Storybook Architecture and Cinderella Ranches

Our feature article this month is on the Alpine House, which was recently lost due to fire damage earlier this August, and the Foundation’s role in reclaiming salvageable items from the ruins before the city clean up crew came in. Before we get into the specific coverage of those events, however, let’s take a brief look at the history of storybook architecture and its connection to our vintage residential neighborhoods here in the Las Vegas Valley.

According to various internet resources, Storybook Architecture is technically called Provincial Revivalism and is a branch of the Hollywood design that boomed during the 1920s and 1930s. This style doesn’t have one common definition but rather is defined by playful, out of norm characteristics such as varying door and window sizes, oversized roofs and gables and whimsical exterior facades and landscape decor. The style was primarily popular in Southern California, as LA took cues from the fairytale movie sets and buildings of old Hollywood. Architects attributed to this style are Harry Oliver, W.R. Yelland, W.W. Dixon, Ben Sherwood and Carr Jones, among many other Californian architects of the time.

The Storybook style of architecture found its way into the Modernist movement as well and is often referred to as the Cinderella Ranch style, a style that is commonly found here in the Las Vegas Valley. The Cinderella Ranches of Las Vegas still boast the open box floor plan of the modern ranch. However, they forego the flat roof in favor of steeper pitched roofs and window gables. The exteriors of these homes feature romantic elements such as dovecote roof details, birdhouses protruding from the roof tops, scroll-shaped roof fascia, wooden windows with diamond shaped mullions and wood siding exteriors. Many of us have probably noticed this housing style and compared it to gingerbread houses or thought of the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel.

According to Uncle Jack’s Vintage Vegas blog, the majority of these homes can be found in the following locations: “There’s a wonderful pocket in the yet to be discovered neighborhood of Las Verdes on the west side, as well as many sprinkled like gumdrops (through) McNeil. There are (two) whole subdivisions of them, one on the east side called Belaire. They are easy to find on Oakey, and for a few streets north of Oakey between 17th Street and Eastern. The other west side, undiscovered neighborhood is off of Arville, just south of Sahara. They even named the subdivision ‘Enchanted Village.’ There are streets named after lots of our favorite childhood fairy tale stories. You could live on Hansel or Greta Streets, Thumbelina Circle, Lilliput, King Midas and my favorite…Cinderella Lane!”

There is still much to be discovered about the local architects who may have contributed to our vintage landscape of Cinderella Ranches, but through the acquisition of the Hugh E. Taylor Collection, we found that even his prolific career boasts some contribution to the Cinderella Ranches around Las Vegas. Our very own Heidi Swank currently owns and resides in a Hugh Taylor-designed Cinderella Ranch. If you or anyone you know lives or owns one of these mid-century beauties, please comment below or contact us with any further information you might have so we can continue to broaden our knowledge into this unique, modern style.

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