Friday, May 3, 2013

The Augustus H. Albert House, Baltimore, MD

The Augustus H. Albert House, Baltimore, MD. 1859

I said that Baltimore was a great place for Anglo-Italianate row houses and this is a good example even though the house is slightly detached from the surrounding buildings. The Albert house was built in 1859 and was designed by Louis Long, a prolific mid 19th century Baltimore architect. The house was converted in 1867 to be the Mt. Vernon Hotel, a very early conversion of a private home, but it then reverted to a home again in 1902 when the interiors were dramatically redesigned. The house is currently occupied by offices and a club (the linked site also features an interior view). The house follows the five bay plan, a plan which does occur in urban settings but less frequently. The detailing is particularly careful about following Renaissance prototypes, so much so, that the house has an air of being a product of the 1880s rather than the 1860s. The only major flaws in conforming to Renaissance aesthetics are the cornice over the porch, which is far too small, the oddly divided triglyphs in the porch entablature (which project slightly almost like brackets), and the incised lines in the main frieze.

The house is faced in brownstone, or more probably imitation brownstone, because brownstone soon after its popularity spread was found to delaminate or flake over time. Imitations were sought after to prevent this damage to the fabric of a façade. The house is set over a tall, rusticated basement and a slightly recessed central bay divides the house into three sections. The first floor arched windows have thick hood moldings and balconies connecting each pair, while the second floor windows have thinner eared moldings that conform to the segmented arch of the windows with blind balconies (a balustrade placed against a wall). The use of only four balusters seems odd to me, since one usually sees five on such blind balconies. They are also unusually squat and widely spaced and the thickness of the supporting molding and brackets is also very strange but very Italianate. The third floor has simple square, eared moldings. The façade is given unity by the belt courses that divide each floor at the sill as well as the increasing diminution in the height of each window. The porch is a grand affair hovering over the stoop with its paired Tuscan columns, arched doorway, and tall frieze of triglyphs and metopes. Although the house proclaims its Renaissance inspiration and does give somewhat an appearance of a Renaissance palazzo, the individual eccentricities I pointed out make it truly an American Italianate.

No comments:

Post a Comment