Friday, September 13, 2013

The McChain-Boardman House, Ithaca, NY

The McChain-Boardman House, Ithaca, NY. 1866 Photo: Alec Frazier
This stately symmetrical plan villa in Ithaca, NY is a lovely example of a high style Italianate house. While it was built in 1866 for George McChain, the first dean of Cornell's law school bought in house in 1886 and thus is included in the name. It was acquired by Ithaca College in the 20th century and is now rented out to a variety of tenants. The house bears a strong resemblance to one in New Haven. Like that house, it has a regular scheme with a central tripartite window and a double columned porch. There is no central projection or recess in this house, though, making it a powerful cube. The windows have brackets with curved pediments that are beautifully ornamented with carved pieces, palmettes and anthemia, relieving the strict classical design of the facade. A cool feature of the window treatment is that, rather than encasing the windows entirely in wood, the architect used a small line of bricks to suggest an architrave molding. The cornice is spare in this house, with a full entablature and very small brackets that seem to be rafter brackets. Nonetheless, the simplicity of the cornice gives the house an Anglo-Italianate air, and the drab color scheme of exposed brick walls and brownstone colored paint seem very appropriate and remind me of many of the houses I discussed in Providence, RI. I'm sure there was once a balustrade over the entrance porch, which is strictly classical/renaissance in inspiration except for the rosettes applied to the plinths of the columns. The doors themselves are elaborate specimens of Renaissance Revival design with rich wood textures and built up carved medallions. The cupola on top, which displays a bit more Italianate whimsy than the rest of the design, completes the house.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Schlosser House, Attica, IN

The Schlosser House, Attica, IN. 1865 Photo: Wikimedia
Sorry to have been remiss lately. With classes starting and all I have just been swamped, but I promise not to give up. This house, the Schlosser house, in Attica, IN was built in 1865 as a symmetrical plan house, but being in a small town in Indiana it has some unusual vernacular features. First, the lintels over the windows that consist of simple pieces of stone inserted into the facade (called labels) are a strong Greek Revival element. Here, they are heavily carved with Greek designs of acanthus with palmettes; the fact that the owner has picked them out in paint helps a great deal in noticing the design elements. The porch on the front is an elaborate affair, with complex fretwork scrolls (that have the air of steamboat Gothic about them). The central piece of fretwork between the two bracket shaped pieces is particularly interesting. The facing is brick, which forms a band to make an architrave that has paired double s-curve brackets under the eave. The side porch is startlingly simple, being basically simple posts without even a full entablature. However, the simplicity of the wooden design is not reflected in the elaborate cast iron balustrade over the porch, which is a lovely feature and was obviously designed to be used as a balcony, given the elongation of the second floor windows on that side. Although the paint scheme is probably not historical (they would never have picked out stone details like that), I rather like it with its mix of blacks, yellows, and greens. It goes to show that even when historical colors aren't used, a pleasing picture can be formed. The yellows and blacks are in fact harmonious Victorian colors, so it does even out. Even though the house was built in 1865, it is aesthetically a throwback to the early 1850s in its design, showing that regionalism could often trump high style taste.