Thursday, May 9, 2013

The George W. Lewis House and Row, Albany, NY

The George W. Lewis House, Albany, NY. 1877

The George W. Lewis house is at 163 Lancaster in the Center Square neighborhood in Albany; it was built in 1877 according to Albany Architecture. Lewis, the builder of the house, was a lithographer, who also engaged in real estate development, building the neighboring houses at 165-173 (to the left of the house in my image). The house like the Wing-Williams house is a five bay semi detached row house. However, while the Wing Williams house appealed to Anglo-Italianate detailing, the Lewis house embraces the Albany vernacular and the rich ornament of the 1870s. The porches to the right seem to be of a later date.

The house has all the features of the Albany style. The hood moldings are highly decorated, featuring a curved pediment that's broken by a small, central pointed pediment with a long triglyph and guttae. This distortion of elements of a Doric frieze are typical of the 1870s interest in playing with traditional classical forms. These hood molds may be made of metal and surmount segmented arched windows (the current flat topped windows may be modern). The basement is of rusticated stone, a common treatment in row houses. The porch features the flat-topped trefoil arch we have seen in the Richardson-Bates house and incised design. The expected box window over the door is present. A real treasure of this house is the cornice, which is of the bull's eye type. The house features a central gable with an arched window in the center. A fascinating detail around this window is that the cable molding that extends around the frieze is carved into rope ends at the corners of the window. This charming feature takes a form that is often used abstractly and suggests its original associations. The following images and enlargements show some of the details.


I also have added a picture of the row Lewis constructed next to his house. These follow the row house plan. He differentiated the row from his house, which forms the terminus of the continuous row. These houses are characterized by different hood moldings, which though a similar shape differ in the detail, a different type of cornice (the undulating type), and box windows that have similar pediments to those on his own house. By altering the detail, Lewis ensured that his house would remain architecturally distinct, both by its different ornament and its different plan, displaying his status in relation to those who occupied his development.

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