2630 Stratford Rd. (ca. 1928) and the Architectural Legacy of Lefaye and Lefaye
Overlooking the largest wooded reserve in Forest Hills is the home of noted Columbia architect Robert S. Lafaye, a principal with his brother George E. Lafaye in the firm of Lafaye & Lafaye. According to firm commission records, Lafaye designed his residence between May 4 and June 22, 1927. The 1925 plat of Forest Hills included with the house plan suggests that he chose the Stratford site over the southwest corner of Canterbury and Wellington which overlooked the second largest wooded reserve in the new development. This dwelling with its stucco exterior, arched openings, low-pitched clay tile roof, and original wrought-iron gate is an exceptional example of Mission/Spanish Colonial Revival style architecture in Forest Hills. The house was also among the earliest homes to be constructed in what was then Columbia’s newest suburb and is among as many as 29 known Lafaye-designed homes in Forest Hills.
Many well-known Columbia architects as well as architects from other South Carolina cities designed houses for Joseph Walker’s 1925 Forest Hills and 1935 “Forest Hills No. 2” developments, however, Lafaye & Lafaye, later Lafaye, Lafaye & Fair, may claim the most extensive and distinctive presence. Between 1927 and 1942, 29 residences are known have been designed by the firm. The number of houses alone seems to suggest the existence of a contractual relationship with Forest Hills developer Joseph Walker and Forest Hills, Inc., but no documentation of this business arrangement has surfaced. It is also possible that the firm was retained by Forest Hills, Inc. to review and approve plans for the development as required by the original deeds of ownership. Hopefully, future research may confirm the nature and extent of the relationship between Forest Hills, Inc. and Lafaye & Lafaye. For now, it is interesting to reflect on the home of Robert Lafaye and the architectural legacy Lafaye & Lafaye has left to Forest Hills.
Whereas the residential designs of Lafaye & Lafaye in Columbia usually followed the Colonial and Tudor Revival styles favored by his clients, Robert Lafaye’s choice of Mission/Spanish Colonial Revival style home likely reflected exposure to a variety of architectural idioms while in Louisiana, Florida, and abroad. Robert was born in New Orleans in 1892 and was educated at Tulane. He began his architectural career as a draftsman in his brother’s firm in Columbia in 1913; moved to Miami as a draftsman and designer to August Geiger in 1915; served with the 117th U.S. Engineers in World War I where he spent eighteen months in France and Germany; and finally rejoined his brother’s firm as a designer, attaining partner status in 1921. His personal affinity for the Spanish Colonial Revival style, which reached the height of fashion during the 1920s and early 1930s, was reflected in his design of 2630 Stratford Road.
Lafaye’s interior designer Dora Gray furnished the home’s interiors and even showcased his living room and sunroom in her advertising. Gray would later reside in Forest Hills as well. The superior quality of Lafaye’s residencial designs with their gracious public spaces and elegant interior molding and wood trim is also evident in Gray’s photographs of the 2630 Stratford Road interior.
The architectural legacy of Lafaye & Lafaye is likely to be more extensive that the current research reveals. Lafaye & Lafaye is known to have designed ten residences for the “high hills” including his own between 1927 and 1935. Other designs dating to this period are 1410 Devonshire Drive (ca. 1927) for Prof. Robert L. Meriwether; 1319 Devonshire Drive (ca. 1928) for Robert B. Walker; 1218 Wellington Drive (ca. 1928) for Joseph L. Nettles; 2633 Stratford Road (ca. 1928) for Preston Manning; 1331 Westminster Drive (ca. 1929) for J. Earl Davis; 1425 Westminster Drive (ca. 1930) for J. Lomax Bryan; 2615 Stratford Road (ca. 1931) as an engagement present for friend Arthur St. Julian Simons; 2600 Stratford Road (ca. 1931) for Rollie A. Huffstetler; and 2605 Canterbury Road (ca. 1932) for Paul A. Cooper. The residences Lafaye & Lafaye designed during this period are two-story stucco, brick veneer, and weatherboard dwellings reflecting Colonial, Tudor Revival, Craftsman, and Mission/Spanish Colonial styles.
In the period between 1935 and 1942, another nineteen residences are known to have been designed by the firm. These designs included 2626 Stratford Road (ca. 1936), an award winning General Electric Demonstration Home for John A. Manning; 1511 Wellington Drive (ca. 1936) for W. Dixon Foster; 2631 Stratford Road (ca. 1937) for O. Lee Gordon; 1419 Devonshire Drive (ca. 1937) for Ernest Graham; 2808 Forest Drive (ca. 1937) for William O. Callahan; 1420 Devonshire Drive (ca. 1938) for J. McTyeire Daniel; 1509 Wellington Drive (ca. 1938) for Capt. Andrew P. Sullivan; 1501 Wellington Drive (ca. 1938) for George W. Goolsby; 2531 Canterbury Road (ca. 1938) for John A. Wells; 2803 Gervais Street (ca. 1938) for Mr. and Mrs. William J. Barbour; 1400 Sherwood Road (ca. 1939) for Mr. and Mrs. Jake D. Hill; 1431 Wellington Drive (ca. 1939) for Marguerite Lafaye Bruton, Robert Lafaye’s daughter; 2832 Sheffield Road (ca. 1939) for Dr. Travis Chappell; 1527 Devonshire Drive (ca. 1939) for Dr. O. Benedict Mayer; 1211 Devonshire Drive (ca. 1939) for Eugene H. Salmon; 1314 Wellington Drive (ca. 1940) for John S. Linton; 1410 Cambridge Lane (ca. 1941) for Mr. and Mrs. Van D. Lott; 2804 Sheffield Road (ca. 1941) for Mr. and Mrs. Nebraska E. Brown; and 2822 Canterbury Road (ca. 1942) for Dr. J. Graham Shaw. Some of the residences designed by the Lafaye firm in this second phase of development were two-story dwellings, often following architectural trends of the previous phase and others with more subdued references to earlier revival styles. The other dwellings included a number of smaller one or one-and-one-half story homes of brick veneer and weatherboard with more or less architectural detail depending on the taste and budget of the owner.
Even as of the writing of this article, a resident of Forest Hills has brought to my attention that his home may be the design of Lafaye & Lafaye. It is hoped that those revelations will continue, and that one day we will have a complete list of Lafaye & Lafaye designs in Forest Hills. In the meantime, when you are out for a walk, stand on the large reserve or “Big Island” at Stratford and Devonshire and look around at the work of Robert Lafaye and his associates. In the winter months, it is possible to view seven unique designs of Lafaye & Lafaye from one spot. Give it a try!
To learn more about Robert Lafaye and the contributions of Lafaye & Lafaye to Forest Hills’ architectural heritage, go to www.nationalregister.sc.gov/richland/S10817740139/index.htm and scroll to the bottom of the page to view a complete copy of the National Register nomination. A complete bibliography of source material for this article is attached to the nomination.
If you believe you own or know of additional residences designed by Lafaye and Lafaye, please contact Mary McCants, Forest Hills historian, at ten.htuosllebnull@stnaccmyram.