Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Reuben Ragland House, Petersburg, VA

The Ragland House, Petersburg, VA. 1856 Photo: R. W. Dawson
This house at 205 Sycamore Street in Petersburg is part of the Poplar Lawn historic district. It was built in 1856-7 for Reuben Ragland, whose family is responsible for a variety of Italianate and Greek Revival homes nearby on Sycamore Street, a fashionable residential address in the 19th century. The house is a symmetrical plan house with a hip roof and cupola. It is a four story Italianate, which is not particularly common outside of row houses. Thus, the house is a grand expression of the owner's wealth in its imposing size. The house probably takes its height from the other Ragland houses on the street which seem to be just as tall. The facade is rather plain, being a brick cube, but it is enlivened by details. The porch spreads across all three bays of the front facade, an odd choice for this type of house, and has impressive Corinthian columns with a bracketed cornice. The porch sits very low to the ground because the house does not sit on a high basement, which creates a strange effect for a grand house. The first floor windows on the front are Greek Revival tripartite windows. Their treatment with simple stone lintels perhaps represents a conservativism to the design. The other Ragland houses are more Greek looking than Italianate. The front door is Italianate with complex pilasters framing it.

The upper floors are pure Italianate. The central windows which are both taller and wider than the sides, feature Venetian tracery. The flanking windows vary between segmented arches on the second floor and round arches on the third, a variation we have seen in Petersburg. Despite the third story, we can see this house follows the pattern of the Scott and Williams houses in having larger windows flanking the door on the first floor and above the door on the second floor. All the upper windows are topped with cast iron hood moldings that feature in different places, egg and dart moldings and keystones. The cornice is simple in design with paired brackets of c and s scrolls. The cupola is also simple, although it has a triple row of windows with a larger central section. A view of the side of the house shows that there is a small enclosed hyphen with an undulating cornice connecting the house to a back building. One outstanding feature of the house is the windows themselves. A look at the house shows that there is an odd complexity to the tracery in the windows, which resemble typical Queen Ann tracery. A picture from an old website for the bed and breakfast that currently inhabits it, shows that the windows have beautifully etched stained glass, an impressive and very rare treatment. This was probably an addition of the 1880s, but it is a particularly beautiful feature.

The site for the Ragland Mansion Bed and Breakfast shows a great deal of the interiors which are very well preserved with some of their mid 19th century design intact.

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