The Hayter House in Historic Nacogdoches
The Sam Hayter House, built in 1913 by Nacogdoches architect Diedrich Rulfs, is an example
of the Prairie Style of architecture, a unique, indigenous American creation that developed in
its purest form in the Chicago Suburbs of Oak Park and River Forest in the period between
1890 and 1915 through the ideas of Louis Sullivan, ("Form Follows Function"), and the early
works of Frank Lloyd Wright, acknowledged master of the Prairie house, who declared
"A New Reality based on Space rather than Matter."
Prairie Architecture originated as a reaction to European academic revival, ornateness
of style, and compartmentalization of space; in particular, the embellished forms and segmented
rooms of Victorianism. Drawing upon the American impulse toward movement and a desire for
security, with influences from Japanese and Mayan architecture, the arts and crafts movement,
details of the Machine Age, and elements of the colonial house, Prairie architects developed
a style of building that was simple, solid, solemn, massive, horizontal, open-spaced, and
blended harmoniously with the landscape in which it existed.
The Prairie House is stabilized at the center by a massive fireplace
with large, open, rectangular rooms proceeding outward into terraces, porches, built-in
planters, and gardens that extend the flow of interior space into the surrounding regional
landscape. A low pitched roof with wide overhanging eaves and closed rafters protect the
walls and bands of casement windows which continue the horizontal theme of the Prairie
home, whose 2nd and even 3rd stories appear to be minimized because of this effect.
The Prairie house appears as a sturdy, simple, massive structure conveying
strength, honesty, and stability. The low hipped roof, string courses of brick, projecting terraces,
and low walls continue the horizontal motif. Entrances are de-emphasized, sometimes secluded,
or even hidden. The Prairie house utilizes wood and stone materials in their original state, un-planed
and unpainted, (though sometimes stained), so that their textures, grains, and colors are visible in their
The Prairie home was a complete work of art, promoting family interactive
experiences through the open floor plan that focused upon a central gathering area at the
hearth or fireplace. Built-in furnishings and hand made objects, coming out of the Arts and
Crafts Movement, integrated the interiors with the architectural setting which in turn extended
itself into the landscape through horizontal projections of terraces and gardens.
The Prairie architects created a new vision based upon the correct relationship
of humanity to the natural world. They established the idea of a central core from which
form originates and moves outward into infinity space, arranging and harmonizing its parts
within a totally balanced system. Although the prairie house diminished in popularity after
1915, its innovations carried forward into modern construction. The Prairie house became a
smaller model of the greater home represented in earth itself.
(Next Picture: Eugene Blount House)