Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Brewster-Burke House, Rochester, NY and the William H. Glenny House, Buffalo, NY

The Brewster-Burke House, Rochester, NY. 1849 Photo: Bill Badzo

Photo: Wikimedia
These two houses in upstate New York, miles away from Henry Austin and New Haven, are shockingly similar to the Willis Bristol house and are examples of the Indian Italianate that Austin introduced. In the case of the first house pictured, the Brewster-Burke house in Rochester, the architect is thought to be Merwin Austin, the brother of Henry Austin. Thus, family connections allowed Indian Italianate to spread to upstate New York to Rochester, a city with many ties to Connecticut. It is likely that Merwin saw what Henry was doing with the Bristol house and decided to emulate the design for Henry R. Brewster, a real estate speculator, banker, and grocer, in 1849, four years after the Bristol house was built. It was constructed in the Corn Hill neighborhood in Rochester, an affluent district which, although somewhat damaged by time, is one of the earliest success stories in preservation history. The second house, the William H. Glenny house I am less sure about. The image comes from A Picture Book of Earlier Buffalo (1912) but not much more is said about the house. Given it's proximity to Rochester, it is possible that Merwin Austin or perhaps a follower might have copied the design of the Brewster or Willis house likely around the same time in the early 1850s. Glenny was a prominent merchant. 

Both houses are much alike. They are both symmetrical plan houses that have a very similar massing finished with scored stucco. The cornices have paired brackets but no entablature, as in the Bristol house. They each borrow different things from the Bristol house's design and add their own elements. The Brewster-Burke house has a chhattri porch with a scalloped ogee arch and quatrefoils cut out in the spandrels. The brackets are oversized and are an s and c scroll shape with interesting spirals cut out. Candelabra columns are also included, but these are far more angular and have deep fluting that make them look like grass bundles. The windows have lintels with simple triangles. A monitor caps the roof and a long wing to the side has a porch that mimics the central porch. The house ends in a structure with three pointed Gothic arches, that served as a summer kitchen and carriage house according to the plans, demonstrating the stylistic link some theorists of the period found between Indian and Gothic architecture. Throughout the house has ironwork balconies on the windows, while the main porch has a fantastic wooden balcony with exotic finials on the posts. The side seems to have had a porch that was as fantastic as the main porch with carved ornament, but this has disappeared along with an exceptional fence, pictured below from HABS. The house was threatened many times with demolition but has been saved mostly intact, despite some losses. 

The Glenny house in Buffalo has been demolished, though I do not know when. Unfortunately, the porch in the image is completely obscured by foliage, but I imagine it is a chhattri porch similar to the other examples of this type that looks like it might have a goofy tent roof. The house appears to be stucco and have a monitor. What this house does that the Brewster-Burke house does not is emulate the exterior lambrequins and tracery of the Bristol house, a quirky but lovely quality. It seems much less expansive than the Brewster-Burke house, lacking side porches and additions. Both these houses are great examples of the westward diffusion of architectural styles from the eastern US and they represent fascinating examples of Indian Italianate. The following pictures from various sources illustrate the Brewster-Burke house, which remains a National Register landmark.

The back of the Brewster-Burke house. Photo: Wikimedia

Photo: Bill Badzo

The following photos are selected from HABS which has many more images.

1 comment:

  1. According to the HABS repository of drawings, the Brewster house on Spring St in Rochester was designed by Henry Searle, and the owner was Henry A. Brewster.
    Thanks for the blog.