Monday, October 7, 2013

The Lewis Kies House, Cleveland, OH

The Lewis Kies House, Cleveland, OH. 1874 Photo: Wikimedia
The Kies house is a particularly fine mansion, a survival in a city that has mostly had its mansions ripped away. The house gives a grand impression with its symmetrical plan, its paired brackets and paneled cornice, and its brick walls, which could have been stuccoed once. The central bay projects and is topped by a fascinating broken triangular pediment, a feature that can be found on some high style Ohio Italianates. Other examples seem to include some kind of doo-dads in the central open part. The windows are spare, with simple stone or iron drip moldings and segmental arched tops. The central bay, as on most of these Italianates, has tombstone windows, and a porch, which looks oddly plain to me. Perhaps a balcony or some extra parts were removed. All in all, a fine survival.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The McChain-Boardman House, Ithaca, NY

The McChain-Boardman House, Ithaca, NY. 1866 Photo: Alec Frazier
This stately symmetrical plan villa in Ithaca, NY is a lovely example of a high style Italianate house. While it was built in 1866 for George McChain, the first dean of Cornell's law school bought in house in 1886 and thus is included in the name. It was acquired by Ithaca College in the 20th century and is now rented out to a variety of tenants. The house bears a strong resemblance to one in New Haven. Like that house, it has a regular scheme with a central tripartite window and a double columned porch. There is no central projection or recess in this house, though, making it a powerful cube. The windows have brackets with curved pediments that are beautifully ornamented with carved pieces, palmettes and anthemia, relieving the strict classical design of the facade. A cool feature of the window treatment is that, rather than encasing the windows entirely in wood, the architect used a small line of bricks to suggest an architrave molding. The cornice is spare in this house, with a full entablature and very small brackets that seem to be rafter brackets. Nonetheless, the simplicity of the cornice gives the house an Anglo-Italianate air, and the drab color scheme of exposed brick walls and brownstone colored paint seem very appropriate and remind me of many of the houses I discussed in Providence, RI. I'm sure there was once a balustrade over the entrance porch, which is strictly classical/renaissance in inspiration except for the rosettes applied to the plinths of the columns. The doors themselves are elaborate specimens of Renaissance Revival design with rich wood textures and built up carved medallions. The cupola on top, which displays a bit more Italianate whimsy than the rest of the design, completes the house.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Schlosser House, Attica, IN

The Schlosser House, Attica, IN. 1865 Photo: Wikimedia
Sorry to have been remiss lately. With classes starting and all I have just been swamped, but I promise not to give up. This house, the Schlosser house, in Attica, IN was built in 1865 as a symmetrical plan house, but being in a small town in Indiana it has some unusual vernacular features. First, the lintels over the windows that consist of simple pieces of stone inserted into the facade (called labels) are a strong Greek Revival element. Here, they are heavily carved with Greek designs of acanthus with palmettes; the fact that the owner has picked them out in paint helps a great deal in noticing the design elements. The porch on the front is an elaborate affair, with complex fretwork scrolls (that have the air of steamboat Gothic about them). The central piece of fretwork between the two bracket shaped pieces is particularly interesting. The facing is brick, which forms a band to make an architrave that has paired double s-curve brackets under the eave. The side porch is startlingly simple, being basically simple posts without even a full entablature. However, the simplicity of the wooden design is not reflected in the elaborate cast iron balustrade over the porch, which is a lovely feature and was obviously designed to be used as a balcony, given the elongation of the second floor windows on that side. Although the paint scheme is probably not historical (they would never have picked out stone details like that), I rather like it with its mix of blacks, yellows, and greens. It goes to show that even when historical colors aren't used, a pleasing picture can be formed. The yellows and blacks are in fact harmonious Victorian colors, so it does even out. Even though the house was built in 1865, it is aesthetically a throwback to the early 1850s in its design, showing that regionalism could often trump high style taste.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Harvey Howard House, Wooster, OH

The Harvey Howard House, Wooster, OH. 1860 Photo: Wikimedia

Photo: Wayne County Historical Soc.
Sorry to have been so remiss in August! It was a busy month.

This house is somewhat difficult to classify. Although it appears to follow the five bay plan it could also be classified as a central tower plan because of how deep the projection is from the central facade. I think I'm going to stick with the latter designation. Harvey Howard, a druggist, built this house around 1860, but it is more famous for James B. Taylor, Civil War commander, living here from the 1880s. At the turn of the century, it became Wooster's first hospital. The house has a stark brick facde with simple stone moldings. On the first floor these have a very Greek Revival impression, being simple "labels", or flat stone pieces inset above the window. On the second floor are arched windows with 'drip moldings'. The unique features of this house are the projecting central bay which forms a porch with a triple arched Palladian opening. Above that are double tombstone windows with an wooden awning. One would usually expect a Juliette balcony below this, though it looks like there never was one. Very strange. The cornice as well is unique with Greek Revival vines applied within the frieze between the brackets, which fancy up an otherwise plain facade. Given the odd Greek Revival elements, the house has a very transitional feel to it. Large windows pierce the cornice on the sides, but I feel these are a later addition as they are both asymmetrical and bizarre protrusions into the design. The house has a strange feel, like a building with a lot of elements that don't seem to really reach their full conclusion. No tower, but a tower projection, a wooden awning but no balcony. Still, it's an interesting design that embodies Ohio's Western Reserve's conservative New England tastes.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The David Q. Liggett House, Wooster, OH

The David Q. Liggett House, Wooster, OH. 1861 Photos: Wikimedia

The David Q. Liggett house, which goes by a variety of names based on those of different owners, was built in 1861 for a significant merchant in the town. It follows the irregular plan, but since the recessed wing is so short (only one bay) it gives the impression of following the rotated side tower plan. The house seems to have been altered by successive owners who added in the late 19th or early 20th century a Colonial Revival porch and glassed in vestibule. You can see from how this wraparound porch marrs the facade how troublesome it is to mix architectural vocabularies. Still it has a bit of charm, like a sock thats been mended with many colorful patches. A large and exuberant Second Empire addition seems to be attached at the back. The strapwork adorning the facade is also probably an older addition, suggesting the influence of the Stick Style or Queen Anne. Still the house retains most of its Italianate features. The design of the facade is simple enough, with plain molded surrounds adorning the windows which are jazzed up a bit on the round arched window on the tower. I'd guess that if the strapwork is not original, the house was brick or stuccoed. The cornice again is plain with double s-curve brackets and an architrave molding; the cornice continues around the tower with a particularly large roof, making it seem like the tower is stuck on the roof rather than an independent entity. The tower is a particularly cool example. It has double tombstone windows with thick moldings. Instead of the usual hip roof, though, it has a sharply angled hip roof with a small monitor with semi-circular windows topped by an iron cresting. This is a lovely little feature that makes some steps toward Second Empire without embracing the mansard roof. Although the house is well painted, I do think the pink a bit much. After all, who really wants to live in a doll house?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The William Judd Mix House, Oregon, IL

The William Judd Mix House, Oregon, IL. 1874 Photo: Teemu008
The William Judd Mix house in Oregon, IL was built in 1874 for Mix, a store owner and merchant, and is a lovely example of Illinois Italianate design. It is currently a bed and breakfast. It follows the rotated side tower plan, an interesting variant on the general Italianate plan types with the tower and a projecting pavilion taking up the front facade. The facade is brick with what looks like limestone detailing that forms the simple window hoods. The windows show a variety of shapes, though double tombstone windows seem to predominate. The variation in the bay window on the front, with two round headed windows flanking a window with filleted corners (a very big feature of the 1870s) is particularly nice. The cornice, which is of the paneled type has double s-curve brackets and dentil moldings. I like the front door surround, which is wood and features an interesting little semicircle in the center of the molding. The tower facade itself has a recessed blind arch in the brickwork, which adds some distinction to that element of the facade. The tower's upper stage has unusually two pairs of double tombstone windows set in rectangular frames, a nice feature, with moldings forming pilasters between them; a tall finial completes the vertical thrust found in this type of plan. There is an interesting side porch to the right that seems to be Gothic, with four point arches. A final note, the house has a more steeply pitched hip roof; this seems to be a feature of Illinois houses of the 1870s.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Nelson Stillman House, Galena, IL

The Nelson Stillman House, Galena, IL 1858 Photo: Richie Diesterheft

Photo: SD Dirk
This is a truly impressive house in a town of impressive homes. The Nelson Stillman house was built in 1858 by a successful grocer. After serving as a nursing home, it is now the Stillman Inn, a bed and breakfast whose owners have restored missing original features of the house and have taken excellent care of the property. As far as the plan goes, it is a typical irregular plan house with brick facing and a simple architrave and bracket cornice. The unique design features of this house are what really set it apart from the usual. First, the most noticeable feature is the tower. Unlike the traditional Italianate tower, this one has a strong ogee shaped gable on all four sides, a feature which is rarely seen (Norwich, CT has some similar towers). The ogee has no brackets, perhaps because they were just too hard to cut. It covers a double tombstone window topped by a round window. As if the tower gables weren't enough, an octagonal, almost Federal, cupola tops the tower with an open platform for viewing the surrounding countryside from the hill on which the house sits. I am not sure I have seen an open cupola like this on an Italianate, and I find it rather pleasing, even if it interacts a bid oddly with the ogee. Two other features catch my eye. First is the fact that all the windows on the front of the house are double (one is triple) and covered with wooden awnings with fringes, that make the house look rather festive. The tent shape to the awnings echoes the curves on the cupola roof and the tower gable nicely. Third is the porch, which, although it seems standard enough, has odd bits of jigsaw work hanging down from the cornice over the brackets. This is a bit of whimsy that is almost Steamboat Gothic in its inspiration and fun. It again adds curves into the house's design, giving the porch cornice a sort of undulation. The sides of the house are much plainer, keeping with the Victorian spirit of thrift which always seemed at war with their desire for display.

Photo: Eric Olson

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Daniel Barrows House, Galena, IL

The Daniel Barrows House, Galena, IL 1858-9 Photo: sfgamchick
Galena, IL is one of the best preserved Victorian towns in the US. It's charming streets and wonderfully preserved architecture make it a prime spot to look at interesting homes. The Daniel Barrows house was built in 1858-1859 for a local merchant in a variety of concerns. It later became an Odd Fellows hall and in 1938 was sold to the city of Galena for use as a museum, a use it retains to this day. The house is of a simple but grand design, following the symmetrical plan and faced in brick with wooden accents. The central bay is distinguished by a deep projection and pilasters laid in the brickwork. Each of the windows on the facade has a classical pediment, and the sparseness of ornament on the windows gives it a slightly Greek revival air. Federal design is present in the shallow curve of the transom over the door. A town like Galena in the relatively new state of Illinois was bound to be a bit behind the times! The cornice features a full classical architrave and frieze with double s-curve brackets. Within the central pediment, there is an interesting wooden fringe that further defines the central bay. Another interesting feature is the broad patio which runs along the front of the house and curves gracefully around the porch; the woodwork on which it sits is a particularly fine example of the jigsaw. The chimneys look like they have some interesting blind arches in the brickwork. I do wish that the wood of the cornice were painted to match the porch and window pediments. I am not sure whether this is historical coloring or not, but it seems to me like mid-19th century owners would have wanted it painted to look like uniform brownstone trim!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Columbia Club, Indianapolis, IN

The Columbia Club, Indianapolis, IN. 1889
Photo from Indianapolis Illustrated
The Columbia Club building was located on Monument Circle in Indianapolis. Though not strictly a residential building, it has a residential styling that is unique. According to Historic Indianapolis it was erected in 1889 and replaced in 1898, after only a few years. It's not surprising that this resembles a house; clubs like the Union League in Philadelphia often emulated residential design, perhaps because so many of them were headquartered in former mansions. Although the building may have been built in 1889, its styling looks more like a product of the late 1870s or early 1880s. This retardaire design might be a testament to the conservativism of the club members and their aesthetics. Even so, the design is grand and dripping with exuberance. The club did not follow a typical plan, although it resembles a side hall house. The first floor is set off from the second by rustication or deep grooves between stonework. In addition the first and fourth bays are differentiated by slight projections and pilasters, making it seem more palace like than might be expected and giving it a European flair. While the first floor is somewhat soberly designed with its arched windows, the second floor is a fabulously ornamented design with segmental arched windows with eared moldings that have cornices above them with carved ornament overflowing above and below to suggest brackets and pediment. Further carved classical panels of swirling acanthus leaves above and below the windows give the club an added Renaissance flair, as do the Corinthian pilasters, also with carved ornament. The cornice is Anglo-Italianate in design with typic rotated s-curve brackets. Although the Renaissance stylings and cornice do suggest Anglo-Italianate, the lack of sobriety in design makes it less of a rigid example of the style. There appears to be a side porch of two stories, with pilasters and arched windows. There is bunting crisscrossing the facade, no doubt for some signifigant event, probably political. Overall an impressive and unique clubhouse for the 19th century man.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Lewis W. Hasselman House, Indianapolis, IN

The Lewis W. Hasselman House, Indianapolis, IN. 1865
The above photos are from the publications Indianapolis Illustrated
and Art Works of Indianapolis.
The Lewis W. Hasselman house stood on Indianapolis' fashionable North Meridian Street until the 1920s when it was razed for the Indianapolis Athletic Club. The house was built in the 1865 for Hasselman, a manufacturer of steam engines and mill parts. The designer was Francis Costigan, basically Indiana's answer to Connecticut's Henry Austin, whose Lanier house is probably one of the country's best Greek Revivals. This is one of his only Italianate designs and is a showstopper. It is a symmetrical plan house, although the flanking bays have protruding two story bay windows, a very grand statement indeed. It was faced in limestone. The house has a variety of unique features that made it an important example of Italianate. The first floor features an impressive door surround with Corinthian columns and a pediment that is broken around the arch of the door frame, hearkening back to Georgian design. The triangular pediment is broken is the center by a curve, an interesting reinterpretation of a traditional form. The flanking bay windows, as all the windows on the house are arched with thick hood moldings enriched with carved foliage. The central window on the bay has Venetian tracery, but the space that would have featured the circular element has been filled with carving, as have the areas beneath the window. The hood molding on the central window of the first floor bays has a swoop of molding that comes to a carved finial, a reminiscence of Gothic architecture. This window design is repeated in the central window above the door. This level of carving is similar to the work on the Backus house and must have been a statement of the owner's wealth and ability to afford such expensive rococo carvings.

Although the second story windows are plainer, an interesting profusion of brackets underlie their sills. The third floor is where things get really strange, with pairs or round windows that are connected by carved rosettes and have ribbons and strapwork extending from the sides. This feature is particularly unique to this house and shows a real originality in design. It almost looks like fancy portholes on a yacht. The cornice is not particularly complex, but the same richness of carving adorns it; the brackets feature carved garlands, s curves, and incised designs. The originality of the design continues to the octagonal cupola, which repeats the cornice stylings and seems to have windows with angled tops. The whole is capped by a finial that resembles an acorn. In every way, the Hasselman house exemplifies high style Italianate design that was not Anglo-Italianate but American in inspiration. It is similar to some of the zany and experimental designs found in Detroit's lost mansions. The style of this house seems to be related to another Costigan work, the Odd Fellows' Building in Indianapolis with its ornate carved detailing and bay windows. An Italiante carriage house can be seen in the background. A lovely work, it's a shame this house is gone.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Italianate Bracket

The bracket is perhaps the quintessential feature of Italianate architecture, so much so, that the style was sometimes referred to in 19th century publications as the 'bracketed style'. Even though many Italianate buildings do not include brackets, the majority of them are profusely bracketed. Brackets served the function of keeping the wide eaves level and prevent bowing in the cornice. Brackets could be made of metal but were most commonly made of wood. They also served a decorative function, giving rhythm and vertical thrust to a house. While the facades of many Italianates are subdued, the brackets often provide a relieving ornament and whimsy that differentiates the exuberance of Italianate from the sobriety of Greek Revival.

There is no set rhyme or reason for bracket design. Earlier on, the brackets were primarily constructed at the site of a house by carpenters who were inspired by published house plans and details. As time went on brackets could be ordered in bunches from catalogs in a variety of shapes based on carpenter precedents. Because they were so unique to each house, brackets have literally limitless scope for variation and design. Sometimes similarities in brackets in one region can inform us of the vernacular. Nonetheless, despite these variations, there are common traits to Italianate brackets that allow us to grasp a bit of what the design process was behind them.

The basis for the most common Italianate bracket is two types of curves, the s- and c- curves. These give the bracket its general tapering shape below the molding that forms the bracket cap.

The general shape is often enlivened with extra pieces of ornament:

Finials: These turned pieces are probably the most common form of ornament on a bracket. They can be added to a block at the end of the upper part of the bracket, below the foot of the bracket, or from a block attached at the center. The finials give an icicle like effect to a bracket.

Medallions: Medallions or bull's eyes are circular pieces of molding. They are often put at points in the design where the curve spirals. They similarly adorn a lot of contemporary furniture and interior woodwork.

Strapwork: The strapwork is a set of thin boards cut with a jigsaw in a decorative pattern and glued or nailed onto a surface to give it a shallowly projecting design. In brackets, strapwork usually outlines the shape of the bracket and forms spirals.

Incised Carving: Incised carving was made affordable by the invention of the router. It consists of shallow relief cuttings into the wood in a decorative pattern. Mostly associated with Eastlake design and furniture, incised carving adds relatively inexpensive ornament to a surface.

Acanthus Leaves: Acanthus leaves are an expensive feature for a bracket. They usually are not placed on the sides but on the front, projecting slightly and adding an extra touch of fanciness.

Other design elements consist of carved garlands, fluting (cutting parallel grooves in the front of a bracket), beading, and elaborate caubuchons (jewel shaped pieces of wood).

Bracket Shapes:

As I said, the c- and s-curve form the basis of the bracket shape. The drawing below shows a bracket that uses one of these curves.

The number of curves can be doubled or tripled by adding more s- or c-curves. Sometimes this involves rotating one of the curves horizontally or varying their size. As the 19th century moved on brackets became more and more complex in how they used curves. The Bidwell house gives us an example.

Both types of curves can be combined to form composite s- and c-scroll brackets as shown below. Of course, this combination can be done in a lot of ways.

Special brackets:

There are two types of bracket I think deserve special mention because they tend to occur in specific contexts. The rafter bracket, beam bracket, or block bracket is a very simple rectangular block of wood attached to the eave. This occurs primarily in Italianate homes of the 1830s to the 1850s, and is a mark of an early Italianate. They were designed to resemble the exposed rafters peeking out from the eave in their Italian models. The Starr house and the Apthorp house have these types of brackets.

The Rotated or horizontal s-curve bracket is a type which, though it can occur anywhere, is particularly associated with Anglo-Italianate architecture because its shape conforms closely with Renaissance and Classical precedents. It is usually tarted up with acanthus leaves, scrolls, and palmettes, and was based on publications that showed ancient entablatures. The Lippitt house and the Graham house are examples.

The angular bracket is an uncommon type. It employs no curves, and instead has angles that define it. These can be stepped or even just consist of a simple diagonal piece of wood supporting the roof. The Hall house has angular brackets.

Finally there is an interesting bit of ornament that can sometimes be found on brackets, piercing. This consists of open space or holes piercing the wood of the bracket, creating a lighter effect. The Fisher house has pierced brackets.


The painting of brackets is a complex business given the profusion of decoration. The book Victorian Exterior Decoration suggests these historically appropriate possibilities. The brackets are usually painted the color of the house's trim. If they are relatively simple with few decorative details, they should probably just be painted solidly with the trim color without picking out details in the body color. Brackets with strapwork usually have the strapwork frame painted the trim color and the space inside the frame painted the body color. Incised designs are usually picked out in the trim color or perhaps a third accent color to emphasize their presence. If the house trim color is simulating stone, they should never have details picked out and be painted to appear like stonework.

Brackets are a fun feature of Italianate and one of the elements that draws people to these houses. Although my discussion is certainly not comprehensive, it tries to give a bit of vocabulary to this fascinatingly elusive element of design.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Russian House, Middletown, CT

The Russian House, Middletown, CT 1860s, 1870s? Wikimedia
The Russian house, is a house I do not have information about. It sits at 163 High Street and follows the rotated side tower plan, even though it never had a tower. The distribution of the windows into doubled windows on the left and smaller windows and entrance on the right is consistent with this type of massing. The house looks to me like a product of the 1860s or 1870s, although it is restrained in its ornament, which fits in with the sober appearance of some of High Street's homes. It is called the Russian House because it is a residence facility that is involved with the Russian community. The house is well preserved with restrained window surrounds, simple brackets, and an architrave molding. A cupola tops the roof. The porch has interesting columns with thick molded capitals. All in all, it's a charming little house.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Hart-Root House, Middletown, CT

The Hart-Root House, Middletown, CT. 1880 Wikimedia
This house follows as well the rotated side tower plan seen at 281 High Street. It was built in 1880 and was inhabited by the Hart and Root families; it's currently a faculty residence. The house has undergone some changes in its career, with its tower being lopped off at some point (I'm sure it followed the usual plan of three arched windows). Still the richness of detail can be seen in it, and it seems to have many features in common stylistically with the Coite house, notably its panel cornice with bull's eyes intersecting the panels. Features I like about this house are the closely paired brackets in the gable front, a feature that gives the cornice a lot of volume. Although the window surrounds are simple, they jibe with the subdued ornateness, and the arched window next to the door is a strange feature, which I am not sure is original. As for the odd box window that juts out into the porch, I have no idea how old it is. It does seem to be integrated into the porch's composition with the pediment, but the design is very 1890s Queen Anne. It could be a clever modern piece. Still, if it can fool the viewer, it's doing its job.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

281 High Street, Middletown, CT

281 High St. Middletown, CT. 1850s?

I don't know a lot about this house. It currently serves as the anthropology department of Wesleyan, but it's a particularly nice looking one.This house follows a plan we haven't seen very much of. It is very similar in design to the side tower plan, and it is oriented in the same way as the Sloan house in Oswego with the tower and side projecting pavilion oriented toward the street. This orientation changes the entire way the house is grasped, giving it, from the street facade, the appearance of being thin and vertical. Because only one narrow bay and the tower are the only parts readily visible from the street, it also makes the house look much more grand. This type of orientation is such a specific feature, that from now on, I am going to say that houses following this plan follow the rotated side tower plan. It might not be the most elegant phrasing, but it gets the point across. Interestingly, this house manifests a variety of images. On the right facade, it has a modified side tower plan without a central receding section. On the left facade, which is also visible because it sits on a corner lot, it has a modification of the irregular plan. It is all just a side tower plan that's been futzed with a bit. This rotation of the plan allowed architects to fit a large house with interesting facades on a very narrow lot. When an expansive style like Italianate is confronted with narrow property, goofiness is bound to occur.

This is one of my favorite houses on High Street. It bears a strong resemblance to the work of Henry Austin in New Haven, particularly the Norton house, although I do not think he designed it. The facade is stuccoed and from the street you can see the projecting principal bay, which has a shallow gable, has a box window surmounted by a triple window topped by a large wooden awning. The front door sits at the base of what should be the tower (I don't believe this house was constructed with a tower) and is recessed into an arched porch, a very elegant feature. The detailing is not overly elaborate; the window on the tower has a bracketed pediment over a simple surrounding molding. The house has thickly spaced brackets with an architrave molding, a strong characteristics of early 1850s design. The left facade is rather normal, with an interesting series of window types, until you get to the back where there is an odd gable that suggests a projecting pavilion but in reality does not correspond to a change in volume. This suggestion of a pavilion is reinforced by the two story box window with a tent roof (an odd feature). The right facade is a solid mass with a projecting bay window pavilion.

What I really like about this house is partly the finish, which I think is able to do a lot without being too ostentatious. The color scheme is appropriate, and reflects those in Riddle's 1861 book. Even though it lacks a tower to make it even more vertical, I think it is able to communicate what its builders hoped.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Gabriel Coite House, Middletown, CT

The Gabriel Coite House, Middletown, CT. 1856

The Gabriel Coite house is another structure on High Street in Middletown. Built in 1856 for Coite, a state senator and treasurer, it was later acquired by Jane Hubbard. It became in 1904 the house of Wesleyan's president. The house follows the symmetrical plan with a projecting center pavilion topped by an angled pediment and a stuccoed facade. The detailing is appropriately grand for the pretensions of the house's builder. The windows have carved brackets with a cornice; this design is elaborated on the front by carved foliage that wells up in the cornice's center. The porch is unusually large with doubled columns that have un-classical Corinthian style capitals surrounding the arched door. The main cornice has an architrave molding with long brackets and panels set between each bracket, making it a paneled cornice. There is a bull's eye on the projecting pavilion's panel. The sides of the house are interesting too, with narrow windows in the central bays. There is a box window on the south facade, while the north facade has an impressive awning porch that runs the length with a tent roof supported by oversize brackets. This covers a patio. On the top of the roof is a cupola with paired segmental arched windows. The two-tone grey color of the house with its white trim seems to have been taken right out of the John Riddle's work.  Everything about this house says rich and sober to me, suitable characteristics for the New England business owner.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Richard Alsop IV House, Middletown, CT

The Richard Alsop IV House, Middletown, CT, 1838-9 Wikimedia

The Richard Alsop IV house in Middletown is also on High Street and is perhaps unique in the US. This house is often classified as Greek Revival, as found in the book Greek Revival Architecture in America, but it is rather a transitional Greek Revival and Italianate house, as can be seen by its broad eave and brackets. It was designed by the firm of Platt and Benne of New Haven and was built by Barzillai Sage and Isaac Baldwin. The house was bought in 1948 by Wesleyan University from the Alsops; it is currently the Davison Art Center and houses period furniture and a display of prints. It bears some similarity to the nearly contemporary Starr house across the street. The house does not follow the traditional Italianate plan, but it is similar to the symmetrical plan. The central cube has three bays on the front and is flanked by three bayed lower wings with double height squared pillared Doric colonnades. This aspect is particularly Greek Revival in inspiration, as double height porches are not a feature of Italianate. A long cast iron porch runs across the front with a tent roof that is unusually topped by a balcony. The delicate porch features axes with bundles of arrows tied with ribbons on the supports, which are strong Neoclassical design elements. 

While the facade is stucco and extremely spare, befitting its very early date, the house has some unusual features. Wooden exterior lambrequins can be found on the first floor windows in the center. It's most unique feature is the painted frescoes on the exterior of the house, which seems to have no other parallels in the US. The frescoes express the entablature of the house with swags and paterae or bowls, another classical motif. On the first floor in the center, and on the centers of the side facades are painted trompe l'oeil frescoes of statue niches, a very fine classical touch that could have been as much an attempt to simulate a Greek house as an Italian Renaissance villa. The second floor on the wings contain trompe l'oeil murals of urns in niches. These are a fascinating example of the use of exterior murals to create rhythm and effect on an otherwise plain surface, and they admirably succeed in enlivening the house. The other colors of the house, pink for the background and cream for the trim are also historically appropriate. The rich mural scheme continues in the interiors, which are filled with beautiful designs that show mostly garden scenes or reproduce Pompeian style decoration. The following images highlight some of the details and show the plan of the house. The frescoes alone make this house a stunning example of transitional design; that they have been well preserved is a credit to Wesleyan.

Plans from HABS.

Some Interior views:

The Alsop house sits across the street from the Russell House, one of New England's best Greek Revival homes, which I thought I would include an image of just for fun.