Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Third Type of Indian Italianate

The Dr. P. W. Ellsworth House, Hartford, CT. 1850s?

Plan by Henry Austin for an unbuilt house.

This Indian Italianate I have depicted in the first image is the Dr. P. W. Ellsworth house that once stood on Main Street and Grove Street in Hartford, CT. Unfortunately, the house is poorly documented, and this is the only picture I could find of it. The house is in a unique style for this sub group. It has two bowed bays with four windows on each and follows the symmetrical plan. It's bowed bay style resembles some houses designed by Henry Austin on Orange Street and Chapel Street in New Haven. The house looks like it has stucco scored to look like stone or actual stone. The second floor windows on the sides have a curving balcony that runs along them with lacy ironwork and an exuberant fringe. the fringe is repeated above the unbracketed cornice in the cresting. The lack of molding around the windows is consistent with the Bristol house style. The crowning glory of the house is the two story porch. On the first stage there are candelabra columns, a trefoil ogee arch, and long sinuous brackets, all characteristics of a chhattri porch. The second stage is simpler, with plain candelabra columns and an iron balustrade. The whole is topped by a fantastic ogee dome with a tall finial. Above the central bay on the roof is a large stepped wooden piece for cresting.

The second image shows a plan by Henry Austin, kept at Yale University. This plan is utterly fantastic and crazy; it seems to have never been built. Perhaps it was just too much for New England. The plan shows a fully realized Indian facade. There are two projecting side bays with windows that have strong Bristol house like lambrequins and tracery. There are balconies on the second floor with equally complex windows. The bays are topped by very Indian looking projecting brackets and a wide eave. The central bay is a tour de force and seems to recall the entrance to the Taj Mahal. It is recessed behind the bays. There is a two story arch that creates a deep recess. The arch frame is paneled and topped by a huge cresting and small finials that resemble tiny minarets. The recess has paneling covering the wall surface (the play of volumes, panels, projections, and recesses is quite masterful) a circular window and a horseshoe arched window with a balcony. The door follows, paradoxically, the Greek Revival sidelight style, but the door and windows have lambrequins and tracery that mark it as distinctively Indian.

Both the Ellsworth house and the plan are bold, and they represent the taking of Indian Italianate to its logical conclusion of looking truly Indian, a feat that Eidlitz' Iranistan was able to achieve. The examples that survive are relatively tame by comparison. It is in these types that we can see Indian Italianate at its most exuberant and most out of control. It's not surprising that this house and plan found few imitators.

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