BOULDER – Fire stations, churches, shopping centers and schools: if you’ve spent any time in Boulder, you’ve likely spent time in and around the work of architect Hobart Wagener.
Cresting Highway 36 before your final descent into Boulder, one of Wagener’s most (in)famous designs is the first thing you’ll see. Williams Village towers (aka “Will Vill” and even “Chill Vill” to CU’s students) is Wagener’s most controversial project: two commanding monoliths that spring up from Boulder’s sweeping valley landscape, proudly welcoming both residents and visitors alike.
In 1995, Williams Village received an award as “the most outstanding building built in Colorado in the past 25 years.” In fact, sixteen of Wagener’s designs were featured in architectural and professional publications, with ten designs receiving national or regional honor awards.
Wagener’s best-known structures, the Community Plaza Shopping Center and adjacent North Broadway Shopping Center, are true Boulder icons that channel the low-slung look and linear feel of mid-century modern architecture. With Community Plaza’s curvilinear roof and North Broadway’s folded plates, these well-preserved shopping centers offer modern-day businesses like Ideal Market, Pekoe Sip House, Vic’s Coffee, and Audrey Jane’s Pizza Garage an opportunity to celebrate a well-preserved throwback to the neon-forward mid-mod style.
In addition to his commercial work, Wagener designed more than ninety private residences. One of his more recognizable works is the Labrot House at 819 6th St. Fitted with an eye-catching butterfly roof, Labrot is of those homes that cranes the necks of admiring looky-loos as they putter past its wondrous wingspan. (What’s most surprising is the lack of fender benders in front of the house.) Wagener was a mere thirty-three years old when the house was completed in 1954.
Six years after honing his craft with the Labrot house, Wagener was hired by Boulder residents Gordon and Minna Hewes to design their new home. Just returning from a year’s stay in Japan, the Heweses had fallen in love with Asian architectural style, wanting a home with a serene, cool, and uncluttered feel. One caveat: Mr. Hewes, a well-read professor and researcher, had volumes upon volumes of books, research papers, and other scholarly materials. Wagener accepted this design challenge and created a living room library with an open balcony study as a solution to the scholarly clutter, creating an intriguing home that’s airy and unburdened yet able to house Mr. Hewes’ prized volumes.
This mid-century modern time capsule, on the market for the first time since its construction, could be yours. So rare is it these days to find a mid-mod home in its original state. Upon entering, you’re transported back in time, to an era when houses were customized to suit their owners’ lifestyles. Moving from room to room, you’ll feel the Heweses’ adoration of their home. Visit 335 16th Street in Boulder this Sunday, March 19, 2017 from 1 to 3 p.m. for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to relive a bygone era – and perhaps call it your own.
By Sean McIllwain, Mod Boulder Real Estate. Photos courtesy of Sean McIllwain.