Saturday, April 28, 2012

Evolution of a plan - The Campeau Centre Hall Design

When you hear the word 'Tara', many of you will immediately think of the grand plantation house from the movie Gone With the Wind. This type of grand house with a symmetrical facade and centre-hall plan, has long been a symbol of luxury and grandeur.
In the mid-century this type of house was built by many builders in Ottawa. In some areas it was the only type of house built. In this posting I will look at the centre-hall plans built by Campeau and explore how the design changed over the years.

In the 1950s Campeau had very few 2-storey designs, as bungalows and 1 1/2 storey houses were the norm. As such, the centre-hall plan did not appear in their design catalogue until the 1960s.

c. 1962. Riverside Park and Graham Park

This is an early example of a Campeau centre-hall plan. It is actually a contemporary take on the design, with a facade that is not perfectly symmetrical because of the staircase placement. The large 4 bedroom design was quite luxurious for the time. 

c. 1964. Playfair Park
One of the key traditions of the center-hall plan is to have the living room on one side of the foyer and the dining room on the other, with the kitchen behind. This design had 3 exterior options, including a modern option below.

C. 1965. Playfair Park, Russell Heights
This design and the two below are essentially the same, just with different facades.
C. 1965. Playfair Park, Russell Heights

C. 1965. Playfair Park, Russell Heights
<>The columns on this design are a direct reference to the grand plantations houses of the American South much like Tara in Gone With the Wind. While the house is not huge, the columns make it look much larger.<>
C. 1966. Playfair Park, Riverside Park, Leslie Park

This traditional design with dormers, looks smaller than a 2-storey facade, but still has the classic centre-hall plan.

C. 1966. Playfair Park, Riverside Park, Leslie Park.
One of my favourite features of a classic centre-hall plan is the large living room with windows on the front and the back of the house.

c. 1967. South Keys, Beacon Hill
With the growing popularity of a main-floor family room, the design of Campeau's centre-hall plans was tweaked in the late 1960s to allow this additional room.

c. 1973
While in the past, the centre-hall plan was wide and shallow, by the 1970s, the addition of a large family room, made many of these plans quite deep.

c. 1976. Arlington Woods

With a large house on a wide lot, the centre-hall plan can be very grand. In this example, the house actually extends behind the garage - which once again allows for a living room with windows on the front and back of the house.

c. 1977. Rolling Meadows (Barrhaven)

Instead of the garage just being an appendage to the design - like in earlier versions - by the 1970s, the space behind the garage was put to use.
c. 1977. Hunt Club Chase

A wider centre-hall plan allows for a grand curved staircase, as in the designs above and below.
c. 1977. Hunt Club Chase
c. 1979. Hunt Club Woods

Even on the cusp of the 1980s, the centre-hall plan continued to be popular.
In more recent years, lot sizes have shrunk, so the centre-hall plan is often not possible. It appears every so often on corner lots, where the house can be situated along the long side of the lot.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A bright idea: the front-split

Split level houses were very popular in the mid-century and came in many shapes and sizes. The side-split was a popular option for wider home sites, but for narrower lot widths, the back-split became the split level of choice for builders. The biggest drawback of a back-split is the lack of a back door to the rear yard. With the bedrooms at the rear of most back-split designs, there is a visual disconnect between the living spaces and the yard.
Edstan Homes - Lynwood Village. A typical back-split plan.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Campeau built a series of homes that is the perfect solution to the problem of a split level house on a narrow lot: the front-split. The design below from Carson Meadows, places the split level bedrooms at the front, and wonderful expanse of living spaces at the back open to the yard.

Likewise, these two designs in Katimavik by Campeau are front-splits. A version of the top plan was also built in Carson Meadows.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Mid-Century Marketing

For this posting I am venturing outside of Ottawa to share some pieces of mid-century marketing for houses and developments in Peel Region (Brampton/Bramalea and Mississauga). I have to admit that I spent the first 2/3 of my life living in Brampton, so I know quite a bit about my hometown and its mid-century roots. Here are a few great mid-century marketing pieces along with my own fun insights and comments.


All that is missing in his dream bubble is a white picket fence, his wife, 2.5 kids and a dog named Scruffy. Ah, the North-American dream. Gotta love it!

1960s Gender roles aside, this companion ad was perfect for the time.

The same two birds in front of the house seem to be in most of the Bramalea ads from the time, such as in the 2 above...I wonder why?

I always love the features of 'dream homes' from the 1960s, like a carport and hood fan...

Whoa! Hold it! Don't sign yet...until you have seen Bramalea. But you must act quickly...Bramalea is selling out fast...there is only enough land to sustain building for the next 35 years (literally, Bramalea was finally completed at the end of the 1990s).

I am not sure if newspaper readers felt the same way in 1963, but Bonnie Bramalea terrifies me. Where are her pupils?

She's baaack...and slightly less creepy. Still no pupils, though.

Ok, so they topped pupil-less Bonnie Bramalea, with the creepier talking house!! The sound and light production must have been neat to see, though.

It is official...the free helicopter rides have to be the coolest marketing gimmick ever! The nearby development of Peel Village also offered free helicopter rides around the same time to see that neighbourhood being built.


This is very idyllic ad...the only thing is that there are no hills in Bramalea where you can look out over the land...(at least not in the 1960s. Much later the former dump was turned into a ski-hill, which does offer an outlook over Bramalea).

In 1961, a series of simple, but cute, ads were run for Bramalea. I love them all, so I have included every one!

These last three are my absolute favourite!

Did children really parade down the street in the 1960s? Maybe in Bramalea they did!

Things are happening in Bramalea! This groovy ad has a far out design that screams 1970s!

I have heard semi-detached houses called many things: doubles, twin homes...but Sweatheart Homes is certainly unique. I have never heard it used again, though...


Oh how I wish I am old enough to have been around to see all 28 model homes. It would have been sensory overload. I visited the 26 model homes in the Springdale community (also in Brampton) model home court in the 1990s, and it was a day in itself to see them all! But I was in heaven. I still have the shopping bag that they gave out to fill with floor plans.

Yep, that is a car on top of a house in Applewood Heights, Mississauga. It is little known fact that it was quite normal to park your car on the roof of your house in 1960s Mississauga.

Ok...that was a lie. This was a marketing stunt by Shipp Builders - who also owned car dealerships. They were able to draw attention to both their houses and cars that were for sale.