- By Alden B. Dow FAIA, 1937
Alden B. Dow designed the William E. Koerting residence on the north bank of the St. Joseph River in Elkhart, Indiana, in 1937. The house is a clean and simple model of cubic masses enclosed in cypress trim and plaster with a flat roof and large intersecting chimney mass. There are three levels to the structure since the water level of the river was a bit too high to get an ordinary height basement under the house. Instead, Mr. Dow raised the living room half a story and located the basement under it. The mid-level living room opens to the river through an expansive 11 by 6 foot pane of glass.
Mr. Koerting was the son of a United States consul in Tokyo and needed a home with suitable space in which to display an extensive collection of Japanese decorative art. The Dows and the Koertings developed a friendship during and after construction. Whenever Mr. Dow took a personal interest in the client, he would provide a vivid narrative with the plans. Here he described his idea for displaying the Koertings’ art:
“The wall separating the bedroom from the living room I have indicated to be of wood paneling with swinging panels opening out into the living room at the height of the rail of the balcony … Outside of these doors, on the living room side, there would be a wide shelf or deck … This shelf should offer a chance for some interesting effects as a place for ferns or other pieces of ornament. The deck along the opposite side of the living room would furnish similar possibilities.”
The interior color scheme was very simple: cherry red carpeting throughout the main floor, off-white walls, and white draperies. Mrs. Koerting’s grand piano stood below the bedroom balcony in front of a large Japanese screen. Mr. and Mrs. Dow visited the Koertings in their new home in March of 1938. Afterwards, Mr. Dow wrote a note of thanks to them:
“We know you have a swell house and that you are going to thoroughly enjoy it. In fact, you will enjoy it more as you live in it because it suggests so many developments. In other words, you will never grow tired of it.”