Meet Builder Robert Rummer - Page 4

Much more than a coincidence—when the Eichler modern aesthetic rose up in the suburbs of Portland

"We were looking for a Rummer for a year," said Heather, who also found theirs through realtor DeMarco. "Once we got one, the neighborhood thought we were the crazy people on the street when we started working on the house." Painting, new tile, new globe lights, and a nice collection of modern furniture sprinkled throughout the living area give the Amuny-Deys a slice of California in Oregon. "I grew up in a custom modern home in Texas, and we've seen Eichlers in California, so we were excited to discover Rummers when we came to the Portland area," added Heather.

Several miles northwest of Menlo Park is the exclusive development of Oak Hills, one of Portland's first planned communities, with a community center, retirement home, and school. Sprinkled amongst the groves of oak trees and nicely kept ranch and split-level homes are 30 Rummers. Though originally not invited to be a builder in this tract in 1966, Bob Rummer would eventually find a way to introduce his modern designs within three months after the subdivision's construction began. At one time, Oak Hill Rummer owners threw neighborhood parties, rotating as hosts to get a better look at the insides of each other's homes. The low kitchen counters, according to reports, were handy to sit on while sipping wine and stirring the fondue pot.

Long-time Oak Hill Rummerites Ralph and Alice Shoffner, who run a software business today, still enjoy living in their home. Sitting at the end of a cul-de-sac next to a couple of Claude Oakland-styled Rummers, the Shoffner's pristine gable-roof design is nearly 100 percent original. "When we moved up from Orinda, California in 1972, I swore I would never live in a housing development or a cul-de-sac," recalls Alice. "While touring homes and not finding anything to our liking, we went to see this Rummer house which was about to come on the market. I walked through the atrium and said: 'yes, this is it!'"

ralph and alice shoffner

The Shoffner home is special, indeed. Neatly arranged Danish modern furniture distinguish it with a show-home feeling. In fact, it was a show home for Bob Rummer when he was building in Oak Hill. Rummer still has a photo of the house on the wall of his current office in southern Oregon.

Overall, Rummer homeowners appear proud of their homes and recognize Eichler Homes as the primary source for Rummer's inspiration. That same creative, open-minded, modern-embracing spirit seen in many Eichler owners is very much present in Oregon. "We're really not that different from other homeowners," pointed out Ralph Shoffner. "We just live in different homes with a different set of problems."

Contributing writer Joe Barthlow is a graphic designer who lives in a 1955 Cliff May-designed home in Eugene, Oregon. Through his research on his own home, Joe discovered the Rummer homes of Portland. For more information on Rummers, visit www.portlandmodern.com.

Eichler Park in Menlo Park, Oregon




 

Photo credits: Archival shots courtesy Robert Rummer;
Rummers today by Joe Barthlow.

 

 

 

 

Ruminating Rummer: Coincidence or Copycat?

robert rummer

Reading this fascinating story on Portland's Rummers and studying the accompanying photos leads one to wonder just how much inspiration rubbed off on builder Bob Rummer courtesy of Joe Eichler and his architects. And did any original Eichler architectural plans actually find their way to Oregon back then?

While immersed in his Rummer research, writer Joe Barthlow remarked how so many of the Rummer homes closely resembled particular Eichler models. He noted 16 matches in all, including the Claude Oakland MC-34, MC-674, MS-334, MC-274, and L-24 Eichler models; and three styles of Jones & Emmons' Eichler designs, including two gable-roof designs and a shed roof/courtyard model.

Bob Rummer claims his company originated its own designs. Though he never met Joe Eichler, "I probably know Eichler as well as anybody..." he said recently. "Quincy [Jones, the Eichler architect] told me all about him." Perhaps.

The A. Quincy Jones Architecture Archive confirms the 1961 two-day Portland meeting of Rummer and Jones, who soon afterwards invoiced Rummer for airfare, hotel, and per diem. A month later, records indicate, Jones billed Rummer nearly $500 for "re-study and new drawings for a Portland house and Salem house."