HOUSES FOR GOOD LIVING:
ROYAL BARRY WILLS
RICHARD GUY WILSON
The most popular architect among the American middle class after World War II employed three names —and it was not Frank Lloyd Wright but Royal Barry Wills. Life magazine in 1946 anointed Wills as creating "the kind of house most Americans want," because his books sold more than 520,000 copies, and he had designed some 1,100 houses. Earlier, in 1938, Wills had dueled with Wright in a Life magazine contest over houses for the middle class. Wright entered one of his Usonian designs and Wills showed a Cape Cod house. Although the family initially favored Wright, they selected Wills in the end and built his Cape Cod design.12

Houses designed or influenced by Royal Barry Wills were ubiquitous, as Americans devoured his books, discovered his designs in homemaker and housebuilding magazines and newspapers, and either bought his plans or contacted him for a custom design. By the time of his death, in 1962, Wills and his firm were responsible for more than 2,500 houses. Wills was so popular that a writer for the Saturday Evening Post in 1958 observed: "Many a would-be home owner, surveying the infinite variations of Mr. Wills's Cape Codders in plan books and magazines has concluded that he is the man who somehow-invented-the-design.13

Wills was born in the Boston suburb of Melrose in 1895 and he died in Boston in 1962. He studied architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, from which he graduated in 1918, and worked as a design engineer for the Turner Construction Company while moonlighting as an architect. In 1925 Wills opened a Boston architectural office and designed in the various historical idioms. With the onset of the Great Depression, he increasingly turned his attention to small (1,000 square feet) houses and began publishing a vari­ety of colonial-derived designs with the Cape Cod idiom predominating. The prominent modernist Hugh Stubbins worked for Wills from 1935 to 1937, producing some Interna­tional Style houses for the firm. However, Wills's reputation lay with the Colonial Revival house, and after World War II he was everywhere—constantly published, reviewed, and lauded, though always by
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