Memoir Written by Paul Rudolph’s Mother
Below is a memoir written Paul Rudolph’s mother, Eurie Stone Rudolph (1890-1981), from the archives of the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation. In it, Mrs. Rudolph describing his growing-up, initial (and increasing) fascination with architecture, his education, and visits with him in New York, Boston, and New Haven - along with observations on her son’s practice and success. In the course of the typescript she mentions visiting the New York World’s Fair, so this would have been written some time during the span of that fair: 1964-to-1965.
[Note: in transcribing this text, we have retained most of Mrs. Rudolph’s grammar, spelling, capitalization, and construction.]
Dr. Rudolph and I are very proud of Paul, and I suppose we should be as he has done so many things in his lifetime. And he has not done most of it on his own. He was only about two years old when he left Elkton, and naturally does not know anyone there, but I have noticed in all writings about him, it is always mentioned that he was born in Elkton, KY. After we left Elkton we lived in Morganfield, Cadiz, Greenville, Elizabethtown and Franklin. After Paul was old enough to attend school, he attended grade school, in Kentucky. Then we went to Athens College, where Dr. Rudolph was the head of the Religious Education Department, Athens College, Athens, Alabama. Paul attended high school and graduated there. Paul was always interested in playing with blocks and making a house out of cardboard etc. While we were living in Lebanon, KY, a new Church was to be erected, and Mr. King, the Church Architect for the entire Methodist Churches, was living in Louisville. Mr. Kind would come out to Lebanon and show the blueprints for the church. We would often be at our house and Paul never failed to watch him when he was talking and showing the blueprints… He was about eight or nine years of age, but he knew the blueprints after Mr. King would explain them to the people. Mr. King’s office is now in Philadelphia, and since we have been living in Atlanta he wrote to us to know if Paul had kept us his Architectural interest. Said he needed an Architect in his office, and thought he would write us to know if Paul would be available. I wrote him and told him that Paul had his own business and I did not know whether he could help him or whether he would have time. Mr. King wrote back that he could not never command Paul, after learning what he had done and is doing. Since then he has kept in close touch with Paul as to what he is doing. After we moved to Franklin, Paul decided to make a Model house, out of cardboard. It was an ideal home with everything a home could have in it. He made the furniture of first one thing and another. Made lamp bases from marbles, made a Gov. Winthrop Bookcase and little tiny books to go in the case. Made shingles for the house, about one fourth inch wide and half an inch long. Made windows, then a friend gave him a little set of electric light[s] for the house. He had it all wired and would turn the lights on to show through the windows. When we moved to Athens we moved that six foot long house as Paul did not want to give it up. It had given him a lot of pleasure to show it to people as they always seemed so interested that he had made everything. He always liked to paint pictures too, as well as he liked to play the piano. Had always loved Music, and would be drawing a model house or painting a picture, then suddenly get up from that work to and go to the piano and practice. We never had any trouble with him about his music. Often he would say he wished that his sisters would hurry and get through with their practice so he could practice. Music was play to him as well as his painting and drawing pictures. The little house stayed in Athens College and viewed by hundreds of people, until it finally decayed.
Paul had three years in Athens College, taking piano and organ lessons, studying Art along with his other work in College. But he wanted to go to a school where he could get some Architecture, so we sent him to Auburn University. The first thing his architecture teacher had the class to do, was to make a model house. That was no trouble at all for Paul, as he had already worked a year or more on the model house already mentioned. He liked his work in Auburn. At church they learned that he could play the organ, and as the regular Organist was not in good health, they would often call on Paul to substitute, for her. They finally decided to have Paul be the regular Organist, and paid him $20 per month. He already had three little girls that he was teaching music, as the home where he was staying had a little girl, and the mother wanted her to have music lessons, and asked if Paul would teach her. Then two other mothers wanted him to teach their little girls. So with his little music fee and his organist fee, the money situation helped him as well as us while he was in college. Soon one of the professors asked him to design a home for him. Paul was very much elated over that, and I think the home is still in Auburn. Music, Art and Architecture were his three delights. Though he never failed in any other subjects. After his Sophomore year in Auburn, Paul wanted to go to Nashville to work with an Architect. First one he went to about a job, told him they did not need anyone. He went to another one who was a relative of a friend of ours from Pulaski, Tenn, and this friend had been wanting Paul to go see the architect. Soon as Paul [got there, he] asked if he needed anyone, he said, “Yes I do—When could you go to work[?]” Paul replied, “Right now,” and began pulling off his coat. The man asked Paul how much money he wanted. Paul answered that he didn’t know. He told Paul he would pay him ten dollars per week. Paul said that was alright. Paul was not caring about the money, as he was going to stay with his sister in Nashville, and would not be paying any board or rent. Paul was just wanting to work for an architect. The Architect soon discovered that Paul really wanted to work, and at the end of the month he was paying $125. Then when the end of the summer came, he wanted Paul to continue to work for him, but Paul said, “No I can’t, I want to go back and finish college.” The architect kept up with Paul, and when he graduated, he wrote and asked Paul to come back and work for him, that he would pay him $500 per month. But the architect was not modern is his ideas, and Paul did not want to go back. After graduating he went to Sarasota, Florida, to work with Mr. Ralph Twitchell, Architect. Worked with him for a few years after he had graduated from Harvard University. Paul finally decided to start out on his own. We did not have any money to back him up in his work, and was a little uneasy about him starting out so soon on his own. But within a few weeks he had been commissioned to design six house[s], and ever since then has had his own offices. I am sending you some copies of his accomplishments, that he has done since then. Hope they will be of some interest to you. We had a man from Yale about three years ago, as a guest speaker at Emory University. We asked him if he happened to know Paul Rudolph. He replied, “Know him? I reckon I do. That Boy is Terrific and I mean Terrific. I don’t know how he does all the things that he does. You should be very proud of him, he is a Wonder at Yale University.”
We went to see Paul about five years ago at Yale. We were very happy to see him, in his new apartment that he had remodeled from a house that he bought near the campus. The lower part of the house he had made into offices to rent. At the side and back of the house he had converted it into living quarters for himself. Very modern and unusual, especially for New Haven, Conn. Vogue Magazine wanted him to have a party and let them have a write up about the home… He kept putting them off, but finally consented to let them do it. (It was written and published in Vogue, January 1963, if you should care to see it, and can find a copy.) He still loves his music even if he does not get to play as much as he once did. So he bought a nine foot Grand Piano to go in his apartment. He converted the upstairs of this house, into an office for his own Architectural work. He now keeps about eighteen employed there. On this same trip to see him, he took us to Boston to see his fine Arts Building for Wellesley College, which was not quite completed at that time… But it was so wonderful for us to see that, for it was one if the first big buildings he had designed, that we had seen. When I saw it, I just thought, “Well I never thought I would ever have a son that could design such a wonderful building.” It meant so much to me to see it. Of course he does not think so much of it now since he has done so many others that are better.
In May of 1964 we went to see Paul again. This time he had many buildings of note that we had not seen. We went to New York first. He has an office and apartment there, as he has to be in New York so much he decided it would be better to have his own apartment rather than to have to make reservations at a hotel every time he went. This apartment was very beautiful, all remodeled by himself. It just made us take a breath when we saw it. Nothing so luscious, but just simple beauty. He had to be away one day so he let us spend a day at The World’s Fair. That did not interest us too much, as we had been to other World Fairs. We had rather be seeing what Paul was doing, but one day at the fair was alright, for we knew when we got back people would be asking us if we went to the Fair. We could tell them Yes. Paul said his apartment was too small for us to stay there, so he had engaged rooms for us at The Hotel Plaza. One of our sister-in-laws from Oklahoma City was there with us too. Paul would not let any of us pay any expenses on the entire trip. We were in New York three days. He took us to see his new ENDO Laboratories in New York, and many things and places we had never seen in New York before, even though we had been there several times. We went on to New Haven, Conn, after Paul had finished his business in New York. We again stayed in his apartment there and then to see many of his buildings that had been finished since we were there before. The Yale Art and Architecture Building that has caused so much notice and publicity, especially in Architectural Journals, was such a thrill for us to see. Perhaps you may have seen some publicity about it. It’s Paul’s best building s far he thinks. Then we went on to Boston with Paul, as he had to be there on business for two days. We again saw Wellesley Fine Arts Building, The Blue Cross Blue Shield Building and the site where the Boston Service Center is to be erected. As Paul had an engagement, we went alone to see some places. When we went to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Building, we told them at the desk when we first went into the building that we were the parents of Paul and wondered if we might see some of the building. They asked us to have a seat and they would show us the entire building, as they were very proud of it as well as they were of Paul for designing such an adequate building that just suited their needs. You would have thought we were Kings and Queens the way they took so much time to show us everything, and to meet the presidents of different departments, and tell them that we were the parents of Paul. We thought it was a very nice building, and so glad we had seen it.
We have seen quite a number of Paul’s buildings, and naturally are always proud of them. We have not yet seen the Wallace Residence in Athens, Alabama, since it has been completed but did see it while it was under construction, and is quite unusual. One time when we were in Florida we went to see the Deering House. It was on the Gulf and from every room it was designed so one could look out and see the water. I asked Mrs. Deering how she happened to get Paul to design the house. She said, “Well we had friends in California who knew of his work, and we had friends in Miami who knew him, and all these friends told us that if we got Paul to design a house it would not be like any one else’s house.” And that was held out to be true in all of his work. He always comes up with a new idea, for every building he has ever designed.
Paul has taught the Master Class in Architecture, two days a week, since he has been at Yale, and has done all the other work on the outside, from his office in his own home office building in New Haven. Yale wanted him for the entire time, and he refused because he did not want to give up his practice as he loved that so much. Then they came back to him to make another proposition, that he be the chairman of the Architectural Department, and teach the Master Class. He consented to do that for five years, but has been there longer. He says he knows he does not want to stay there because he likes his Architectural practice better. He has an office in Boston, New Haven and New York, and employs about twenty-five men. His office for the Yale School is also in the new Art and Architecture Building, and he has three secretaries there. We are afraid he is doing too much, and he has had some nervous breakdowns, and had to get away for a rest each time. Last summer he went to Europe for six weeks. Went to several different places. East Pakistan wanted him to come there to design a new twelve million School Campus and Buildings. They treated him royally while there. Too much he said. While he was there he said he felt that he was at the end of the world as he felt so far away. He doubled his usual commission and cost of everything. Thought that would not please them and he would not have to go back. But just before Christmas, they wrote him that they wanted him to design a fifteen million dollar job and complied to the expense he had asked. So now he is having to go back to Pakistan in about two to three weeks. Says he is dreading the trip. He has been to Europe several times. Made one trip around the world by jet. Stopped in Honolulu for two days to see his sister and family who were living there at that time. Then he went to Tokyo, Japan, to lecture there in Architecture for two weeks, then on to the rest of his journey. He has taught and lectured in every school of Architecture in the United States, and in Canada, and South America, and Japan. London is now wanting him to write for their Architectural Journal. We have as many as two hundred magazines around our house that has an article or something about Paul. Dr. Rudolph says we need another room to keep the magazines. We have some that is written in Spanish and in Japanese. And right now the Japanese are getting out a magazine of his work. That will all be in Japanese, and am afraid I can’t read it, but will know enough about his work, that I will be able to interpret some of it through pictures. In about two or three weeks the New York Times is publishing Paul’s work in the Sunday Edition Magazine issue. Am sorry I do not know the exact date, but Paul did not know when he was home for Christmas this time. I shall be looking for it each Sunday though. Paul has won many Honors and Medals and Prizes all through his Life, on music, Art and Architecture. He has been a wonderful son to us, always giving and doing anything he can for us. One of the greatest things that was done for us, was in 1962, our four children honored us on our Fiftieth Wedding Anniversary, by setting up a Loan Fund at Emory University to help young ministers with their education. Dr. Rudolph and I attended Emory, and Dr. Rudolph is the first graduate of Emory in the Theology Department, and is now the only living one. So our children thought that be [a] wonderful way to honor us on our Golden Wedding Anniversary. They mean to continue adding to the fund from time to time.