Collection durb.wal - Durbahn, Walter Edward, papers

The Bildcost gardened-home plan : list of materials number 912, ca. 1936-1941 Sunbeam Cottage [fold-out postcard], 1925-1926 National First Prize House Boy Built House Class National Better Homes in America campaign built ... Scrapbook (includes building of Sunbeam Cottage, telegrams, clippings, b/w images, production tim... Historical Society Meeting [b/w prints], 1969 Highland Park Historical Society float [color print], ca. 1973
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Durbahn, Walter Edward, papers


  • Bulk, 1925-1949 (Creation)
  • 1925-1991 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

ca. .3 linear feet : 1 box

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Walter Durbahn was born in New Ulm, Minnesota in 1894. He graduated from Stout (Wisconsin) Institute (now the University of Wisconsin-Stout) in 1916. He received both his Bachelors and Masters of Education degrees from Northwestern University in the 1920s. After teaching at high schools in Minnesota and Wisconsin, Durbahn joined the Vocational Department at Deerfield-Shields High School. By 1925 Durban led the Vocational Department at Deerfield-Shields High School (now Highland Park High School). Participating students built furniture, homes and educational buildings in Highland Park. He also taught Industrial Arts at Lake Forest Country Day School. Dubbing the homes the students built, "Boy-Built-Homes," Durbahn, his programs, and student-built homes received many awards from the Illinois Industrial Education Association and other organizations. Receiving national recognition for his programs, Durbahn participated in the President's Conference on Home Building and Home Ownership 1931 and many other technical education programs. From 1949-1957 Durbahn hosted the live do-it-yourself Walt’s Workshop WNBQ-TV. NBC broadcast the show in many other locations too. The show received yearly education awards such as “best educational and how-to-do-it” (twice) and from organizations including The Chicago Federation of Advertisers. Durbahn authored several books and many articles on carpentry and woodworking for publications as diverse as Popular Mechanics and Better Homes and Gardens. His Fundamentals of Carpentry and Walt’s Workshop : 42 Projects … for the Home continue to be in print or available online. He wrote a regular column in the serial publication Popular Homecraft in the 1850s. The Highland Park Historical Society hosted the Walter E. Durbahn Tool Museum, showcasing tools from the trade, from 1973 into the 1990s. The museum created this collection with donations from Durbahn and added elements in the same era Durbahn was married for seven decades to his wife Ruth. They had three daughters. He died in 1991.

Archival history

Collection amalgamated by Highland Park Historical Society. It appears Durbahn donated a number of items to the HPHS and the organization complemented the collection with additional items and images of museum or other provenance. See accession log for further information.

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Scope and content

This collection is arranged chronologically and by format size. House blueprints, a scrapbook, a fold-out, two educational serials reveal the progress and work of Walter Edward Durbahn’s tenure as chairman of the nationally recognized local high school vocational program. The collection also holds several images from the syndicated, award winning Walt’s Workshop television program and the Durbahn Tool Museum opening at the Highland Park Historical Society (HPHS). Clippings provide background information on Durbahn’s career.

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Language of material

  • English

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Existence and location of copies

This collection has been digitized with funds from the the Illinois Secretary of State. Materials are available on the Digital Library of America, the Illinois Digital Heritage Hub and the Illinois Digital Archive.

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Publication note Biographical and publication information from an interview with a Durbahn descendent.

Notes area


"Boy Built Homes" Walter Durbahn—(graduate of Stout Institute and Northwestern University) Vocational Teacher in Highland Park from 1925-1954 (28 years). In that time he organized students to build building projects located in the Highland Park area. The homes built by his classes were known as “Boy-Built-Homes”. **In 1931, their construction project won the U.S. Better Built Home award, a nationally recognized honor. For more information look at the Federal Housing Administration “minor local variations” records for designs by W.E. Durbahn, and the Sunset Subdivision where many properties are located.

1925-1926: 845/1073 Centerfield Court (Sunbeam Cottage) (#1).

1927: Auto Mechanics Building at Vine and St. John Ave.

1928-1929: 682/850 Yale Lane (#4).

1929 (or 26): 648 Yale Lane (#2 or #3?).

1930: 120/1812 Clifton Ave.

1931: 158/1900 Beverly Court (#5)**

1937-1940: Sandwick Hall- a workshop for the vocational class that the school

1949: __ (2 Story Arts & Craft style) 1950: #9 is being planned, purchasing of land, and foundations will be poured in the summer of 1950 1952: 959 Harvard Court (#16?) Addresses with no years and addresess 1 Field house at Wolters Field 1900 Beverly Place (Durbahn’s own home) (see above) ____ (A bungalow style home) 162/1906 Beverly Court ____ (#6 referenced in magazine with no date, location, or style) ____ (Cape Cod Cottage)

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