Thursday, May 31, 2007

Of Course They're Still in Business!

The phone message said, "Hey Mike, it's John, give me a call, I found some interesting information about the Hunzinger Construction Company today."

Hunzinger was the name of the firm that originally built our house in 1928. John of course is one of my second floor builders, as a part of F&L Construction. He is second from the right in this F&L construction party:

John's house in Iowa City was also built by J.H. Hunzinger Co. about 10 years before our home. According to architectural historian Marlys Svendson, the J.H. Hunzinger Co was the largest builder of homes in the Iowa City area from the late teens to the late 20's.

Apparently in the late 20's the company relocated to Milwaukee, WI, and guess what? They are still in business. John did some google research yesterday on a whim and found them. He spoke to one of their employees and found out that 2007 is their centennial year. She was very excited to hear about the company's history in Iowa City, and then John mentioned that I had a lot of information too. He gave me the employee's email address, and I sent a note last night, we'll see if I hear from them, I certainly hope so.

Here is Hunzinger's web site's history page. I don't think they do any residential construction any more...

In looking over my materials I have one letter from them from 1927, twenty-five letters from 1928, and I just now realized that I haven't read most of them! These would all deal with construction of Foxcroft, since Bess didn't live near the building site, all communication was done by letter. Herman Smith was the job manager, and my impression is that Bess ran him ragged with questions and ideas. He is unfailingly polite in his answers, but my guess is that he would dictate his letters and then go outside and scream.

Here is Herman's first letter of 1928 to Bess, dated January 6th. They had already discussed the preliminary layout of the house, Bess had sent them her book of ideas, and the Monte Cristo house plan that she based her home on. Of particular interest are the comments about the width and pitch of the stairs, I can assure you it it is a workout going up and down!

Click on the thumbnail below to get a readable version



StuccoHouse said...

It's must be nice to have an explanation for some of the quirks in your house. And aren't you lucky you don't have a 14" throughway to your back door!

I had to laugh at the image of a man somewhere in IA standing outside his 1920's business stifling a scream.

Mike said...

You better believe it! This was the second letter between them, it only gets better. My personal mental image is from the last line in this letter "..and thresh this out in a bunch." By the time Bess took possession Herman probably wanted to "thrash" her a bunch instead.