Sunday, March 4, 2018

The John Crouse House, Syracuse, NY

This is a rather interesting design, demolished, from Syracuse, NY. It was built by John R. Crouse, a major banker in Syracuse, in the 1850s, and in 1904 became the law school at Syracuse University. Fronting on Fayette Park, one of the city's early planning and mansion districts, it would have had a rather over-landscaped Victorian park as its front yard. It was demolished in the 1920s. The house bears a striking similarity to the design of Henry Austin for the Willis Bristol house is New Haven, CT, particularly in its proportions. There it was a simple form with Indian architectural elements grafter on; here the same sort of design is interpreted in a Gothic mode. Following the symmetrical plan, like Austin's house, it featured a spare stuccoed facade, with a generous third story and long s scroll brackets, paired and without an entablature. The gothicism is restricted to the windows, as the porch is a rather typical design. Above each window is a simple Gothic molding with carved stops; each window is inset with a unique gothic tracery overlay, with intersecting pointed arches and foils in the tracery. The bay window to the side receives a similar treatment, with more traditional pointed arches. A low cupola, another Austin feature, topped the whole with large brackets. Note how the ironwork similarly matches the Austin formula. Though I could not produce an exact chain of influence, it is clear that Austin's plans, perhaps published or seen in person influenced this house. Other images can be seen here, here, and here.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

'Woodlawn' the Henry Howard Owings House, Columbia, MD

The Henry Howard Owings House, Columbia, MD. 1840 Photo: Wikimedia
Starting out life as an 18th century wooden farmhouse, the Owings house (he bought it in 1858), aka 'Woodlawn' was extensively remodeled in 1840 in the Italianate style, a rather early manifestation of it by the looks of the design. It follows the symmetrical plan, with a central gabled projecting bay. Like most of these earlier designs, the decoration is pretty sparse, consisting of a tight cornice with no entablature, featuring the early style beam brackets. An odd feature is that these beam brackets are attached to the moldings above the windows, and not typically just at the corners but in a full run. This provides an odd bit of shadow and movement on an otherwise simple house. The porch is similarly simple, with thin chamfered posts and diminutive cut out designs. It's finished in appropriate stucco, and the painting of the house is quite appropriate to the Davis and Downing principles that underline its planning. Unfortunately, once surrounded by woods, the house is now surrounding by parking lots! Talk about some unpleasant rezoning. At least they left the house, even though its context is gone.

Monday, February 26, 2018

'Evergreen on the Falls' the Albert H. Carroll House, Baltimore, MD

The Albert H. Caroll House, Baltimore, MD. 1860 Photo: Wikimedia
'Evergreen' was built by the owner of a cotton mill, Albert H. Carroll, in 1860, following an irregular plan, but an idiosyncratic design. The house does not have a tower, nor, like many tower-less irregular plans, does it suggest a tower with a cupola, fenestration, or the placement of the entrance in the center. Rather, this house places the entrance on the projecting pavilion. While the façade is painted brick, the windows have no surrounds, but the emphasis is placed on a series of elaborate wooden awnings that project further than any typical wooden awning. The entablature is nonexistent, with the s scroll brackets projecting right from the façade without any framing. The projecting pavilion has the main entrance, a triple arched palladian design; above, the window is a normal palladian design, but oddly the central window is especially long with the sides placed high up, a very unclassical formula. This is topped by a wooden awning with an engaged rounded pediment in the center and very elongated c and s scroll brackets. On the recessed façade, a double window on the first floor with a wooden awning with a tent roof design sits underneath a single window. The simple side façade has a spare bay window with a round window in the gable. A unique house, unfortunately much of it was destroyed by a fire in 1970, but it was well restored by the Maryland SPCA.

Friday, February 23, 2018

'Orianda' the Thomas Winans House, Baltimore, MD

The Thomas Winans House, Baltimore, MD. 1856
Photo: Wikimedia
The Thomas Winans house is another one of these Russian themed estates of the 1850s. Winans' father was an inventor who worked on the construction of the Russian railroad, like Harrison in Philadelphia. He named his estate Crimea, after the peninsula in the Ukraine, and his house Orianda, after a Greek revival palace in the Crimea designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel as one of his commissions for the Greek royal family (never built). The house has a five bay plan (the entrance is to the right of the above photo) with a porch around the door matching the porches to the sides and to the rear. The house, like other country houses around Baltimore, is finished in fieldstone with stone molded window lintels and simple decoration. The porch is quite attractive, with a lattice railing and ogee spandrel brackets. A cupola tops the whole almost entirely glass with a pointed roof. The house has no brackets, but instead uniquely features very strange thick gothic finials hanging down from the large eave at the corners of the house and cupola. This is a highly individualistic feature that rarely appears. It currently sits in the middle of a large park on a dramatic bluff overlooking a valley and is a museum and event facility (more images there).

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

'Tivoli' the Enoch Pratt House, Baltimore, MD

The Enoch Pratt House, Baltimore, MD. 1855 Photo: Wikimedia
'Tivoli' was constructed as the summer house of Enoch Pratt, one of Baltimore's major philanthropists and businessmen, in 1855. The house is a hulking mass, a three story, five bay plan of fieldstone and wood. The house has a string course that separates the second from the third floor. The window treatment is standard on the house, with a simple wooden surround and a molding above. Oddly, the house doesn't have an entrance porch, which I suspect was once there and similar to the back Tuscan porch, but has an entablature resting on brackets. The main entablature has c scroll brackets and is simple, akin to other country houses like 'The Mount'. It's here the house is particularly interesting. While on the front, an angular engaged pediment and arched window emphasize the center of the house, the side takes a different tack, dividing the façade into two main bays with stacked box windows with triple arched windows and panels above. These are topped by two engaged round pediments framing arched windows, contrasting with the angular front. A side service wing to the left offers a different scale, emphasizing its subordination to the main block. It is now the administration building of a mental hospital, finding new life like many of Baltimore's country houses, as an institution.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

'The Mount' the James Carey Jr. House, Baltimore, MD

The James Carey Jr. House, Baltimore, MD. 1858 Photo: Doug Copeland

Baltimore had some impressive country estates surrounding it, such as 'The Mount' built for a Quaker businessman and philanthropist, John Carey Jr in 1858 by William H. Reasin, a local architect. The house is supposed to be renovated soon, but seems to have caught on fire. Fortunately it was saved from destruction but remains vulnerable. The house is beautifully proportioned, with a five bay plan and a fieldstone façade with quoins; the windows have simple stone lintels. The central bay projects from the façade grandly, with an thick arch at the base a stone stringcourse and two arched windows above; basically there are three arches each diminishing with each floor. A row of bricks diagonally set into the sides of the projection where the stringcourse ends, indicates there was a porch once, now gone. The simple entablature has double s scroll brackets (with very shallow curves) and the whole is topped by a fine centered cupola with a broad eave and nicely framed triple arched windows. The house's massing and simple design makes it a beautifully simple villa. Hopefully, the house will be restored soon!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

'Clifton' the Johns Hopkins House, Baltimore, MD

'Clifton' the Johns Hopkins House, Baltimore, MD. 1858 

Photo: Wikimedia
'Clifton' is another remodel of an earlier house, a five bay home built in the Federal style in 1803 for Henry Thompson. In 1838, it was bought by Johns Hopkins, the same university benefactor, and was remodeled in 1858 to its current Anglo-Italianate design by Niernsee and Neilson, a firm whose Baltimore work I have previously explored. The house has a five bay plan inherited from its previous incarnation, but the wings and tower placement are very unprecedented. Unlike Locust Grove, Niernsee did not disguise the original house, seen as the tall central block here, but rather expanded it drastically, making it the centerpiece of a much larger Italianate composition, adding Anglo-Italianate surrounds to the windows, a small entablature sequestering the third floor, and an entablature-less cornice with simple beam brackets. A broad porch was built linking the entire design and wing (an unexpectedly large porch!) with simple arches with bulls eyes in the spandrels resting on chamfered, paneled pillars. The bulkiness of the porch is relieved by a rather delicate railings with Roman-style crosses tied with bulls eyes. A simple beam bracket cornice completes the design with a pediment indicating the front entrance. The house gets very Italianate in its tower, connected by a wing with double tombstone windows with no surrounds. The tower covers a port cochere and seems to combine the full gamut of tower motifs with an arched window on the second stage, a Renaissance surround rectangular window on the third (with Renaissance balconies), a Romanesque series of drops that underlie a simple dentilled string course, an uncommon fourth stage with three deep panels and a window in the center, and on the fifth a triple arched window with an iron balcony surrounding the whole. This might be one of the tallest Italianate towers I have featured. The rear of the house has a polygonal bay and a very strange broad eave with c scroll brackets that fill almost the whole second floor, perhaps the most exaggerated brackets I have seen.

A blog post shows detailed shots of the house and the interior during renovation, with great images of the stunning plasterwork, fine stenciled walls, and unique woodwork. The design of the tower, semi detached and connected by a low wing suggests strongly to me Osborne House, one of the UK's premier Italianate palaces:

Photo: Wikimedia