In 1946 Donald J. Scholz founded Scholz Homes in Toledo, Ohio and began designing and building houses to help meet the burgeoning demand created by the legions of returning GIs. Although not a formally trained architect or even an engineer, Scholz was influenced by the modernism of architects like Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright. Scholz also had a strong appreciation of nature and made extensive use of floor-to-ceiling glass to blur the line between the outdoors and the interiors of his homes. Although his company built many styles of home, with his California contemporary ranch homes he strove to bring the outdoor California lifestyle to the Midwest.
His California contemporary designs all featured strong horizontal lines, but were offered in several facade styles to appeal to a broad array of tastes. Exteriors were sheathed in asbestos board siding, often brightly painted.(1) Interiors were also painted in vibrant primary colors. Scholz even incorporated home decorating into the services he offered, and home buyers had the option to have the company decorate and furnish the house and provide it in move-in condition.
Although relatively modest by today's standards, the California contemporary plans are spacious and open, with cathedral ceilings and ample windows. Each home has a patio in the back that is partially sheltered by the overhanging roof to further encourage outdoor activities. Kitchens are sleek and modern for the era, and Scholz offered high-end appliances from select manufactures as standard features.
Scholz utilized innovative prefabrication techniques to reduce the cost of his homes while maintaining a modicum of luxury. The wall panels were constructed at one of seven factories, delivered by semi to the home site and then erected by the company.(2) Very little was wasted in the manufacturing process, further controlling costs.
Scholz sold over 50,000 California contemporaries, 21 of which are located in Forest Hill. His boldly distinctive designs were influential and widely featured in magazines and advertisements.(3) In addition to Forest Hill, in Ohio Scholz built in Toledo, Rocky River and Pepper Pike. His California contemporaries have stood the test of time and continue to influence design today, particularly his insistence on the extensive use of glass to bring the outdoors into the home. In 2000, Scholz was named one of the 20th century's most influential figures in the residential building industry by Builder magazine. His company was sold, but continues to design (but not build) homes under the name Scholz Design.
The information on our site concerning Donald Scholz and his California contemporary ranches was culled from materials that Ramon Alvarez has gathered in connection with his undergraduate studies at Cleveland State University. Alvarez is a self-taught expert on '50s architectural design generally and Scholz in particular.