Monday, June 10, 2013

9-13 East Read Street, Baltimore, MD

9-13 E Read St. Baltimore, MD. Late 1860s?
I looked everywhere to see if I could find out about this row, one of my favorites in all of Baltimore; believe me searching 19th century city directories is arduous! Unfortunately, I found absolutely nothing except that the owner of number 9 received in the 1970s a preservation award for fixing the house and that a doctor lived in 13. This is perhaps the most English of the rows in Baltimore and would be completely at home in London, so I am guessing it might have been designed by one of the many English born architects floating around the city, perhaps E. G. Lind who designed the nearby Peabody Institute, one of the city's most stunning Anglo-Italianate buildings. One website says that number 13 was the work of Baldwin and Pennington, and that that unit was constructed for Jesse Hilles, a very prominent figure in Baltimore's financial community. If this is so (and I am not completely convinced), then the houses could be the product of the 1860s or 70s. But since it is so stylistically consonant with the designs of the late 50s and 60s, I am tempted to place it datewise in that region. More than any of the houses we have looked at, this row embraces the English Palladianism that exerts such a strong influence on Anglo-Italianate design.

The row has a first floor defined by a thick cornice. The doors are particularly striking to me, being deeply inset into the facade with their pilasters of rusticated stone, a feature that is definitely uncommon in the US, but very English. The low basement and stoop under the first floor and the lowered height of the entrance are in fact termed an "English basement". One of the houses has a classical entrance portico that appears to be old, while the others do not; it might have been that all of them once had porticoes, but since the moldings on the others look quite original, I am guessing the owner of this house might have wanted one. The second floor windows are much larger than the first, almost double the height, making the second floor a piano-nobile, giving it the appearance of the principal floor, another very European aspect. The alternating round and triangular pediments over the second and third floor windows are a particular feature of Renaissance and especially Palladian architecture. The second floor windows have small Greek Revival iron grills inset into the frame. The fourth floor windows are plain and much smaller than the others; an odd feature is that the second and third floor windows have a wide space between them while the third and fourth floor windows are almost crammed together. Perhaps this indicates the presence of some lost architectural feature. The cornice, as we expect in Anglo-Italianate, is simple with thickly spaced brackets. I do wonder if the houses were originally stuccoed; if they were, then the row would have looked even more English. The effect of the high-style design is one of elegance and European taste, a sentiment that would have been at home among Baltimore and Mt. Vernon's wealthy residents. If anyone has information about this row please send it to me! It certainly deserves to be better documented than it is.

No comments:

Post a Comment