Friday, July 5, 2013

Amos N. Beckwith House, Providence, RI

The Amos N. Beckwith House, Providence, RI. 1861

Here is a good example of a non-sober Italianate in Providence that dared to break with the symmetrical cube shape and materials that characterized other Providence homes. This house is also expansive, receding back further and further. Much of it might be later additions. The house was built in 1861 for Amos Beckwith by Alpheus Morse, Providence's premier Italianate architect. There were enlargements in 1867, and in 1880 some Colonial Revival details were added. When built, it was in the countryside, but now it is in a tightly packed neighborhood of lovely late 19th century homes. The house follows the irregular plan with some variations. The projecting pavilion in this house does not project as far as the tower does, so the house has a rather aggressive forward thrust. I also believe that a porch has been filled in adjoining the tower. It is constructed of wood as well, rather than the usual brick and brownstone.

This house is mostly about the tower. The wall treatment is actually very simple with windows that have simple moldings and surrounds. The cornice is also rather plain with small brackets. The tower however is highly ornamented, with each stage separated by some kind of molding. The first two stories where the tower intersects the house are covered with recessed panels, an unusual feature. The porch is paneled as well with Corinthian columns and a filleted corner arch. At the cornice line of the house, the panels are augmented by large balconies that projet on brackets ornamented with wreaths and ribbons. The third stage has segmental arched windows set into a rectangular frame, and the fourth stage has the triple arched windows so characteristic of the Italianate tower.

The sides of the house are bizarrely long. It's as if the Beckwiths couldn't get enough space in the house and kept crazily adding on. The house features all types of bay windows, box windows, even Colonial Revival Palladians on the sides. One very interesting feature of the house are the dormers on the sides. What's unique is that the dormer windows intersect the cornice and they are supported on large brackets, a design scheme I haven't really seen much. As a final note, I really like the coloring of this house, although people find it drab. This is Downing scheme at work here: the earthy tones, the dark trim, the picked out detail. The house seems much more period appropriate for its proper painting scheme. The Beckwith house is one of Providence's zaniest Italianates, to be sure.

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