Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Swann-Daingerfield House, Alexandria, VA

The Swann-Daingerfield House, Alexandria, VA. 1802/1833-99
Photo: Wikimedia.

Photo: Wikimedia.
The Swann-Daingerfield house is the third house I am exploring in Alexandria. The house has gone through many interesting changes over the years. It was built in 1802 as a Federal style house by Thomas Swann. In 1833, it was purchased by Henry Daingerfield, who proceeded to remodel the house to suit changing fashions until it was purchased in 1899 by a Catholic School. The house is currently a private home after a stint as student housing for medical students. Although it has a shallow mansard roof, like the Kellogg house, it was probably remodeled as an Italianate before it recieved any Second Empire notions. One way to tell whether a cornice was designed for a mansard roof is to look at its depth. A very deep overhanging cornice is more characteristic of Italianate design that a mansard has been added to; a shallower cornice was probably added at the same time as a mansard. This cornice is certainly too wide for it to have been added with the mansard. Daingerfield owned the house from 1833 to 1899, a long span in which he probably made changes to suit prevailing tastes and to allow him extra space. The house is beautifully detailed. It follows the five-bay plan and is faced with brick that has been painted a bluish green.

The cornice is of particular interest. Although the brackets, horizontal moldings, and dentils are common enough, the architrave molding, instead of being broken by the brackets into horizontal segments, curves sinuously around them, creating an interesting, almost Spanish Baroque, pattern. The window surrounds are also a treat. They are jigsawed so that their rectangular shape is enlivened by suggestions of brackets and ears; they are topped with a dentiled cornice, which is curved on the central window. These seem to be characteristic of Alexandria; another house nearby also has similar cut-out window surrounds. The porch is interestingly designed on this house. Instead of just surrounding the central door, it covers the central three bays. Additionally, the posts are spaced and the stairs are built so that there are wider openings in front of the windows flanking the door where one walks up the steps. The central section is divided into two smaller bays without stairs. This diffusion of the porch ascent from the center to the sides can be seen in some fancier examples of Italianate, and it seems to me this suggests grandeur. The design of the porch is simple, consisting of arches and panels in the spandrels with carved cartouches serving as the keystone; the porch looks similar to that on the Marshall house. Although I am not sure about when the stylistic changes were made, I would guess they occurred sometime in the 1860s. I believe this partly because of the elaborate nature of the forms, which are, however, not as complex as one might expect from an 1870s remodel. The roundness of the porch arches also is a more 1850s/60s design; in the 1870s segmental arches and filleted rectangles were more popular.

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