Richland Alphabet House

The letter houses were designed by Albin Pherson, an architect from Spokane hired by the US Government.

In less than 90 days, he planned the entire community of Richland. Construction of the streets began on March 20, 1943 with the first house being completed (a B-house) on April 28, 1943.

Architecturally, many of the houses were based on the Ranch form that was pioneered by the great American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. Other designs include modern minimalist ideals fostered in the 1930's and pyramidal (foursquare) and colonial box-house forms.

All of the letter houses originally came with double-hung windows. Two over two divided panes were common as well as whole panes of glass. The exterior walls were covered by wood shingles on all the letter-houses except the U and V homes, which used asbestos shingles. Simple wood porches were common, but almost no original examples exist today. The earliest houses tended to use coal heat that was later supplanted by oil heat. Although it is common to see a chimney on the roof of a letter-house, none of the letter houses actually came with a fireplace.

The letter houses' interiors used sheetrock instead of the older lath and plaster method that was common until the late 1930's. The interiors of all the letter-houses had wood floors. The duplexes and the U and V houses (precuts) used softwood fir floors and the single-family homes used hardwood oak. The kitchens and bathrooms had real linoleum flooring (pressed cork processed with linseed oil). Interior decorative features include cornice details along with molding strips along the outside corners of walls. The interior doors on the older homes had two (or more) flat panels of solid wood surrounded by a border of thicker, molded solid wood (hollow core doors were a few decades away). Later doors typically had a single panel of wood inside of the thicker surround. Doorknobs were fairly close to today's standard but were slightly smaller. Brass was a common finish with plated chrome used inside of bathrooms.

Many modifications to the letter houses have taken place in the past 50 years. The most common is the installation of metal or vinyl siding over the original shingles (asbestos shingles were usually removed before applying the new siding). Carpeting was often installed over the wood floors. Other modifications include the installation of "picture windows", heating plant updates, and the ubiquitous kitchen and bath remodels.