Monday, July 29, 2013

The George R. Fairbanks House, Fernandina Beach, FL

The George Fairbanks House, Fernandina Beach, FL. 1885 Wikimedia

The Fairbanks house is a late Italianate, built in 1885, very late in the career of this style. Apparently, George built it for his wife as a surprise and she was not amused. Perhaps it was because he had built her a house 5 years out of date stylistically (she could never have her 'artistic home' she read about in contemporary publications), or perhaps nothing pleased Mrs. Faribanks (Victorian women could be a bit high strung). At any rate, the house is currently a bed and breakfast; check out their website. There are some good interior photos, which show how the interior is an odd mishmash of Renaissance Revival, Queen Ann, and even Arts and Crafts elements.

The house is an irregular plan Italianate, a plan which had by this time gotten a lot of mileage. In this case, the projecting pavilion is flush with the tower, although a board defines the tower from the pavilion, keeping the elements in their place. Stylistically, the house actually looks like it was built in the 1850s. It is sided in wood, and the ornamentation is kept to a minimum. The cornice is simple, with plan brackets and an architrave molding. The windows have simple moldings, although the balcony attached to the double tombstone window is a neat flourish. The pediments on the doubled windows on the left side is also a bit of spice. The porch has heavy, very Italian looking arches framed by pilasters. At the entrance, the arches form a triple arched Palladian window, a very American feature. Even the side porch incorporates the Palladian motif. It seems very appropriate to Florida to emphasize porches and balconies; at the beach everyone wants to be outside. Unlike the usual triple windows, the tower top has quadruple arched windows, no doubt to allow a better panorama. Although the house is Italianate, it has not escape the influence of Queen Ann. The box window over the entrance, especially the type of windows it has with heavy dividers, are very Queen Ann in style, as are the railings and the elaborate brickwork on the chimney. The double height box windows at the sides also smack of Queen Ann, and look more like San Francisco architecture than that of the East Coast. I suppose though that they participate in the eccentricity of shore architecture. A cute feature is the little dormer window in the hip roof. If someone built this for me, I wouldn't complain!

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