Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Day-Taylor House, Hartford, CT

The Day-Taylor House, Hartford, CT. 1858
The Italianate style was extremely popular in Connecticut; I have shown you several New Haven examples, and, although there are less, Hartford nonetheless has an excellent collection of Italianate homes. Among the varieties Hartford presents, the Day-Taylor house, constructed in 1858 is one of my favorites. It stands on Wethersfield Avenue among a large collection of Italianates dominated by Armsmear, the home of Samuel Colt. The house is a particularly crisp version of the irregular plan with some irregularities of its own. The expected irregular plan calls for the recessed wing to be wider than the projecting section; on the Day-Taylor house, however, the recessed wing is about the same size as the projecting part, giving the house a far more vertical emphasis. Horizontality is reasserted in the choice to continue the cornice line around the tower. In the Norton house, the cornice line is broken by the tower, but continuing the cornice as the architect of the Day-Taylor house did makes the tower look more like an appendage on the roof rather than an independent tower.

One of my favorite details in this house is how the cornice forms a full pediment on the projecting section with an arch to accommodate a central round top window. This type of pediment treatment was known from antiquity and can be seen in the Palace of Diocletian at Split. The attic windows are varied between segmented arched, flat, circular, and arched, making an interesting pattern, and a belt course that defines the third story gives the house the appearance of having a particularly tall entablature. The windows have elaborate cast iron hood moldings, a feature that became more popular as the 1860s approached, and those on the projecting section are filleted. Iron is also displayed in the well preserved balconies beneath the windows. The way the porch wraps around the tower rather than being broken into two sections, one a portico in front of the door and one running along the recessed wing further deemphasizes the tower.

The Deaconess House and Training School, Philadelphia, PA

The Deaconess House and Training School, Philadelphia, PA. 1850s
Shifting to Philadelphia, this is one of my favorite Italianate buildings in the city at 1122-1124 Spruce Street. It was built in the 1850s as the Deaconess House and Training School for Christian Workers of the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches (quite the mouthful; I've had difficulty establishing an exact date) and is now known as the College Manor apartments. According to a real estate website, it was restored after a fire in the 1960s. Although a row house, the building follows the symmetrical villa plan; the entrance is placed in the center rather than the side, perhaps indicating its institutional qualities with the added grandeur of a centralized entrance in a row house setting. The façade is symmetrical and is faced with stone, perhaps the yellowish limestone that is found in many Philadelphia buildings. The windows display variation; the central section's windows are tripartite and arched, with the central panel being wider and taller than the sides, while the flanking windows are double windows encased in one shallow arch. All the windows, except for the small arched windows in the pediment are covered with thick hood moldings with decorative foliated bosses.

The stone has been laid in recessed sections, forming blind arches that divide the façade neatly. The cornice has thickly deployed brackets and a broad, plain entablature board. I personally like the central rounded pediment that defines the façade. It's difficult to see, but the roof of this building is slightly hipped and accommodates two large dormers. The dark brown color of the trim seems to be a period appropriate color scheme. On a street of row houses, the building has grand pretensions by employing a symmetrical plan, although the scale and detailing make it appear more like a large mansion rather than a school, maintaining the residential character of the street. It certainly makes an impression as a large stone Italianate surrounded by lower Federal and Greek revival brick row houses.

The John Kellogg House, Amsterdam, NY


The John Kellogg House, 47 Church St. Amsterdam, NY. 1858
Amsterdam, NY is a town with a fascinating city hall, the Sanford mansion. The Sanford mansion is a Victorian house, probably once a Second Empire structure, that has been remodeled and expanded into a massive Georgian/Beaux Arts home for the city's government. Next door to the Sanford mansion, however, is the no-less interesting Kellogg House. The Kellogg house was built in 1858 for John Kellogg, a mill owner in Amsterdam. The house is a symmetrical Italianate villa; like the Fisher house in New Haven, each façade has a central projection surmounted by a gable that breaks the cornice line. The Kellogg house has thick-set brackets that impart a level of heaviness to the cornice, a feature that is currently emphasized by the dark paint scheme which reproduces a likely historical effect. It is odd, however, that only five pairs of brackets are employed on the side facades; perhaps it was a money-saving measure (many oddities in Victorian architecture are attributable to cost cutting). In fact the side facades are treated quite differently than the principal, being simpler with fewer windows. The cube-like effect of the façade is relieved by the tent roof awnings with fringed cut-out borders, a monumental Corinthian porch, a five section bay window that projects from the western façade, and heavy hood moldings atop the windows. The paired 'tombstone windows' as well add interest, as does the Venetian tracery in the central front window. This type of tracery was particularly associated with Renaissance architecture.

Perhaps one of this house's most interesting features is the way the architect laid the bricks (the house is finished with painted brick) so as to form blind arches in each bay of the façade. This treatment, reminiscent of the slightly later Panel Brick style creates a series of pilasters and arches that articulate the wall surface. The arches are of the flat topped trefoil arch, a shape more commonly found in the 60s and 70s. I particularly was struck by the way the blind arches in the center of each façade bend upward to match the slope of the gable, giving the house an almost Gothic flavor. Also interesting is the roof and cupola. The roof is a very steeply pitched hip roof; in fact it is so steep it might qualify as a mansard (indeed it might be a later addition). It is steep enough to allow squat dormers with massive scrolls. The roof is topped with an octagonal cupola with a shallow pointed roof, which, although not unprecedented, is far less common that the typical square cupola. After being owned by a law firm for many years, the house has been recently restored, and a real estate website has several good pictures of the home's beautiful interiors. The parlor is particularly impressive with its ceiling murals and massive rococo pier mirror.

 The cupola.

This interesting barn/carriage house seems to be attached to this property, although I am not completely sure. At any rate it's an intriguing shape and looks like it could use some work!

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Egbert Bagg House, Utica, NY

The Bagg House, 4 Rutger Park, Utica, NY. 1854
Continuing my focus on Rutger Park and its homes, I turn move a couple plots down to the Bagg house. This house was built by Egbert Bagg in 1854. Apparently Bagg designed the house himself, which is not a surprise given he was an engineer and land surveyor. The plan may surprise you because it is missing an important element. It is a side towered villa like the Sloan house in Oswego and New Haven's Norton house. You might ask, where did the tower go? The house seems not to have been built with one. It is often the case that Davis and Downing's plans were used but elements were omitted whether because of cost or taste. It's very common to see even irregular villas constructed without their towers. Italianate is an adaptable style, and it is always up to the builder to construct a house that suits their client's aesthetic and pocketbook.

The house has other eccentricities besides its missing tower. To tell you the truth, I am not completely sure how much it differed from its current state when it was completed. The elements of the side tower plan are there: the thin tower base, the long recessed center, and the projecting end pavilion. The center section, however, features instead of a loggia a bay window. This bay window does look like it might be original to the house a might have been included to accommodate a parlor or library offering a scenic view of the park. The expected loggia has been translated to a tent roof verandah on the end pavilion and a wooden awning over a double window on the tower base. The current entrance is on the right side at the end of a long verandah, the style of which seems to be later to me; perhaps it is an addition of the 1860s or 70s. The entrance could have been moved there at that time. The original entrance way have been from the verandah to the left into the room with the bay window. I'm really not sure, but it's always fun to play architectural detective. I certainly think the open loggia on the third story above the center is later. Its form suggests the Colonial Revival of the 1880s or 90s. What really makes me think it is a later addition is the way the center section's roof and walls are sagging, perhaps from supporting the balcony's weight on a part of the structure that wasn't built to bear that load. The placement of a chimney as well directly in the center of the façade seems unlike other Italianate precedents.

The house appears to have been well restored by its owners. The original porches and awnings seem intact, and the color choice is very period appropriate. The window surrounds are suitably simple for a house of the 1850s as are the brackets which echo the treatment in the Munn house. The façade appears to be painted brick, though stucco would have been more period appropriate; the effect however is not lessened by the visible brick at all. All in all the Bagg house is a fascinating puzzle.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Munn's 'Castle', Utica, NY

Photo from New York Traveller.

The so-called "Munn's Castle", 1 Rutger Park, Utica. 1852 or 1854
The Munn House in Utica is one of upstate New York's greatest Italianate monuments. The house was designed directly by Alexander Jackson Davis c. 1852 or 1854, and is reminiscent of another of his designs, that for Litchfield Villa in Brooklyn, built in 1854 as well (the Baughman House in Detroit was also a related design). The house is part of a 19th century development in Utica, Rutger Park. Originally part of the rural Miller estate until 1850 when it was divided into lots for building, Rutger Park formed as a 19th century street of mansions (akin to Hillhouse Avenue in New Haven or Cleveland's Euclid Avenue) that fronted onto a large park. The park and site attracted wealthy and influential Utica families who built a row of mansions, mostly Italianate homes, along the park's western side. The Munn house in the 1950s was converted into a nursing facility and subsequently abandoned. The interiors are in particularly rough shape, and from the images you can see, there are missing balusters and damaged verandahs. Although the house has gone through some rough times, the Utica Landmarks Society has purchased the house and plans to restore it as a house museum (kudos to them!). Utica itself, although it seems a little decayed, is home to a fantastic collection of Italianate buildings of which the Munn house is a particular gem.

Despite its 'castle' moniker that suggests Gothic architecture, the house is a particularly sober Italianate irregular villa. The design departs somewhat from the expected irregular plan, but considering Davis popularized the irregular plan in the first place, it's his prerogative to futz with it. Unlike the plan published by Davis, the house has a large wing to the left of the projecting pavilion, which dramatically increases its mass and horizontality. The projecting pavilion itself is chamfered (has angled corners) rather than 90 degree corners, which do give it a somewhat castle-like appearance, or make it seem like some overgrown bay window. The chamfered shape of the pavilion is elegantly echoed by the bay window on its first floor whose tripartite division is repeated up the façade. The tower is spare, unlike Austin's tower at the Norton house, with just a few round-headed windows. The brackets are small but frequently deployed without an entablature, again giving the effect of jutting roof beams, as Davis did in his design for the Apthorp house. The finish is scored stucco, an effect we have seen in many houses of the 1850s. Originally the façade was graced by a wooden porch on the right and a delicate cast iron porch on the left. Fortunately for us, Davis' plans and elevations for the house have been preserved and are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 The north elevation.
The principal western elevation.

Both of these drawings can be found on the Metropolitan Museum's website (drawing 1 and 2). Looking at the plan, we can see that Davis took full advantage of his chamfered pavilion by incorporating chamfered rooms into most of the first floor. Where a lesser architect might have been forced to create thick and oddly shaped halls and closets, Davis beautifully combined the rooms into a carefully composed jigsaw puzzle that snugly fits these oddly shaped rooms together. From these elevations one can also get a good idea of the original finish of the house. In looking at these drawings, however, you should notice some discrepancies. The house seems to have been 'flipped' by the architect since the elevations show the tower on the left of the projecting pavilion whereas the house as completed has the tower on the right; also one of the porches is missing. A later drawing also in the Met, shows the house closer to its appearance as it was completed (credit).

The Munn house is an impressive example of an Italianate villa by a master designer. The careful balance of heights and widths betray the work of a great architect. I personally love how the tall, thin tower is contrasted with the thick projecting pavilion, how 90 degree angles contrast with chamfered corners, and how a 2 bay wing is balanced by a single bay wing. The house almost has a pyramidal shape as the various rooflines culminate in the tower with its urns. I am excited to see how the Landmarks Society restores this impressive monument.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The George B. Sloan House, Oswego, NY

The George Sloan House in Oswego, 1866-1870. Principal façade (south).
The east façade.
 The west façade.
Today I am featuring the George B. Sloan House in Oswego. The house sits on a large piece of property and was built by one of Oswego's most notable citizens between 1866 and 1870. The pictures above display the three principal facades of the house, although trees, the bugbear of architectural photography, obscure some elements (argh!). The house's main street façade is the southern façade, which gives the impression that it follows the gable plan with an attached tower, but if you look at the eastern façade, you can see it is actually employing the side tower façade as we saw in the Norton house in New Haven. Unlike the Norton house, the orientation of the Sloan house does not feature the side tower façade as its principal entrance but focuses on the left side as the principal one. The center section is also not highly recessed as we saw in the Norton house, but who doesn't alter a plan a bit when building their own house? The massive projecting section attached to the right hand of the side tower plan also is a significant alteration. This historic photograph from a 1906 publication, Oswego Yesterday and Today, depicts the Sloan house as it looked at the beginning of the 20th century.
The house for being a creation of the 1860s and 70s is far more sedate than the Richardson-Bates house. The use of Ithaca limestone as the facing particularly gives it a powerful and monolithic appearance and the windows are deemphasized by a lack of dramatic surrounds or moldings. The brackets and cornice are spare, although the wood strips give the impression of a plain entablature. The deployment of brackets on the house is as spare as the cornice, only placing them in pairs at long intervals and for the support of the horizontal eaves beneath the gables. Still, the house has some interesting features that liven up the façade. The porch, not overly dramatic, employs the broken arch form of the 1870s that we saw in the Richardson-Bates house's balcony, and the door on the eastern façade has a delicate wooden awning with a tent roof. The Juliette balconies in the tower are a notable feature that add some horizontal emphasis on the top level. The west façade features a particularly large, glassed in conservatory. The stone laying itself is of interest as large blocks alternate with two thin blocks that cover the same space as a larger block; this gives the stonework the feel of being irregular fieldstone. The eastern façade features an elaborate two story bay window with deeply recessed panels. The principal entrance is in the tower's base. The following pictures show a few of the details.
The entrance on the eastern façade with awning. You might wonder why the roofs are painted red. Although I am not sure about this house's original coloration, Italianates often did not just employ grey slate as their finish, but used red tiles, blue slate, or even green slate. Tent roofs were particularly painted interesting colors. Historically, many were painted to look like striped canvas awnings.

A better view of the west façade showing the rear porch which is simpler in composition than the principal porch.

The house has much of its garden art and iron fencing intact, including its monogrammed posts.

The house also features an exuberant stick style carriage house/barn.

All in all the Sloan house is a fine example of Italianate, even with its quirky arrangement and conservative detailing.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Richardson-Bates House, Oswego, NY

The Richardson-Bates House in Oswego, 1872/1889

Turning from Hillhouse Avenue to upstate New York, I decided to share a house I particularly enjoyed visiting in Oswego, NY. The Richardson-Bates house, which is now a museum, is a unique survivor; over 95% of the family's original belongings remain in the house, whose interiors have been preserved as they were when the family lived there. Because so many photographs of the interiors survive, curators have been able to replicate the rooms décor, which is an exceptional amount of knowledge to have been preserved about a house.

The house as it exists today was originally built as a wing attached to the family's old  wooden Gothic Revival house of the 1850s. The tower and the wing to the left (north) were constructed in 1872 by the architect Andrew Jackson Warner (1833-1910), an important architect practicing in Rochester, NY. The right hand wing (south) was constructed in 1889, when the wooden house was demolished. Although it wasn't built as such, the house follows the Davis and Downing's irregular plan, constructed in two stages. The new wing matched the existing construction well, giving the appearance of having been constructed at the same time. Perhaps the later construction of the right hand wing explains why it oddly comes forward, almost flush with the tower wall, rather than receding as was usual with this type of plan. These two photographs from a brochure published by the museum, show the house in its various stages of construction and come from a brochure handed out at the house.

The house in 1872 after the completion of the first stage. The old home can be seen to the right.

The house in 1889 after the demolition of the older home and construction of the final wing. A comparison between these historic photographs and contemporary views shows that the porches that once surrounded the bay window and the wing to the right of the door have been removed, making the house much more monolithic than it originally appeared.

The side view from the south looking north shows how the 1889 wing juts out almost to the level of the tower.

Some elements of the house's design reflect the practice of the 1850s, particularly the windows that simulate blind arcading and bell cotes in the tower. Other features are reflective of the 1870s. In the Richardson-Bates House, the entablature running underneath the brackets has been elaborated with decorative panels, the molding is much thicker and more deeply cut, and the window hood moldings are far heavier and more elaborate than we have seen. These are all qualities that became popular in the 60s and the 70s, especially the thickness and elaboration of hood moldings, which were often made of cast iron which allowed for greater elaboration at a cheaper price.

The house is not stuccoed, but is instead painted brick, a practice more common later; even the quoins, the alternating projecting blocks at the corner of a building, are simply brick laid to simulate stone. The brickwork has recessed sections in the front box window that simulate recessed paneling and there is some jutting brickwork on the chimney that appears to be an influence from the so-called Panel Brick style. The Panel Brick style is a term I have encountered in Bainbridge Bunting's Houses of Boston's Back Bay, and describes a practice popular in the 1870s of "utiliz[ing] brick masonry in which a variety of decorative patterns have been worked by means of projecting or receding brick panels" (188). The style also simulates classical elements like pilasters or entablatures in brick although they tend to be free in their expression of classical form. The picture below shows an example of this type of bricklaying on the library chimney.

Another aspect which this house draws from the vocabulary of the 70s is the balcony over the box window in the left wing. The balcony arch over the center section is a flat-topped trefoil arch, an arch broken and intersected by a square. This shape was less popular in earlier decades. Bunting calls the 70s one of the "decades of individualism" and architects were more willing to experiment with untraditional shapes, particularly for arches and hood moldings. This is a common one. It may derive from Romanesque doors which were flanked by pillars that altered the shape of the door, curving the sides to accommodate the pillars' capitals. The front door, in contrast, seems far more traditional, despite its over-scaled dimensions. The elaboration of the pilasters with panels (like the cornice) and the massive scale of the brackets reflect the exaggeration of features that characterize the 1870s.

The covered balcony.                                                 The front doors (that was my tour guide).
The interiors of the house are stunning; I ended up snapping a few photos before I found out I couldn't. Shhhh!
The entrance hall and staircase (left). The front doors had etched monogrammed frosted glass (right).

                                                               The parlor and library.
The stained glass transom over the front doors.
I had to take a final picture of one of the stupendous sphinxes guarding the main entrance. Garden sculpture such as this, usually of iron, was once very common in 19th century gardens, but much of it has been removed. Downing and Davis remarked that the garden vases and sculptures were part of the charm of Italy the Italianate style was meant to evoke. These sphinxes are part of that tradition, and their continued presence testifies to the excellent care the family spent on their house.

A Unique House- The John Graves House, New Haven, CT

The John Graves House on Hillhouse Avenue, 1862.
The John Graves house makes a statement. On a street of mostly conservative, symmetrical, stuccoed Italianate villas, the Graves house breaks with the precedents of Hillhouse Avenue. Although in plan it is of the symmetrical type, the house's constantly shifting planes and masses, the restless breaking of the cornice line, and (from the side) the profusion of projections give the house a dynamic energy not seen in many Italianate villas. The front façade consists of two symmetrical bays, the third story of which breaks through the cornice line with a gable, almost giving the impression of half dormers. The corners are further enlivened by thick second story pilasters which seem to hover above the thinner first story corner boards. The center of the façade features two broadly jutting pilasters surmounted by a curved pediment that appears as a huge shadowy arch under which a balcony is placed. The depth of the arch is subverted by the projecting box window and balcony that rests upon a porch that juts out further still. Thus from porch to pediment, we see three large elements that recede as they move higher up. The whole is crowned by a more steeply pitched hip roof than is usually seen and a small cupola. The side elevations are just as complex.

The north side features three bay windows in a line with a shadowy recess under the central window.

The south façade also features a bay window and in the rear a large wing that because of the amount of windows gives the impression of a large box window. Again, a balcony tops this wing. A house with so many balconies and window effects was certainly designed to maximize the view of the avenue and surroundings.

Unlike the other houses I have posted, this house is of wood without any pretension of simulating stonework. The architect chose to emphasize this with many elaborate carvings and clear clapboard siding. Everywhere there are ornaments tucked into the houses nooks and crannies and blind panels filling wall space. A strong belt course in wood divides the first and second stories dramatically. The front windows have heavy cornices and brackets and vary from floor to floor. This house is a celebration of variety and carving ability. The brackets on the box window above the porch are particularly interesting as they intersect all the horizontal bands of the entablature. The following pictures show some of this delightful ornamentation.

First floor window treatments. The window is topped by a segmented arch. Note the paired s-scrolls that form the brackets and the carver's inclusion of foliage.

The windows on the second floor, with different brackets and elaborate foliage carving within the arch. Note the simple brackets on the cornice, a surprise given the elaborate treatment of the façade elsewhere.

                   The pediment and bay window.                                  A porch pilaster.
The delicately carved central flower on the porch entablature.
A close-up of the box window's cornice.

These pictures give you an idea of the delicacy and robustness alternating in the Graves House's decoration. While some people find this decoration monstrous, I tend to delight in the whimsy and complexity of it all. The same things that cause me to enjoy it are exactly the qualities that encouraged people in the mid 20th century to label the house a 'monstrosity' and encouraged them to demolish them. In looking at a house like this, you eye never knows what to focus on first, and that appeals to me, making this one of my favorite houses on the avenue. I've also always thought that the color scheme was particularly well done; the red window sash, the alternation of browns, creams, and yellow tints all are period appropriate choices and don't overemphasize the decoration as a "painted-lady" color scheme might have. The Victorians loved their browns and this house responds to that period's point of view.

The interior of the house has recently been renovated by Yale. The staircase is particularly fine with its carved newel post.

The gracefully curving stairs and the Renaissance Revival newel post.

The wainscoting along the stairs employs half of a newel post as a terminus for the paneling. The second view is of the stained glass in the box window over the porch.

 With this picture, shaded by the thick trees, I bid adieu to the John Graves House.