'Historic' Carter Sparks' Tour

Six homes by legendary MCM architect headline Sacramento Modern tour June 1
Fridays on the Homefront
'60 Years of Streng Bros. Homes,' Sacramento Modern's Saturday June 1 house tour, will focus on the prolific architect Carter Sparks, design genius behind the 3,000-plus modern homes built by the Streng Brothers developers from 1959 to the 1980s in Sacramento, Yolo, and Placer counties. The highlight will be the above 1959 custom Sparks design in Fair Oaks. All photos: Travis Pacheco of Pacheco Photography
Fridays on the Homefront
SacMod tour house #1: Donaldson house - custom Carter Sparks.
Fridays on the Homefront
SacMod tour house #2
Fridays on the Homefront

While Joe Eichler and his architects were at the forefront of bringing modernism to the mid-century masses in the Bay Area, Jim and Bill Streng and architect Carter Sparks were doing the same thing, in their own way, in and around Sacramento.

Evidence of the Streng brothers' legacy will be on full, glorious display Saturday June 1 at '60 Years of Streng Bros. Homes,' a home tour presented by Sacramento Modern. For tickets, click here.

For the non-profit organization's first tour in three years, organizers decided to focus on Sparks, the design genius behind the 3,000-plus modern homes built by the brother team of developers from 1959 to the 1980s in Sacramento, Yolo, and Placer counties.

"The tours are all about hospitality and history," promises Gretchen Steinberg, board president of Sac Modern. "The guidebook serves as a resource later, but what people remember is that they had a good time."

Or, they may just remember the inspired modernism of Carter Sparks, who designed all six houses on the tour, including a custom home in Fair Oaks owned and hosted by the former California State Historic Preservation Officer, Wayne Donaldson.

The homes were selected by SacMod board member Justin Wood, creator of the cartersparks.org online archive, along with Robert Maurer, an organization volunteer whose home is on the tour. Speaking of the Streng production homes on the tour, Steinberg said, "Those six homes represent a wide variety of the kinds of homes that were offered over the years."

That variety will be showcased through several houses in Sacramento proper as well as one each in Citrus Heights and Carmichael, and include one with an atrium and one that's a "very, very rare two-story model," she said.

"It's a much larger route and area than our last tour [in 2016]," Steinberg conceded of the 18-mile diameter of the route, adding, "That is simply the nature of the beast—that Streng homes were built in suburbia."

The highlight may well be Donaldson's 1959 custom home in Fair Oaks, however. Donaldson and wife Laurie sort of collect unique houses, and she recalled looking several years ago for one to replace their Sacramento condo, which was being sold.

"I used to go online a lot looking for mid-century modern homes," Laurie relates of how she found a listing for the three-bedroom, 2.5-bath house in 2012. "I showed Wayne, and he said, 'Yeah, that's what I'm talking about!'"

"We came to the open house, and we kept leaving [but kept being drawn back in]," says Wayne of their irresistible attraction to the property, which was in fact listed by realtor Steve Streng, Jim's son. Other than removing some linoleum to reveal more oak flooring, little of Donaldson's 40 years of expertise as a preservation architect was needed.