Friday, June 14, 2013

The George L. Bidwell House, Adrian, MI

The George L. Bidwell House, Adrian, MI. 1863 Photo: Wikimedia
This house at 204 East Church Street in Adrian, MI is an impressive five bay Italianate built in 1863 for George Bidwell, an important local merchant. The house has several high style features of the 1860s that make it an excellent example of how high Italianate architectural idioms could be found in country towns. The house is brick and does not look like it was stuccoed based on the regularity of the bricklaying. The windows are all shallowly arched and have heavily carved hood moldings that look to be sandstone, but could be cast iron; without having seen the house in person and tapping them, it's very hard to tell. The moldings on these feature carved leaves, central stylized palmettes, and thickly carved brackets. As I've pointed out, elaborate hood moldings are more a feature of the 1860s than the 1850s. The porch is an impressive Corinthian affair, with carved brackets (in many houses porch brackets are simpler, but these are just as elaborately carved as those on the cornice), that sits on a stone base with paneled, round newel posts. No doubt the balustrades around the stairs once attached to them. The balustrade above the porch is surprisingly intact, although the half urns (definitely cast iron) that are attached to the facade were once echoed by urns on the newel posts above the porch. The original door itself is arched with a cable molding and transom.

Two outstanding features of this house are the central window and the cornice. The central window is triple arched with the central section being taller than the flanking sections. This window arrangement is found on many Italianates and is one of the special features of this style that lived on in Second Empire construction. To me, this window suggests later Italianate construction and was a feature that appeared in the late 1850s early 1860s (cf the Backus house). The large central window is balanced by an arch above the central bay in the cornice. The cornice itself has very elaborate double s-scroll brackets that are heavily ornamented with foliage and is uniquely of the undulating type, which is very rare on detached houses outside of large cities. The way the undulation interacts with the central arch, I must say, is a little clumsy, making a shape that reminds me of Batman's symbol. The cornice is further ornamented with a board cut in a flat top trefoil arch. The whole is topped by a hip roof and a cupola. This house is probably one of the best representations of the architecture of the 1860s I have seen. The coloring of the house seems very appropriate as well. Overall, the house is a beautiful example that seems to have a lot of its features intact.

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