Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The John Merrick House, Wilmington, DE

Photo: walkthetown

The Wilmington Club/Merrick House, Wilmington, DE. 1864
Photo: Wikimedia.
The former John Merrick house and current Wilmington Club is a lovely example of Italianate that is often overlooked. Constructed by John Merrick, an important carriage manufacturer and industrialist, in 1864, the house is currently home to the Wilmington Club, one of the oldest dining clubs in the country which purchased it in 1900. The house was designed by Edmund Lind an architect active in Baltimore and the south who is signficant in Baltimore for his designs for the Italianate Peabody Institute. Lind certainly seems to have made a name for himself as the go-to guy for impressive brownstone Italianates in the city during the mid 19th century. His work is centered around the Anglo-Italianate mode of design that more closely follows Renaissance precedents and can be seen extensively in Baltimore. As a specimen of his work, the Merrick house does not disappoint. It follows the five bay plan which we have seen in other urban residences such as the Graham House in Baltimore and the Wing Williams House in Albany.

The house is an impressive three stories tall and is faced in brownstone with quoins at the corners, beltcourses, and a wooden cornice. The windows alternate between round arched on the first two stories and filleted third story windows.The central bay contains double tombstone windows, emphasizing its central importance. The real beauty of this house lies in its exuberant stonework, which is heavily carved and shows some Renaissance/Rococo influence like that seen at the Backus House in Baltimore. The simple brackets and moldings are enlivened with dramatic swirls of foliage on the first floor; the second includes even more elaboration as well as a central cartouche/shield in the center broken pediment. The third floor has simpler molded surrounds with keystones, which provide some relief from the ornament below and give the facade a more grand appearance. Other interesting aspects are the stone balconies connecting thw pairs of windows on the first floor, the stone staircase balustrade, and the fact that the sides of the house seem to have been finished. It's a house I definitely find to be grand and beautiful and very typical of the wealth found in these cities in the 50s and 60s.

I have been referring to the carved parts as stone, but in fact they are excellent cement replacements. because brownstone delaminates, anything constructed in it has to be constantly maintained or replaced. I think they did an excellent job fixing the doo-dads and preserved the elegant appearance of the building.

Photo: walkthetown

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