Still A Deal

A 1920s bungalow presents some FDR mythology

1205 Luttrell Street

1,614 sq. ft., 2 bdrm, 2 bath
Contact: Stephanie Romer (382-5054)
or Sally Sparks (567-4481
with Century 21

Franklin Delano Roosevelt is popping up all over the place these days. Not surprising, I suppose. The 32nd president is a sort of all-purpose shorthand for trying economic times, invoked whenever the Dow takes a nosedive. Lately, as the country and economy continue to stagger towards election day, the New Deal architect is everywhere: alluded to in political speeches, praised or pilloried by pundits, and even (according to a somewhat confused Joe Biden) appearing on television circa 1929 to reassure a nation on the brink of Depression. (The then-governor of New York, it seems, was what techies now refer to as an "early adopter.")

An FDR connection even cropped up in this week's Urban Renewal feature. As far as I know, Roosevelt never visited this bungalow in Fourth and Gill. He was, however, familiar with the man who originally owned it, Max Friedman. The well-known Gay Street jeweler, also a five-term city councilman, was a pretty big wheel in the state's Democratic politics. That's how, sometime in 1932, he wound up meeting with FDR, campaigning to upset the incumbent Herbert Hoover in the upcoming presidential election. Roosevelt, according to the story, was having a hard time describing the sweeping set of economic policies he proposed to tackle the Great Depression. And it was Friedman, supposedly, who told Roosevelt that what the American people needed was a "New Deal." The two vague, but hopeful words became the centerpiece of Roosevelt's subsequent convention speech and put their stamp on an era.

The story, like the program Friedman supposedly named, isn't without controversy. Some scholars cite a New Republic article by technocrat economist Stuart Chase as the source of FDR's famous slogan. Chase's technocratic philosophy certainly fit many of the New Deal's programs, and the article appeared the same week as the convention, but I wonder whether that's something of a chicken or egg argument. Maybe Chase took his title from a buzzword already being bandied about by the candidate's advisors, a slogan first offered up by a Gay Street jeweler?

Whether or not Max Friedman left his stamp on American History, he certainly left it on this house on Luttrell. Friedman bought this bungalow from the builder in 1921. And, while he only lived there a year, reminders of his presence remain, including the original mezuzahs—Jewish prayer boxes—affixed to many of the home's door frames. Other original features abound, like the huge brick fireplace, hardwood floors, and handsome Arts and Crafts-style windows. Lovingly renovated with an updated kitchen and baths, there also a big sunroom out back overlooking a fenced back yard with a brick patio and arbor. m