Style for the Masses: L.C. Major & Associates

Leroy Cluff "L.C." Major was once called America's "Tractioneer" by Time Magazine for his creation of more than a million tract homes across the United States. His firm, L.C. Major & Associates, designed convalescent homes and senior citizen housing as well as single family residences.

Major had little formal architecture training - after a single year of drafting classes in high school, he began his career in 1933 as a real estate appraiser, and worked successively for the Federal Housing Administration, the Veterans Administration and a bank. He gravitated to drafting and designing during the housing boom following World War II, and established his own firm in 1945, based over the years in Downey, Santa Ana and Orange.

Beginning with two-bedroom, one-bath bungalows prevalent in the late 1940s, Major offered builders and developers master planning, market research, cost analysis, home design, architectural renderings, color coordination, model home furnishing, landscaping, merchandising, promotion and financial counsel.

"All of these factors must be considered and decided upon before a foundation is laid," Major said in 1961, "if the builder is to produce a salable house which is profitable to build and meets the total housing needs of the potential homeowner."

In 1963, L. C. Major & Associates was contracted by the Alexander Construction Company to design larger, "All Seasons" homes - designed for year-round living - for the Palm Springs market. Sales of the earlier Alexander post-and-beam homes - now highly recognized for their architecture - that had been designed and built principally as vacation homes, were beginning to decline.

After the brief, highly-publicized foray into all-steel home construction - with the Donald Wexler designed "U.S. Steel Houses", of which only 7 were built - in a tract adjacent to the northwest of Racquest Club Estates, the Alexanders still had 31 unbuilt parcels. Naming the new development of 1,456 square foot ranch homes New Riviera Gardens (including the streets Molino and Simms), these L. C. Major & Associates homes went on sale in January 1964.

Between 1963 and 1965, the Alexander Construction Company went on to build 200 of these ranch homes in five developments throughout the city of Palm Springs: New Riviera Gardens; Farrell Canyon Estates (Farrell Drive, between Mesquite and Sonora); Golf Club Estates (Gene Autry Trail, west of Broadmoor and Green Fairway Estates); Sunrise Estates (Buttonwillow Circle, Cibola Circle, Biskra Road and Cerritos Drive); and Araby Estates (Beverly and LaBrea, between Sonora and Avery).

Over the subsequent decades, Major adapted easily to changing tastes and prospering home buyers. Soon he was designing luxury custom homes, condominium complexes and retirement housing. He also branched out into institutional buildings like convalescent homes, and competed successfully for contracts to build low-cost, energy-efficient housing.

Major served nationwide home builders and also sold plans through trade magazines to individual builders. His work earned numerous awards over the years, including several Gold Nugget awards from the Pacific Coast Builders Conference.

An elder in the Mormon church, Major was active in builders' organizations and in his community, coaching youth sports in particular. He passed away at his home in Yorba Linda, California, at the age of 85, in June 2000.

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