Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Nelson Stillman House, Galena, IL

The Nelson Stillman House, Galena, IL 1858 Photo: Richie Diesterheft

Photo: SD Dirk
This is a truly impressive house in a town of impressive homes. The Nelson Stillman house was built in 1858 by a successful grocer. After serving as a nursing home, it is now the Stillman Inn, a bed and breakfast whose owners have restored missing original features of the house and have taken excellent care of the property. As far as the plan goes, it is a typical irregular plan house with brick facing and a simple architrave and bracket cornice. The unique design features of this house are what really set it apart from the usual. First, the most noticeable feature is the tower. Unlike the traditional Italianate tower, this one has a strong ogee shaped gable on all four sides, a feature which is rarely seen (Norwich, CT has some similar towers). The ogee has no brackets, perhaps because they were just too hard to cut. It covers a double tombstone window topped by a round window. As if the tower gables weren't enough, an octagonal, almost Federal, cupola tops the tower with an open platform for viewing the surrounding countryside from the hill on which the house sits. I am not sure I have seen an open cupola like this on an Italianate, and I find it rather pleasing, even if it interacts a bid oddly with the ogee. Two other features catch my eye. First is the fact that all the windows on the front of the house are double (one is triple) and covered with wooden awnings with fringes, that make the house look rather festive. The tent shape to the awnings echoes the curves on the cupola roof and the tower gable nicely. Third is the porch, which, although it seems standard enough, has odd bits of jigsaw work hanging down from the cornice over the brackets. This is a bit of whimsy that is almost Steamboat Gothic in its inspiration and fun. It again adds curves into the house's design, giving the porch cornice a sort of undulation. The sides of the house are much plainer, keeping with the Victorian spirit of thrift which always seemed at war with their desire for display.

Photo: Eric Olson

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