|The Lewis Kies House, Cleveland, OH. 1874 Photo: Wikimedia|
Monday, October 7, 2013
Friday, September 13, 2013
|The McChain-Boardman House, Ithaca, NY. 1866 Photo: Alec Frazier|
Monday, September 9, 2013
|The Schlosser House, Attica, IN. 1865 Photo: Wikimedia|
Thursday, August 29, 2013
|The Harvey Howard House, Wooster, OH. 1860 Photo: Wikimedia|
|Photo: Wayne County Historical Soc.|
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. 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. 1874 Photo: Teemu008|
Sunday, August 18, 2013
|The Nelson Stillman House, Galena, IL 1858 Photo: Richie Diesterheft|
|Photo: SD Dirk|
|Photo: Eric Olson|
Friday, August 16, 2013
|The Daniel Barrows House, Galena, IL 1858-9 Photo: sfgamchick|
Thursday, August 15, 2013
|The Columbia Club, Indianapolis, IN. 1889 |
Photo from Indianapolis Illustrated
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
|The Lewis W. Hasselman House, Indianapolis, IN. 1865|
|The above photos are from the publications Indianapolis Illustrated |
and Art Works of Indianapolis.
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 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.
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).
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.
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 1860s, 1870s? Wikimedia|
Sunday, August 11, 2013
|The Hart-Root House, Middletown, CT. 1880 Wikimedia|
Saturday, August 10, 2013
|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. 1856|
Thursday, August 8, 2013
|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.