plans. Typically, these homes always had four not three bedrooms, and there was additional space added to each bedroom. Master bedrooms might increase in size to 14 x 18 feet, and the smallest bedroom might be 11 x 13 or even 12 x 14. The 2 ½ bath and separate utility room format was retained. Kitchens grew in size in these plans, and usually included an integral eat-in area.

 

A widely-built 2,500 square foot plan includes a long central structure with gables at either end facing the street. A long, narrow covered front porch ran the entire length of the central structure. Under one of the gables was an oversized, two-car garage. The gable at the opposite end usually was the bedroom wing, containing four large bedrooms and two full baths. The center section connecting the bedroom and garage gables contained formal living and dining rooms, the kitchen and family room area.

 

Another, still more elaborate plan is U-shaped and contains nearly 3,000 square feet, with the top of the U facing the street. In this plan, the formal living and dining rooms occupy one arm of the U, and a large bedroom wing is in the other arm. The kitchen and informal living spaces are at the bottom of the U with the attached garage located at the rear an entered from one side of the house.

 

Most of the lots in Shadeland East are fairly level, and comparatively few lots would have been suitable for daylight or the so-called walkout basement plans, which were commonly built with garages tucked in the basement and entered from the rear of the house. A few houses, however, have basement garages that are entered from the side rather than the rear of the house. More commonly, ranch homes feature either partial or full walk-up (sometimes called “dug”) basements. Many of the full basements have simply been left unfinished by owners. Because they lack methods of egress that meet fire code laws, the space is often not suitable for use as regular sleeping space, and these basements are simply used as unfinished storage space. Quite a number of ranch style homes in Shadeland East have partial or half basements. The main floors of these homes range from 2,200 to 2,800 square feet. The bedroom wings of these homes are typically built over a crawl space, whereas the kitchen, living and dining rooms are over full-height basement space. These homes were often left unfinished by the builder, who also roughed in a second fireplace and perhaps plumbing for a third bathroom. Over the years many owners have converted these spaces into uses such as space for an elaborate home theater and party/entertainment centers, and finishing off the extra bath and fireplace. Basement homes in the subdivision have sometimes had problems with water during and after heavy rains, and some temporary underground springs may run beneath several of the lots.

 

Garages in Shadeland East are interesting. The 1970s was a period in which luxury cars were very large, and builders needed to consider the possibility that new owners would need space for two Lincoln Town Cars. This meant that garages were often built considerably larger than is the norm today or even for new houses built in the same period in less expensive —550 to 600 square feet with an 18 foot rather than the16-foot two-car garage door on a 400 square foot garage that is fairly commonly seen nowadays, even in higher-priced homes.

 

Over the years, owners made other upgrades. Builders typically built concrete patios, which many owners soon resurfaced with brick or stone or covered with wooden decking, and added covers. Once a roof was built, covered patios subsequently became screened-in areas and then three-season rooms, with a few owners even adding permanent heating and cooling systems, significantly increasing the size of the homes.   

 

Full Two-Story Plans

 

While there are more single-story ranch homes in Shadeland East than any other style, there are also a substantial number of two-story homes. Perhaps the most predominant two-story design is what is sometimes referred to as a “5, 4 and a door,” a classic colonial plan which places five evenly-spaced windows across the top of the second story, aligning with four evenly-spaced windows on the first floor, with the front door aligned with the center top-floor window.  The floor plans in most of these colonial homes follow a similar pattern.  In a basic center-hall plan, the front door opens to a central foyer or hall, which in turn leads to a living room to one side and dining room to the other side. The dining room, in turn, leads to the kitchen, located toward the rear of the house. Garages are often in single-story additions on one side and entered from the side. Locations for informal family room and living area space vary. One plan places this space beside the kitchen, with the family room extending out into single story space at the rear of the house. Another option instead uses that space for a first floor bedroom/guest room/office, often not the large upstairs master bedroom. In such a plan the den/family room is located in space between the two story section of the house and the garage, or, less frequently in an area in the single-story garage wing directly behind the garage. Breakfast areas are sometimes built in areas that are bayed out from the kitchen toward the rear of the lot. These plans typically have 2,800 or more square feet finished on the first and second story, so the second floor is sufficiently large to accommodate a large master bedroom and adjoining bath and possibly even a sitting area plus three additional bedrooms. On some plans, even more space is available on the second floor over the garage. Since the footprint of these homes is 1400-1600 square foot, full basements accommodating sizable recreational facilities, elaborate bars, pool rooms, home theaters and other amenities are commonplace.

 

There are many variations in the basic “5, 4 and a door” two-story façade that can be seen in Shadeland East. One of these is a “3, 2 and a door variation. In this variation there are only three windows across the top of the second story. O the first floor, double hung windows are placed in pairs on either side of the front door.  The interior floor plan of both colonial designs are generally similar. These houses are usually bricked, but some use clapboard siding as accents, and a few are entirely clapboard

 

One and a Half Story, Cape Cod and “Tidewater” Designs

 

There are a number of designs that could be termed story and a half, Cape Cod, or Tidewater. These designs differ from a conventional two-story colonial in that, while there is a second story, the roof is quite steep and extends down to the top of the first story. These homes generally have a higher proportion of living space located on the first floor than does a conventional colonial two-story design. Often the master bedroom in these designs is located on the first floor, and three other bedrooms are located on the second floor, with windows on either gable end, as well as two or more dormers across the front of the house, and perhaps even a shed dormer allowing for additional full-height bedroom space to the rear of the house. Most commonly, these houses are clapboard sided rather than brick, in keeping with commonly used materials from the regions of the US where many of these designs originated—in the New England states and along the Tidewater or coastal regions of Virginia. In fact, Shadeland East includes several classic examples of a “true” Tidewater architecture—large and elaborate structures but with many New England Cape Cod. Shadeland East also includes some excellent examples of New England “Saltbox” architecture. The classic saltbox design is clapboard not brick, and looks much like a conventional two story from the front. But the roofline at the rear of the house extends downward to the top of the first story, and a shed dormer is used to expand the second floor living space at the rear. So the Saltbox includes some features of colonial design and others taken from Cape Cod or New England Story and a half design.

 

70s Contemporary Designs

 

Shadeland East contains a number of homes that can be best categorized as of the 70s contemporary school of architectural design and designed by leading local architects of that school. In the 70s, these houses were supposedly representative of “modern” living and eschewed many of the architectural trim bits and pieces such as wood shutters that are part of the traditional home design. Part of what makes these homes interesting is that each architect and builder went their own way. Many rules of traditional architecture were broken in the designs and in the choice of materials. Shed rather than gable or hip rooflines were sometimes used. Natural stone or cedar shakes were used instead of traditional brick or siding. Designs were often cleaner with less bric brac.

 

By about 1985, at least in Lexington, interest in building these spare contemporary structures had declined, so these homes represent a unique part of Lexington architectural history.

 

Split Entry (Foyer) and Tri Level Designs

 

As indicated earlier, despite the popularity of Split Entry designs with Lexington builders during the period, there are few examples of this design in Shadeland East. These are illustrated in the Story and a Half page (link above)

 

 

70s Architectural Features

 

Low ceilings and other energy conservation features.

 

It is not widely remembered that Shadeland East was built all through the years of the 70s energy crisis. These were the years of two Arab oil embargos, gas line, rising gas, oil and coal prices.  There are a number of examples of homes built in Lexington in the 60s with high vaulted ceilings, but by the 70s, no one wanted to waste precious energy putting heat (or cool air, in the summertime) into a high-pitched ceiling area. Further, Columbia gas was not hooking up any new customers through most of the decade, and the only viable heating choice was an electronic heat pump. At the time, this was new, unproven technology, and many heat pump manufacturers had serious reliability problems. It was not uncommon to spend as much or more on heat pump repair bills as on electricity during the heating season. A few brands were considerably more reliable than others. The early GE units (which was later sold to the Trane company) were quite reliable, and some of these Original GE heart pumps gave 25 years of quite reliable service, with only the occasional service call, and have only recently been replaced. It was not until the mid 1980s that gas heat again became an option in most new construction, and other energy conservation measures such as double-pane windows and additional insulation, along with cheap electric and natural gas prices, and builders once again became interested in building houses with higher than standard height (none- or even ten-foot high or vaulted and raised “trey” ceilings. Columbia gas has since put some gas lines into Shadeland East, but interestingly, relatively few homeowners have converted their heat pump systems to natural gas. With natural gas prices rising recently while electric rates remain relatively constant, it is far less expensive currently to heat with electricity than with natural gas.

 

Double entrance doors.

 

In the 1970s, double or twin front entrance doors were at the height of popularity as a luxury home statement. While they are no longer used in new home construction, a substantial share of these original double entrance doors remain in Shadeland East homes.

 

Use of exterior wood.

 

The development of Shadeland East predates the move by builders to vinyl exterior trim and siding. Sided homes originally used siding made of wood or wood products, although a little vinyl siding has crept into the subdivision over the years in remodeling work. Wood was originally used for soffit and fascia boards as well, and guttering was commonly galvanized steel (which tends to rust through after 15 or 20 years). Original garage doors installed by builders were nearly always wood, not steel nor vinyl that became popular starting in the 80s. Louvered shutters made of real wood, not vinyl, remain on nearly all houses in the subdivision.   Most of these trim items, porch posts etc remain on the homes, so homeowners are regularly seen painting and touching up exterior trim.

 

Structural Features.

 

One of the characteristics of Shadeland East homes that made for luxurious living areas is that rooms are usually quite wide. The exterior depth of a typical ranch is 32 feet, not the 26 or 28 feet more common in smaller, less expensive homes. Shadeland East homes were built well before much of the work in developing engineered beams that are currently used in spanning long distances. To span a 32 foot width requires two lengths of 2 x 12 structural lumber at least 16 feet long supported by a center beam—wood or steel I-beam. This beam and the wall above it is load bearing, and supported on piers with large concrete footings, as it supports a significant share of the roof weight.

 

This central beam logically divides living areas of the house into formal and informal areas, with this spine in ranch homes continuing along the hallway to the bedrooms. Given the width that needs to be spanned, smaller dimension framing lumber was usually not an option, and there is a serious amount of large-dimension long-length structural lumber supporting the typical home. This type of construction would be so expensive to be nearly cost prohibitive nowadays, which now would instead use engineered beams to span long distances.

 

The massive all-brick wood-burning fireplaces using terra cotta clay chimney liners was another expensive construction feature. Chimneys and fireboxes constructed entirely from brick and clay tiles are not only labor-intensive to construct  (the labor might be nearly equal to the amount required to brick the exterior) but is also very heavy. This means these fireplaces need to be supported with heavy-duty concrete footers, lest the chimney and fireplace settles in relation to the rest of the house. Such settling could lead to major structural products.

 

In less expensive Lexington homes built during the period, roof trusses constructed of 2 x 4s with W bracing were commonly employed. The problem with this design is that the attic no longer is very functional for storage. Most Shadeland East homes instead used older methods of roof construction that used heavy and long dimensional lumber supported by the exterior walls with part of the roof load going to the center load-bearing wall. Most attics have pull-down staircases accessed from a hallway or the garage and can readily be used for storage

 

Use of interior wood and other finish and interior trim materials.   

 

In the 1970s, formal living rooms almost always were covered with painted drywall, with wood trim and paneled doors painted white or off-white. The new pressed-wood faux paneled colonial doors had just become available and these doors were an essential part of any new home of the period. The low 8-foot ceilings limited the width of the crown molding that could be used, and it was not until the mid 1980s after Shadeland East homes were built that heavy crown molding made up of several pieces became fashionable. Heavy crown molding looked silly in rooms with ceilings lower than nine feet. Commonly, builders installed crown molding painted white or off-white in the Entrance foyer, formal living room and dining rooms, but not in the other rooms. Chair rail was used in the dining room and sometimes in the foyer as well.

 

In contrast, informal living areas such as dens and family rooms were often paneled. Less expensive homes in other neighborhoods often used a fake wood grain over hardboard paneling, but builders in the more upscale neighborhoods used more expensive paneling with real wood veneer. Often this paneling was quite dark, usually with vertical black grooves to look like strips of wood, and stained walnut or dark cherry in color, with matching stain on woodwork around doors and windows.

 

False wood beams, sometimes called box beams, were often a feature in dens and family living areas. These were generally about 4 x 6 inches, and stained dark to match the paneling. These provided a contrast to the popular ceiling textures that were sponged on to look like rough plaster. In less expensive homes in Lexington during the period, these textured ceilings were commonly done in all rooms. In Shadeland East, it was more common to see smooth drywalled ceilings in areas in formal living and dining areas and in bedrooms—places where walls were not paneled—with textured ceilings used in informal living spaces.  Large but simple wood beams were commonly employed as mantles over masonry fireplaces, and these too were stained to match the paneling color. Mantles constructed from crown molding were also used.

 

One place where wood was seldom used was on the floor. This was the period in which thick shag carpet was the floor covering of choice. Most builders simply covered the plywood sub-floor with carpeting throughout the house, and only a few of the most expensive homes had wood floor coverings originally installed. Part of the popularity of thick carpeting during the period was probably linked to the high heating bills, and bare floors were cold floors! Hard surfaces were used in entrance foyers. A variety of materials were employed—slate, ceramic tile, marble tiles, faux slate (chunks of vinyl set in mastic like real slate would be), but only occasionally, wood.

 

70s Kitchen and Bathroom Style.

 

During the early and mid 1970s, avocado and harvest gold were at the height of popularity, and proper kitchens were not only outfitted with a stove, a refrigerator, and a dishwasher in one of these colors, but the same color was often used in Formica countertops, and in the color of ceramic tile covering kitchen backsplashes. These colors were also commonly employed in vinyl floor coverings.  When originally built, a proper Shadeland East home did not have white appliances. Shadeland East homeowners have spent many dollars in remodeling efforts to purge Harvest Gold and Avocado from their kitchens.

 

Kitchen cabinets in Shadeland East homes were installed at a point in time that pre-dates the popular mid-80s “cathedral” or “paneled” doors, and also, the “white” look. Most original cabinets had rather simple one-piece door designs and were stained to a color similar to that used in the family room paneling. Antique brass pulls rather than knobs were popular cabinet hardware. Many of these cabinets have been replaced or painted white. Original Formica countertops in 70-s colors have either been covered with neutral ceramic tile or replaced with solid-surface or granite countertops in more extensive remodeling projects.

 

Recessed lighting had not achieved its current popularity. Florescent lighting was popular. It was common for builders to build fluorescent light box ceilings using 4 foot long florescent tubes covered with 2 x 4 foot translucent plastic drop panels. These light boxes may cover nearly the entire kitchen ceiling.

 

These same avocado and harvest gold colors often extended to the bathroom’s fixtures. A home that recently sold in Shadeland East carried out the theme by having one bathroom with harvest gold fixtures with the other with avocado fixtures! These colors were even used in the ceramic tile and vanity sinks. However, many builders instead used off-white or almond bathroom fixtures

 

Special Features of Shadeland East Homes

(as originally constructed):

 

Exterior Doors: Double Doors, or doors with twin side Lights

Carpet over Plywood—few wood floors

Box Beams (faux wood beams)

Dark real wood paneling and stained woodwork in den/family rooms

Serious structural lumber

Colored bathroom fixtures

Avocado or Harvest gold kitchens

Avocado/harvest gold appliances

Sponge-textured ceilings in paneled rooms

Simple roof lines.

Large wood burning all-masonry fireplaces

Beam mantels

Serving bars

Sliding glass doors to concrete patios

Wood garage doors

Wood shutters

Heat pumps

Structural lumber

 

Some More Shadeland East Facts:

 

Ranch-style home  minimum 2150  sq ft

Two Story minimum 2800 sq ft

Home designs vary from one lot to next

All underground utilities—electric, telephone, later, TV cable

Sidewalks (except Autumn Lane)

Curb and gutter, all city lights, trash, services

Lot line setback is 50 ft

Width of standard  (non-cul-de-sac) lot is100-110 ft

Depth of standard lot is135-160 ft

Size of standard lot 1/3 to ½ acre

 

 

Street names:

 

Turkey Foot Road

Teak Wood Drive

Tally Road

Galaxie Drive

Wishbone Cir

Sweet Bay Drive

Strawberry Lane

Centennial Lane

Summershade Circle

Turf Court

Autumn Lane

Turkey Path N (officially now part of Turkey Foot Road)

Turkey Path S (officially now part of Turkey Foot Road)

 

 

The Future

 

Shadeland East has maintained its integrity as a neighborhood in part because a substantial portion of residents have lived in the neighborhood for a long period of time. In many other cities, close-in urban areas are irreparably altered—usually for the worse—when those with more money than brains discover the appeal of a close-in neighborhood from the perspective of access to work and commute times. This type of redevelopment has occurred in a few Lexington neighborhoods, most notably in the Lakewood Drive area. That location certainly holds strong appeal to wealthy newcomers, who instead of appreciating and restoring the architectural features of existing homes both inside and out, decide that what they really want is to demolish existing homes and instead have what amounts to a new home in the older neighborhood. The scariest part about this thought is that Lakewood drive properties were built in the early 1960s, about 10 years before Shadeland East. Could some of the unfortunate architecture that happened on Lakewood Drive as a result of well-meaning newcomers who had wealth but lacked a genuine sensibility of what the neighborhood was really about and ended up trying for a new home lifestyle in an older neighborhood reflect also what could happen to many Shadeland East homes in another 10 or 15 years?

 

While some builders attempt to make homes consistent with the character of the neighborhood, the new residents often cannot resist adding architectural clichés common in current newly-built homes. Little gables start appearing in places where builders would have never placed them in rooflines 30 or 50 years ago, and complex hip-and-gable roof designs, multistory fan windows and other tired and overused architectural gimmicks popular with the current generation of builders but completely out of step with the neighborhood streetscape start appearing as well. This is not to say that all the original builders had good ideas, but it is important to take great care when the façade of a residence and how it relates to the street is altered.

 

Unfortunately, the desirability of the location causes the value of the lots to increase, and this could in turn lead to home demolition. The “Beverly Hills Rule” states that whenever the lot site value exceeds the value of the structure and improvements, a house is a tear-down candidate. With an unbuilt lot in the subdivision approaching $200,000 in value and the price of some of the homes (with the lot) at $325,000 to $350,000, we are approaching a structure/site value in which the Beverly Hills rule could increasingly apply. This is what has already been happening in the Lakewood Drive area, although there, only a few city blocks away, million dollar homes are being placed on $450,000 tear-down lots.

 

Interior remodeling poses fewer issues for the neighborhood, because at least others in the neighborhood do not need to see the results. There have been a few attempts by remodeling contractors to “update” or modernize Shadeland East floor plans. Usually these are well meaning but substantially misguided attempts to somehow make existing space more “usable” by removing or spanning over load-bearing walls that separate formal living areas from more informal family rooms, thus creating what is thought to be a more modern great room plan with a kitchen on one side. They end up spending a ton of money to accomplish this—rearranging load-bearing walls, raising ceilings and the like is never cheap. The finished product in many instances becomes arguably a less satisfactory as a place to live than the original design. Fortunately these kinds of remodels are costly enough to deter most.

 

Who will the new residents be?  Given the age of many of the Shadeland East homeowners, it is likely that there will be more property turnover in the next ten years than has been seen in the last ten years.  Shadeland East is one of only a small number of areas in Lexington that contains substantial numbers of spacious single-story dwellings. Because of the arrangement of living spaces Many of these homes are better suited to singles and empty-nester couples than to families—particularly families with older children. Older people appreciate designs that don’t involve climbing stairs to go to bed.