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LEVINE HOUSE

The 1957 Levine House is a one-story front-gabled Modernist home with a low-pitched roof. The house faces roughly to the east and sits on a large (approximately 1 acre) hexagon-shaped lot that is relatively flat except in the front yard where it slopes sharply down to the road.  The house is located in The Cloisters, a neighborhood of single-family homes that date from the 1950s and 1960s.  While several other good examples of Modernist architecture exist in the neighborhood, the majority of the homes in the neighborhood can be classified as having a Rambler-Ranch form.  And many of these ranch houses feature elements of the conservative Colonial Revival style.   

 

Some Modernist houses in Charlotte, such as the Praise Connor Lee House,  present a minimalist façade.  This is not the case with the Levine House.  The façade is where the attributed architect Jack Boyte located the most significant exterior architectural features on the house. 

 

The front of the Levine House could be described as “layered.”  Vertical and horizontal planes enclose areas that transition from interior to exterior spaces.   The front-most element of the house is a two-width-thick brick wall that dominates the northern half of the façade.  The wall runs from a point several feet past the deep roof overhand on the north side of the house to the center of the house below the peak of the roof.  The wall rises from the grade to an average height of eight feet, and is laid in running-bond with over-sized brick.  The wall is topped with a simple cast-concrete cap.  The northern-most eight feet of the wall is freestanding.  Past that point the wall encloses interior space and is topped with three quadrilateral-shaped direct-glazed opaque windows that follow the slope of the roof.  Although the enclosed interior space ends approximately fourteen feet shy of the roof peak, the brick wall and boxed framing, representing the plane of the roof, extend to the center of the house.  This extension of the brick wall is laid in a pattern with open spaces between the bricks, forming a screened exterior space on the front of the house.   A simple post set on top of the brick wall supports the representative framing.

 

 

 

 

 

Details of the front brick wall

The side wall adjacent to the brick screen is blank and is sheathed with T111 siding, which is a rough-finished plywood siding grooved with dados spaced eight inches apart. 

Partially screened by the perforated freestanding section of the brick wall is the principal section of the façade.  It is composed of seven bays, delineated by tall, narrow brick piers that rise from a low brick knee wall and terminate at the roof framing, with three bays to the north of the roofs peak, and four bays to the south of the roof peak.  There is no overhang above these bays, and the roof framing is sheathed with a wide board topped with metal flashing.  Each of the bays contains a simple wooden frame containing direct-glazing.   Each window frame contains an intermediate frame member that separates the lower rectangular glass sections from smaller upper units of glass that follow the slope of the roof.  

Three bays extend to the south of the glazed portion of the façade.  The bays are formed by brick posts that are identical to the tall, narrow brick piers that hold the glazing.  The posts delineate a shallow recessed porch.  The porch shelters a slab door in the narrow side wall with T111 siding from floor to ceiling.  The door features a notable compass-shaped escutcheon around the knob.  The wider front facing porch wall is also sheathed with T111 siding, but the siding is set higher, beginning above a foundation wall of oversized brick.  The wall is pierced by a single window opening containing replacement sliding sash windows.  The foundation wall ends in a pier that projects slightly past the siding with a sloped mortar cap.  The porch floor is composed of flagstone set in mortar and is accessed by front facing flagstone steps with three risers and side facing step that lead to a carport.  A brick retaining wall that boarders the front-facing steps is integrated into the brick knee wall/foundation wall that supports the brick posts and piers across the façade.    The front facing steps lead to a short flagstone walk that borders a concrete driveway.

 

The low pitched gable roof extends without interruption to form a carport on the south side of the house.  Frame utility closets with a solid brick rear wall and two additional brick posts support the southern end of the carport roof. 

The design of the façade incorporates vertical planes that recede as one views the façade from the north to the south.  The northern most part of the façade is composed of a solid brick wall.  As the viewer moves to the south, the solid wall becomes a perforated screen.  The next element of the façade, a largely glazed wall, is stepped back.  This transparent section of the façade then transitions to an open recessed porch.  The porch in turn transitions into the large clear space of the carport.  Each of the physical setbacks of the vertical planes that makeup the façade leads to a less confined space.  From solid brick, to a brick screen, to a glass wall, to an open porch, to a larger open space.  This sequence of wall materials and space found on the façade may reflect a philosophy that was embraced by some Modernist architects that interior and exterior spaces should naturally flow into each other.

 

The north elevation is partially obscured by the front brick wall.  A large portion of the north elevation is deeply recessed and contains two wide metal-frame windows.  The recessed portion of the north elevation is sheathed with T111 siding.  The reminder of the north elevation, the portion adjacent to the rear elevation, is a blank section of brick wall set close to the edge of the roof overhang.

 

A large portion of the south elevation is sheltered by the carport.  The portion of the south elevation that is not protected by the carport has a minimal overhang that features a narrow screened vent that allows for roof framing ventilation.  The wall is sheathed with T111 siding and is pierced by a single window opening containing a replacement sliding-sash window.  The brick foundation wall is interrupted by a ribbon of metal framed windows that illuminate the basement.   

 

The rear elevation of the Levine House features a shed-roofed porch adjacent to the south elevation.  The porch roof is an extension of the main roof.  The porch is currently being enclosed to form a sunroom.  The section of the exterior wall sheltered by the porch is covered with T111 siding.  The rear elevation is interrupted by a recessed patio.  As was the case in the front of the house, the roofline but not the roof itself is continued across the open patio area with a single boxed beam. 

 

The three walls that border the recessed patio are entirely glazed, with glass sliding doors topped with large transoms.  The patio features flagstones laid on a concrete pad.  The remainder of the rear elevation is veneered with brick and is pierced by two window openings with simple angled brick sills.

 

The large low-pitched roof of the Levine House is covered with a layer of composite asphalt.  The roof features two rectangular chimneys capped with flat concrete panels.

 

The interior of the Levine House has retained a high degree of integrity and is in good condition.  Most of the house’s original interior features have survived, and no alterations have been made to the original layout of the house. 

For several decades before Jack Boyte designed the Levine House, nationally prominent Modernist architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Philip Johnson, and Richard Neutra had based much of their residential design on the ideal that nature should not be boxed-out of a home.  Instead, a house should be designed so that the residents should be able to move in and out of nature within the architect-designed space.  Wright blurred the distinction between the interior and exterior with the use of terraces and patios.  Johnson and Neutra used glass to allow people inside their homes to experience, at least visually, the environment around the house.  Theses two elements, extensive use of glass and spaces that connected the interior and the exterior, became dominant features in Modernist residential architecture.  Both of these elements of design are prominent in the Levine House.

The interior of the Levine House can be divided into two principal sections: the bedroom wing,  and the communal living space that includes the kitchen, the dinning room, the living room, and the den. 

The front door of the Levine House leads to a hallway referred to on the original plans as the “gallery.”  The gallery has a concrete floor that was poured on grade and is lower that the rest of the above-ground rooms.  The concrete has been covered with the same flagstone material found on the front recessed porch, giving a visitor to the house an immediate connection between the outdoor and indoor spaces.  The gallery is lined on one side by the wall of tall fixed windows on the façade, further emphasizing the link between the inside and outside spaces.  Other prominent material elements in the gallery are the exposed brick of the piers that separate the windows, and the mahogany of the plywood wall panels, doors and trim.  Original valences that allowed for curtains and lighting in the gallery remain.

The gallery runs along the front of the house and is separated from the dining room and the living room by waist-height mahogany cabinetry topped with a screen formed by widely spaced mahogany framing set in a rectangular pattern.  This minimal screen allows for a free flow of space and light between the rooms.   The living room is accessed from the gallery by a short flight of bluestone steps (the same material as the flagstones).  The top of the steps is met with a flagstone “path” that runs through the room, out a set of glass doors and to the flagstone patio located at the rear of the house.  This flagstone walkway is an architectural element of this house that attempts to make a connection between the interior and exterior spaces.   Another notable feature of the living room is rectilinear fireplace with no hearth.  The freestanding fireplace and the exposed chimney that rises directly above the fire box are constructed of the same brick found on the exterior of the house.  A second flue, for the furnace located in the basement, is incorporated into the masonry pile. 

The fireplace separates the living room from the dining room, which features a built-in sideboard.  A sloped ceiling that reflects the low-pitch of the roof is interrupted between the living room and dinning room by a boxed beam. 

A swinging door in the dinning room leads to the kitchen which features original cabinets and large expanses of original hardwood plywood paneling.  The original vinyl tile floor in the kitchen has been replaced.  The least intact of the common rooms is the den, which has lost its original cabinetry and paneling.  The gallery terminates at a set of hollow, plywood bi-fold doors with diamond-shaped escutcheons around the knobs.  The doors lead to the bedroom wing.

The bedroom wing contains two bathrooms that have retained a remarkable amount of original tile, cabinets, and fixtures.  The master bathroom is notable for its floor-to-ceiling-tiled walk-in shower, with original shower door.  The master bedroom features a walk-in closet with original built-in cabinets.  The short hallway that accesses the wing’s three bedrooms was originally paneled with stained hardwood plywood, which has since been painted.  Original plywood hollow doors and original wood trim have survived. 

A doorway off of the kitchen leads to a turning staircase with an original tiled bathroom located off the landing.  The stairs continue to a basement that includes two finished rooms and a furnace room.