Beginning in 1939 and continuing into the 1970s, Modesto was an architecture laboratory where both local and nationally known architects experimented with and designed buildings in a new architectural style, Central Valley Modernism.
Primarily, the architects designed in a way that took the local climate into consideration. They responded to the hot dry summer with architectural features that provided shade and cooling. They responded to the dark wet winter with architectural features that provided light and shelter.
Though Modernist design came to Modesto in the 1920s, little effort was made to adapt it to the conditions in the Central Valley. The first attempts to create a modernism that was appropriate for the area were made by John Funk with the Heckendorf House and Russell de Lappe with the Stanislaus County Hall of Records, both designed in 1939.