Thursday, March 26, 2015

'Walnut Grove' the Reuben Fenton House, Jamestown, NY

The Reuben Fenton House, Jamestown, NY. 1863 Photo: Wikimedia
The Fenton house, also known as 'Walnut Grove' was built in 1863 and is a particularly stately example of an irregular plan Italianate. Fenton was a significant mid-19th century legislator in New York state. The house has a stark brick facade, pierced by a bevy of arched windows. The main decoration in the brick is the Romanesque pilasters and drips on the tower, which recall the origins of the style in Italian monastic architecture. The windows on the projecting pavilion are three pointed shallow arches that enclose tombstone windows with columns supporting the arches. The other windows are almost all defined by Venetian tracery. Stone drip moldings complete the effect, carved with panels and heavy keystones and brackets. As far as woodwork goes, the stateliness and reserve of the design are reflected in the cornice, which has simple dentils, double s-curve brackets, and the porch which, though simply carved, displays a particularly crisp and finished level of carving and design. Notably, the house lacks an architrave molding which would create a stronger cornice. My favorite part of the house is the engaged gable on the projecting pavilion, where the actual point only slightly projects from horizontal moldings. It's a shape that gives the house much greater mass.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The John Hardy House, Newcomerstown, OH

The John Hardy House, Newcomerstown, OH. 1874 Photo: scottamus
The John Hardy house in Newcomerstown (quite the town name!), built in 1874 was lovingly restored after a fire that require much of the interior to be restored, but it nonetheless has all of its amazing details and grandeur thanks to its invested owners (who by the way seem to have a lot of plants). The house, although in a small town, would fit in in any urban community with its grand central tower plan. Executed in brick, the trim of the windows and door is stone, and the owners have appropriately painted the wooden trim to match and simulate the stone. Score one for historic paint schemes! The windows alternate in style; the main facade windows are segmental arched with pedimented hood moldings, while the windows on each distinctive feature (bay window and tower) are round headed with Venetian tracery. A similar variation between body and tower can be found in the cornices, with a regular paneled cornice and brackets (s-curve) on the body and a more high style dentil cornice on the tower. The top stage of the tower itself has impressive engaged pediments with a heavy paneled cornice and a cluster of three arched windows (a constant nod to Romanesque bell towers). Two of the features on this house are particularly impressive. First is the door surround, a very urban looking stone door with pilasters, entablature, and an engaged round pediment, similar to those we saw on the Hauck house in Cincinnati, although it is perhaps a little bit less ornamented. Second is the amazing lacy ironwork at the top of the tower. Though most Italianates with towers have, or had, some sort of finial on the tower, this house has a cascade of thin wrought iron in rococo rocailles and fantastic blossoms that make me think of some vine growing on the house. Not only is this uncommon, but it is extremely rare that it survived and allows us to view how people in the country could come up with designs that have whimsy and uniqueness.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Summing Up Dayton Street

John Smith Photography See other posts for photo credits.
Although there are many more houses on Dayton Street that I could discuss, the 11 I single out offer a nice picture of characteristics that predominated on this street in the late 1860s and early 1870s. Because almost all the Italianate homes on the street were built in one go around the same time, it offers us a great snapshot of what appealed to wealthy Cincinnatians in the 1870s. A few characteristics can be singled out that broadly apply to the style of Anglo-Italianate that predominated here. While Anglo-Italianate design is found in some American cities, it is rarely found in the country. It seems that this kind of subdued, stone, Renaissance inspired style was an important indicator of wealth and taste in 19th century urban America, and set its adherents aside from those constructing more individualistic and less subdued houses. Dayton Street closely resembles in its aesthetics other neighborhoods in the country, such as Mount Vernon in Baltimore, parts of College Hill in Providence, and Brooklyn Heights in New York. While wealthy districts of Anglo-Italianate homes only seem to flourish in large cities as an expression of wealth; the like is rarely found in the country. Dayton street, like these other neighborhoods, displays a uniform set of characteristics that reflects the competition and influence home construction by the wealthy could have on others building in the same place. This list shows some features one can see consistently:

1. A mostly uniform cornice line, set at two and a half stories, as can be seen in the image above. While the cornices themselves display a wide variety of forms, brackets tend to be smaller and closely spaced, while entablatures are simple and mostly paneled. When windows enter into the design, they tend to elongate the brackets to make a strong frame for the window.

2. There is a strong horizontal emphasis provided by heavy string course moldings that clearly divide floors. Additionally, windows may be connected with horizontal moldings bands. Vertical emphasis is achieved by the framing of the facade and its elements with pilasters, quoins, and changes in volume to create complexity in an otherwise simple facade.

3. The favored material is primarily stone rather than cheaper brick. The use of stone allows the houses to have a more European and wealthy feel to them. Sometimes the stone is rusticated to delineate floors. Side walls of these houses are unimportant, and therefore the ornament and stone stop on the sides.

4. Ornament is not overwrought. Primarily, it consists of heavy, thick moldings, carved panels, and paneled keystones. The one elaborate feature is vegetal and rococo carving, an expensive mode of ornamentation whose use demonstrated the builder's wealth. This carving, however, is confined to specific architectural areas, window crests, panels, doors, and cornices.

5. The favored shapes for windows and doors are overwhelmingly arches. Houses often have a combination of round arched and segmental arched windows. Door surrounds are typically fancy, with several houses having an engaged arched surround:

6. House plans tend to be either symmetrical or rowhouse types.

7. Finally, there is a uniformity achieved by fencing to the street. The connected stone retaining walls and newel posts framing the iron fencing gives the street a connecting base that connects all the houses. Similarly, balconies of either iron or stone create variation in the streetscape.

All in all, Dayton Street provides a textbook example of unified Anglo-Italianate design in America. Other neighborhoods of a similar character could be analyzed in a similar way, and, although there would be regional variations depending on local taste, nonetheless, a house in Cincinnati, Baltimore, or New York would resemble others elsewhere. Despite not being a common style throughout the country, the Anglo-Italianate idiom shared common features that connected it and wealthy families, with their like around the urban landscape of the 1860s and 1870s.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The John Kelley House, Cincinnati, OH

Kelley House, Cincinnati, OH. 1870s. Photo: Christie
Remaining Photos: HABS
The John Kelley house was built sometime in the late 1860s early 1870s (likely the 1870s when the rest of the street materialized). Little is known about the man it was built for, but like other houses on the street, it has the same Anglo-Italianate flair. The simple limestone facade of this rowhouse plan is not broken up into courses, and unlike most of the houses on the street, it has a Corinthian columned porch. The first floor has round arched windows while the second features segmental arches, a variation common to many houses on the street. The surrounds are the same on each window, with strong Renaissance acanthus leaf brackets and a molding. Spandrels are carved with the usual Renaissance vegetal designs. Uniquely on this house, the cornice has been elongated. Although it is of the bull's eye type, the windows are semicircular rather than round. The addition of the stone course with panels and incised carvings makes it seem much bigger than on other houses. All in all, this house has one of the finer and more finished facades on the street.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Ferdinand Karrmann House, Cincinnati, OH

Karrmann House, Cincinnati, OH. 1870s John Smit Photography
Photos: HABS
The Ferdinand Karmann house, named after one of its most notable occupants, was built in the early 1870s on Dayton Street, and it is notable among the other houses because it is a full three stories tall instead of the typical two and a half stories. It thus breaks the mostly uniform height of the streetscape. The house, which has the typical rowhouse plan displays some of the Anglo-Italianate features of other houses on the street. The limestone facade's first floor especially with its simple arched windows with thick moldings and the door surround with the engaged arch, brackets, and pilasters echoes the Hauck house and most of the other buildings on the street. The second and third floors are a bit freer with their design, featuring segmental arched windows with eared moldings, strong paneled string courses, and projecting pilasters framing each floor. The frieze that runs between the window moldings with incised carving is interesting in that it creates the effect of having pilaster capitals. The cornice is simple with carved brackets and dentils. The house is currently a church.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Chauncey Murch House, Cincinnati, OH

The Murch House, Cincinnati, OH. 1860s John Smith Photography
Other Photos: HABS
The Chauncey Murch house is another of the fine Anglo-Italianate homes on Dayton Street built sometime before 1868. The house is in line with the other limestone Italianates on the street, following the rowhouse plan. This house is notable for its rustication on both the first and second floors, increasing the horizontal flow of the house. It's not the amount of ornament in this house, but its careful application. The windows are all round headed; on the first floor simple moldings and keystones embellish them, while on the second, they are set in rectangular surrounds with moldings on top and simple carved spandrels. The decoration of the balcony (whose underside is even carved!) above the porch is particularly impressive. The thickly carved acanthus leaf brackets surround the arch which has a plaque in the center with leaves pouring into the spandrels. The balcony above is also of stone and displays the traditional oval and circle French balustrade design. The cornice is particularly elaborate. Little of the entablature can be seen because of the large windows that punctuate it. The brackets themselves are thick and paired, with a dentil molding in the center of each bracket and smaller brackets between. This makes the cornice seem rather ponderous, but nonetheless, this is in line with other houses in Cincinnati, with their overwhelming cornices. Inside, the interiors have all the elegance one would expect, although there is an odd arch in the parlor with a segmental arch enclosing a round arch.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Charles Heine House, Cincinnati, OH

Heine House, Cincinnati, OH. 1870s John Smith Photography
Remaining Photos: HABS
This house, adjoining the Hauck house was probably built by John Hauck in 1874-6 as a residence for his daughter and her husband, Charles Heine, a grocer. On exclusive streets like Dayton Street, one can often find family relations and friends building and buying houses to form their own enclaves. Much plainer than the Hauck house and following the rowhouse plan, the Heine house shares some features with it; perhaps the same architect was used for both. The house's doors in particular have the same design, although there is less carving. The windows also follow the same pattern, with segmental arched windows on the first floor with pillars, a rope molding, and keystone, and round arched windows on the second in the same style. The cornice features paired brackets and dentils, and is of the bull's eye type, although instead of being round, the windows are only semi-circular.