Friday, January 30, 2015

'Ridgewood' the Edwin Litchfield House, Brooklyn, NY

'Ridgewood' Brooklyn, NY. 1854-57 Photo: Wikimedia
Photo: Kim
'Ridgewood' also known as 'Litchfield Villa' is perhaps Alexander Jackson Davis' most important and lavish Italianate mansion and bears the distinction of nearly duplicating a house we have looked at before, the Munn house in Utica, NY. Currently surrounded by Prospect Park in Brooklyn, it was built in 1854-57 by Davis for Edwin Litchfield, an extremely important figure in the development of Brooklyn's Park Slope, the Gowanus Canal, and railways. When Propsect Park was laid out, the Litchfields were allowed to keep their home until their deaths in the 1880s, after which the park service occupied the house as offices. After a long period of neglect, the house is in the process of being restored.

The house strongly resembles the Munn house in plan, and Davis seems to have simply expanded the already impressive design he had constructed in Utica a couple years before. A comparison of the facades of these irregular plan houses reveals a variety of differences. First, the placement of the tower and the chamfered projecting pavilion are reversed between the two houses. Unlike the Munn house, there is no recessed archway around the front door. The left hand wing, which once had a similar porch to that on the right, terminates in a surprising round tower with a conical roof. Round towers are exceedingly rare in Italianate houses. The disposition and treatment of windows is mostly the same, except the triple windows of the Munn house on the pavilion are paired arched windows here, and a balcony has been added to the third floor of the pavilion.

Decoratively, the Litchfield house is far more elaborate and more Anglo-Italianate, than the Munn house. The house has rotated s curve brackets typical of Anglo designs, as well as a highly refined acanthus leaf frieze and full classical entablature on the porches and windows. Most startling is the use of corn and wheat capitals instead of the traditional acanthus Corinthian capital, a very uncommon stylistic quirk that was part of the attempt to Americanize classical forms. Although the facade appears to be brick, it was intended to be stuccoed white (the stucco was removed in the 1930s and never restored). Overall, the Litchfields seem to have outdone Davis' earlier designs and created a more sophisticated and playful version that sought to convey a more European sensibility.

The house's interiors are quite stunning. A series of interior pictures can be seen here as well as a period image below. The floors feature beautiful Minton tilework, elaborately carved Rococo Revival fireplaces, pilasters, columns, and an interior rotunda. Finally, the house's interiors are being carefully restored, and one can only hope that someday the stucco may actually be replaced to allow the house its full effect.

Photo: Frank Sinks
Photo: Wikimedia

1 comment:

  1. Wow, this house is amazing! I love the corn and wheat capitals. So different.