Friday, May 17, 2013

The William and Frederick Vanderheyden House, Ionia, MI

The William and Frederick Vanderheyden House, Ionia, MI. 1879 Photo: Wikimedia
The Vanderheyden house in Ionia is one of the last houses I'll deal with in this town for a bit. The house is truly unique. It was built in 1879 for a father and a son, William and Frederick Vanderheyden and their separate families. The house is a double house, and everything is repeated symmetrically on each side, but the two houses share a front hall and front and back stairs. That is an oddity since even most family compound double houses feature separate stairs. With such a cozy shared space, one would hope father and son and their families got along well! When the father (William) died in 1910, his son used his half of the house as a library and office space.

The house follows the pavilioned plan, two symmetrical bays joined with a central porch. These bays are much shallower than those seen in typical pavilion plan houses. The yellow brick was made at the Vanderheyden's own brickyards, which shipped brick to many sites in the area and around Michigan. This type of yellow or ivory brick is a particularly upper Midwestern material and can be found in buildings in Wisconsin, upper Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, as well as other states. The Vanderheyden's thus advertised their own trade in the facing of their home. The house is relatively simple for its time. All the windows are arched with the expected thick stone hood moldings, although the depth of the arch varies. The basement is local rusticated sandstone, while the cornice is a simple affair of particularly long brackets, seen in other Ionia homes, and intervening runs of smaller brackets. The long brackets are used to define the fa├žade sections. The house once featured an upper balustrade on the peak of the hip roof that has been removed. The porch is a particularly nice feature, echoing the polygonal shape of the bay windows and continuing the rhythm of the building. Note the delicate lattice work under the porch. The only asymmetrical aspects of the house seem to be the presence on the left of a side porch and of a bay window on the right. Perhaps father and son wanted some variation in their respective living wings. Although the color scheme may strike us as drab, it is probably appropriate to the period. The Victorians often chose the colors of stone, browns, tans, and grays, to simulate actual stone construction. The Vanderheyden house remains an interesting monument to the way generations of a family expressed themselves in a unified home.

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