Monday, January 26, 2015

The Thomas Gaff House, Aurora, IN

The Thomas Gaff House, Aurora, IN. 1855 Photo: Johns S
This is certainly a one of a kind early Italianate house. Built in 1855, its designer was Isaiah Rogers, the father of the American hotel who worked primarily in Greek Revival. Rogers dotted the nation with dozens of grand Greek edifices that revolutionized the way Americans lodged when traveling. The Thomas Gaff house was built by Rogers for an important local distillery owner, and the design is unique as a specimen of Italianate and Greek Revival fusion. The house is far more eclectic than most examples of Italianate we have seen. While the plan is symmetrical, the large projecting semi-circular portico is more characteristic of Regency design in England than houses in the US. The thinness and classical inaccuracy of the columns on the central portico and side porches are much more characteristic of Federal design than Italianate or Greek Revival. The effect created is one of lightness and buoyancy rather than classical monumentality, a feature that is reflected in the delicacy of the second floor ironwork. The decision to side the house in flushboard rather than clapboard is another element which, although not unprecedented in Italianates, is very common in Greek Revival.

Features that are typically Italianate are the Renaissance style details in the corner quoins, second floor window moldings, and round arched windows which dominate the central bay. Also significant is the uncommon round cupola that reflects the curve of the central bay and is marked by paired tombstone windows. The cornice is simple, as are the brackets which are crafted like rafter brackets, a kind of bracket found on earlier Italianate homes of the 50s and 40s. A final interesting feature is that the house is built on a slope; the entire back of the house is a maze of ells, porches, and additions that sit on the sloped rock behind, as seen in the following images from HABS. The house is currently well maintained and functions as a house museum.

1 comment:

  1. What an extraordinary exterior! I would love to see an image of the round cupola!