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.

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