1960 ranch house in 1960

Here’s something that doesn’t often happen — one of my neighbors flagged me down the other day to tell me that one of her coworkers grew up in our Retro Ranch! Even more exciting than hearing that piece of news — he had pictures of the house from when it was brand new for Jim and I to have. I was beyond excited to see these photos. They are almost unreal because there is absolutely nothing around the house — no fully grown trees, no grass, no sidewalk and the road is even still dirt!

1960 brick ranch photo

Just looking at the house, I can see that my suspicions about which parts of the house have been updated is correct. The living room window — currently two narrow crank outs and a huge picture window — used to be three even panes of glass. The dining room window — now two small crank outs and a fixed window — used to be one solid fixed pane window. Of course I know the bedroom windows were all replaced — we did that ourselves.

retro front door

If you zoom way in on the photo, you can tell that the front door used to be a double door (what I expected — I have original plans too!) with two very skinny windows and perhaps some very cool handles — maybe with large square reflective backplates.

1960s brick ranch

Man what I wouldn’t give to have that car parked in the front yard!

1960 house under construction

There’s another awesome car parked where the chain link fence and pine tree currently stand and the screened porch that we affectionately refer to as the Tiki Lounge — still under construction. The back of this photo says “View of porch which we will love enclosed with glass and screens — in time.” They did get the screens up but never any glass.

back of brick ranch 1960

Then there’s this shot — proof that the top of the chimney has been re-bricked (the bricks on the chimney now do not match the roman brick on the house). This is before the oval patio was poured. The back of this photo says, ” From the sliding glass doors it will go out on a patio someday.”

back yard of 1960 brick ranch

Here’s a shot of the back corner of the house — where today the raised bed victory garden stands on the left. You can see the neighbor’s house in the distance.


There were only two interior shots in the stack of photos I received. Both are of the construction of the fireplace. The back of this photo says, “Fireplace and oak wood paneling in family room.


You can see that the house is still under construction on the inside at this point. I’m confused about the date on these photos — our house is listed as a 1962 ranch in the city’s documentation, but here the photos say 1960. I had a chat with Pam about this and she wonders if they were not completely done with the inside and everything until 1962. That’s possible, or the city has the year listed incorrectly.

I learned from my neighbor that the man who built this house was a builder by trade. He built this house for his family to live in. His son — the one who works with my neighbor — often talks fondly about this house and what care his father took in building it. I asked my neighbor to see if the original owner’s son would like to talk to me about the house, or come for a visit and am awaiting a reply. Oh how I would love to hear tales of a childhood in this lovely retro ranch of ours — and all the details of how it was furnished and what was on the floors. I’m keeping my fingers crossed but until then, these pictures are such an amazing piece of the history of our house that I’m glad to have.



    • They’ll be kept safe along with the original plans, which I keep meaning to scan in and share here…plus they are fading and I want to make sure I can preserve them digitally before the ink disappears all together. I’ll put that on my list.

  1. I hope you hear back from him. The person we hired to clean our chimney grew up in our neighborhood and was friends with the people who originally owned our house. It was really fun to hear stories.

  2. How cool! I would love to have pictures of our house when it was originally built. (And like you, I’d give a lot to have our house’s original doors.) What a great surprise.

    • Oh yes, the original doors — I’m sure they probably were in need of attention when they got replaced. The cold Wisconsin winters are not kind to wood! However, I would have LOVED to be the one to give them that attention. Oh well…

  3. At first glance, your ranch appears as if it was inspired–even designed–by Frank Lloyd Wright. It’s awesome you received the construction photos! Lately, I’ve been thinking about my childhood home–a ’63 ranch–and wishing there were construction photos of it. Wouldn’t it be cool if you found some NOS vintage frames in which to display them!

  4. Oh, Kate, what a nice “Christmas” gift!! That is just a once in a lifetime thing, you guys were meant to be there for sure. I am so happy for you both,… treasure those photos, they are truly historic. What a wonderful surprise.

  5. That is just too cool! I have always wished something like that would happen to us with our home. I have thought about asking some of the older residents of our neighborhood, that appear to have possible been here since their homes were built, if they have any photos of the neighborhood from back in the day.

    Seeing pictures like this also makes me have a little less distaste for new neighborhoods being built. When I see these new neighborhoods with no trees and what seems no personality, I think to myself that is probably what our neighborhood looked like originally

    Thank you for sharing

    • Yes, I suppose most neighborhoods started out with no trees. It was a big shock to see my house that way–especially since we have so many large trees around the house. Amazing what 50 years will do!

  6. How cool is that?!? We have a neighbor down the street that is the original owner of her 1955 ranch. Ours was built in 1956 and she has pictures of the neighborhood as it was being built, including some of our house. She told me that she has to dig them out of a closet but she’s in her 80’s now and I think she forgets a little bit. I’ve gently reminded her to look for them a few times but don’t want to nag. I’ll have to ask her about them again when I see her. I’m dying to see pictures of our house and neighborhood from then. If I ever get them, I’ll be sure to share them, too.

  7. I also have a set of photos from my house (built 1939) dating from 1942-1968. They are both a wonderful treasure AND a great trove of clues about the home’s past life. How lucky you are to get these! I keep returning to my pics to mull over them again and again, and I’m sure you will too. Enjoy!

  8. How cool is that? Hope you get to chat with the man and learn more. Reminds me of my childhood home in Illinois…it had some large trees but also a lot of small saplings…50 yrs later it looks like a forest is encroaching upon it when I saw it 2 yrs ago. I absolutely love trees but even that many was scaring me. It just wasn’t the same.

    • I do love established neighborhoods with big trees, but there is a certain amount of maintenance that they require, sometimes that means removing some of them. We’ve taken down a bunch of trees on our lot and still have many left. When we bought the house, the yard was pretty overgrown and much “spookier”.

  9. Sweet surprise indeed! I had to look really hard – and realized that your garage is in the end of the house – how awesome. That must be an east coast / midwest thing. I don’t recall seeing houses that way anywhere on the west coast. It is actually a pet peeve of mine, seeing that big personality-less garage door consuming the front of the house. Thanks for sharing these great pics!

    • yes, our garage is at the end of the house. Since we live on a corner, one side of our lot is pretty much all garage and the front (which is much wider) is all house…which means we have a very long front yard with no driveway interrupting it!

  10. Hi Kate,
    You have such a groovy house! Love the built-in planter decorated for Christmas. And the old photos are wonderful.

    Discrepancies in the year built actually seem to be quite common. When we were selling our IL house, the realtor found it was built in 1977 in the county records. But thanks to a neighbor who knew the original owner, we had several original documents. The certificate of occupancy was dated January 1979. My guess is that the building permit was issued late in 1977, and it took just over a year to complete the house.

    The 1962 date on your house could also be the year it was added to the tax rolls. The building permit for our current KY home was issued, and construction begun in August 2011. It was completed and we moved in April 2012. Someone from the assessors office was here earlier this week to measure, and said it will be added to the tax rolls for 2013. Will be interesting to see what build year is officially listed in the county records.

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