The Dover Sun House (Dover, Mass., 1949) was an important experiment in solar house history, and in The Solar House I tell its story in depth. Because it was created by engineer Maria Telkes, architect Eleanor Raymond, and client Amelia Peabody, it was noteworthy also for being “exclusively a feminine project.”
Andrew Nemethy, who lived in the house as a child, wrote a piece for the Boston Globe this week about the house’s significance and his memories of it. He writes:
“The Sun House had its quirks, not least the daily chore of raising or lowering the shades that covered the seven picture windows. The shades kept warmth from radiating out on cloudy days and (along with a system of louvers) prevented the sun from overheating us.”
As I documented in The Solar House, Telkes’ design for the Dover Sun House used flat-plate air heaters and an experimental method of heat storage with salts. She called it “the Model T of the sun-heated houses.” It operated properly for two winters but then failed, and the technology of salt storage never became prevalent for solar heating*. Nemethy says:
“I recall my mother telling me that we bundled up indoors when the solar heating system began to fail, but my childhood memories are mostly of an odd-looking house in a rural setting 3 miles from my closest friend, not of a scientific landmark.”
Nemethy discusses Telkes’ difficult personality in more length than I did. And he confirms a fact of which I was not certain: The Dover Sun House was demolished in about 2010.
*Note: Today salts are sometimes used in Thermal Energy Storage systems, often cooling systems which produce ice at night (when electricity is cheaper) for air conditioning in the daytime.
Previously on the blog:
Unearthed: Dover Sun House comic