Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Decatur Miller House, Baltimore, MD

The Decatur Miller House, Baltimore, MD. 1853

Photo: Marc Szarkowski
The Decatur Miller house is at 700 Cathedral street in Baltimore at the corner of Cathedral and West Monument Street, only one lot south of the Mencken house. It was built in 1853 for Decatur Miller, a prominent merchant, investor, and politician, who hired Niernsee and Neilson as designers, a firm whose works are all over the Mount Vernon neighborhood. The house is an Anglo-Italianate row house with ornamentation different from much of what we have seen so far. Although Baltimore's Italianate houses in Mount Vernon were all constructed around the same time in the Anglo-Italianate idiom, they are all distinctive in their detailing and tend to avoid the repetitiveness of many of their English prototypes. This individuality is one reason I felt so drawn to looking at these houses as a group.

The house follows the typical design we have seen so far of four stories faced in brownstone. The brownstone cladding is only on the principal facade on Cathedral Street; the side facade on Monument has brick with brownstone detailing. The first floor is set apart visually with rusticated masonry, a particularly Renaissance feature; the door has flanking pilasters carved with a cable motif. The excellent ironwork balcony separates the first and second floors. Although ironwork is often associated with the south, it was once much more common on buildings in the north. The Monument St. facade features an exquisite cast-iron balcony with a tent roof, pictured above, designed by Hayward, Bartlett, & Co. Each floor features a different window treatment, much like the Albert house across Monument St; with each floor there is simplification of the ornament as well as the expected reduction in size. The second floor has round arched windows stopped with paneled spandrels and an entablature, while the segmentally arched windows of the third floor keep the rectangular surround but have rosettes in the spandrels and a cornice rather than a full entablature. The fourth floor segmental arched windows have a simple surround, but the way they intersect the architrave of the main cornice gives the cornice the appearance of undulating, an unusual feature. The cornice itself is horizontal with a course of brackets with a course of dentils underneath. I really wish I had a better picture of this interesting house, but alas I have to work with what I've got. If anyone has one, I would be grateful!

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