Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Albert Schumacher (Asbury) House, Baltimore, MD

The A. Schumacher House, Baltimore, MD. 1855
Adjoining one of Baltimore's most impressive churches, the Mount Vernon Place Methodist Church, is the Schumacher/Asbury house. It is called the Asbury house because it is owned by the church and is named after the first American Methodist bishop, but it was originally built for Albert Schumacher, a merchant in 1855. It was designed by Niernsee and Neilson, a significant Baltimore architectural firm in the mid 19th century responsible for many homes in the Mt. Vernon neighborhood. The house, which follows the row house plan, was one of the most sumptuous constructed in the city. The Architecture of Baltimore: an Illustrated History (130) quotes a contemporary description of the house as of the 'Roman style' and 'costly'. The description discusses the impressive library on the front of the second floor, the mosaic finishes, octagonal parlors, and third floor dome. Another blogger relates how impressed he was on a tour of the home. The house is indeed a grand and eccentric specimen.

The house's first floor is entirely rusticated, resembling a traditional treatment of the first floors of Italian Renaissance palazzos, and is pierced by arches. It looks to me like the house is stuccoed and scored to resemble stone. The second floor is where things get strange. There is a large balcony separating the first and second floors resting on large brackets with a balustrade of ironwork set in a stone frame, a costly and uncommon treatment. Instead of having the usual three windows, there is only a central bay window intersecting the balcony, with arched windows, a paneled frieze, and a crowning balustrade. This is where the impressive library is. Flanking the arch are stone panels set into the facade with curved, chamfered corners. An almost awkwardly large belt course separates the second and third floors; on the third, there is a return to the three bay scheme. The surrounds are rich, featuring segmental arches, thick eared moldings with panels in the spandrels, and keystones. Above the windows, is again, an awkwardly large space before the cornice, which is of the expected Anglo-Italianate type, horizontal, dentiled, thickly bracketed. Small circular windows pierce the frieze of the cornice, which is in some ways a throwback to Greek Revival designs in which circular windows with wreaths are often found in the frieze. The whole features tall blank pilasters that frame the composition.

It is an odd house. The architects, although some of their spacing is a bit strange looking, accomplished a beautiful and eye-catching design. From the description, I would really like to see some plans and interiors; it sounds as if there are a lot of complex shapes at play inside.

And I thought I would include a picture of the adjoining church (photo by Wally Gobetz).

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