Wednesday, May 15, 2013

La Palistina: The John C. Blanchard House, Ionia, MI

The John C. Blanchard House, Ionia, MI. 1880 Photo: Wikimedia
Although I have never been to Ionia, MI, I came across its National Register listings and was impressed by some of its Italianate architecture, so I am featuring a few buildings from this town. The John C. Blanchard house was built in 1880, one of the latest Italianates I have posted. Blanchard was an important attorney and politician in Ionia, who owned a sandstone quarry, and built this house as he and his wife's retirement home according to the house's website (it is now a museum and rental space). That website also has several interior views. The house was named La Palistina, a Spanish name that means 'delightful'. The style of the house was already going out of fashion in the 1880s to be replaced by Queen Anne and Colonial Revival. Considering the couple was in their 50s however, the conservativism of the design is understandable.

Although built late in the career of Italianate architecture, the house has a strong link with the style of the 1870s, which was no doubt when it was designed. The house follows the irregular plan. There is no tower or tower projection, an often found alternative to the traditional plan. The projecting pavilion is mostly consumed by a two story bay window. The alternation between single windows on the projection and double windows on the recessed section provide a pleasant alteration of forms. The filleted windows and elaborate hood moldings with their broken arch design, as we have seen, are typical of the period. The cornice is undulating and is along with the porch one of the few house features made of wood. The brackets moreover, are complex comprising two s-scrolls, long bases, and turned finials that give the appearance of hanging icicles. Dramatically, the house and exterior decorations, from basement to cornice, are primarily crafted out of a unique local sandstone, giving the house a colorful, variegated appearance that is particularly appealing. Since Blanchard owned the sandstone quarry, he must have had a personal stake in the stone's selection and finish. This more than anything makes the house a special specimen. Also typical of the period is the more steeply pitched hip roof and the iron cresting that tops the composition. The stairway has a particularly grand treatment with sandstone balusters and newel posts that have attached lights. Below is a closer view of the cornice and window treatments.

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