Monday, February 29, 2016

The Francis House, Troy, NY

The Francis House, Troy, NY. 1846.
This is perhaps the most fantastical house on the square. It was built for Hiram Slocum in 1846, but is named after the Francis family who purchased it in 1866 and remodeled the front in the 1880s. The remodel, or remuddle, no doubt altered what was a typical brownstone, Anglo-Italianate, row house plan structure into a cascade of balconies, overhangs, and an impressive Italianate box window. The pilasters on the first floor suggest there may have originally been pilasters supporting three arched openings with molded surrounds. The second floor probably had a box window with simple surrounds. It's been said the Francis family traveled frequently to Europe, and this might explain their desire to jazz up the house and make it even more Italian with multiple balconies, made of thin columns and an impressive metal, fringed awning. I particularly like how nicely handled the third floor box window is with its Venetian tracery, close packed brackets, and delicate metalwork appliques. The balustrade at the top completes the house's European pretentions.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Charles J. Saxe House, Troy, NY

Charles J. Saxe House, Troy, NY. 1854
At 193 2nd Street we find a house built for the Main family in 1854 but named for Charles J. Saxe, a lumber dealer. Like the Fuller house, this one also follows roughly the row house plan, but it lacks a bay, being extremely narrow. The bays are also not proportional and the left hand bay is much wider than the right, a feature we have seen on other houses on the park. The façade is brownstone and the windows lack typical moldings. Instead, there are extremely heavy brackets supporting moldings and iron balconies. This relieves the plainness of the façade and creates a rhythmic tension, preventing aggressive plainness. The cornice is very simple with only a pierced architrave molding and s scroll brackets.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Joseph Fuller House, Troy, NY

Joseph Fuller House, Troy, NY. 1853
Built in 1853 at 197 2nd Street for Hiram Ingalls, this brownstone row house is known for Joseph Fuller, a major stove manufacturer. The house is a variant of the row house plan in that it is three proportional bays with a fourth elongated bay to one side (very upstate). Sorry about the trees, this is a very verdant square. Again, we have simple molded segmental arched windows with intact iron balconies. The door is particularly interesting, since it is a rectangle when most doors have some kind of arch. The frame itself is arched and fitted into the opening. The narrow octagonal columns with wrapping moldings are borrowed from Gothic forms. The interiors with their lavish Eastlake and Renaissance Revival design are stunning and can be seen here. Would that I could post the pics of them here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Washington Park: The Agnes Vaughan House, Troy, NY

The Agnes Vaughan House, Troy, NY. 1855
For the next series of posts (as I have found series of posts are best), I will be exploring the Washington Park historic district in Troy, NY. Troy is probably one of the country's architectural delights, not only because it has a nearly intact 19th century downtown with a music hall by George B. Post, but because it has Washington Park, one of the only private residential parks in the country. The streets along the park retain almost all of the original houses, of which the majority are fine, sophisticated, and very urban Italianates. The houses are well cared for and the owners knowledgeable and invested in their town, no doubt partially due to the Washington Park Association, to whom I owe a great debt for much of my historical information.

The park itself was established in 1840 when the property lots were divided, though the original lots were quickly resold. By 1860, most of the park was built up along its north (Washington St.), south (Washington Pl.), east (3rd St.), and west (2nd St.). Some of the houses are attached, but many are freestanding, although they follow general row house principles. While Italianate dominates stylistically, the ensemble is precious for having great examples of Gothic and Greek Revival as well. In general the other sides developed more quickly than the east. The inhabitants were upper middle class businessmen, factory owners, and merchants, and seemed to form a distinct social set. Although the area declined in the early 20th century and Troy itself began to decay drastically in the mid-20th century, it was revitalized in the 1960s and there was a renewed interest in Victorian design.

For my first house, I will be starting in the south-west corner. Built in 1855 at 199 2nd Street, it was inhabited by Agnes Vaughan from 1877 whose husband stole from his law firm and divorced her. Nonetheless, Agnes stayed in the house and eventually remarried. This house is one of my favorites. It follows a row house form, but has a central entrance, so one can call it symmetrical (without much of the centralized emphasis). The house's façade however is far from symmetrical, however, since the right hand bay is elongated, something one sees in many side hall houses in upstate NY, surely to accommodate a larger drawing room. The façade my be stuccoed or painted stone with corner quoins. The houses around the square are generally sparing in ornament, giving the whole a strong dignity and Anglo-Italianate flavor (shown also in the rusticated base); the segmental arched windows and door surround are simple moldings. It seems some iron balconies have been removed on the first floor. The windows feature interesting Venetian tracery wedged into a segmental arch, something that seems common in Troy. A projecting box window surmounts the entrance, another extremely common upstate NY feature; often these are the most ornamental parts of urban homes. The cornice is paneled with s scroll brackets. All in all a sophisticated design.

The southern part of the square has no Italianates proper. Rather the whole side is taken up by one long, unified Greek Revival row; however, the temptations of Italy seem to have won out over the Hellenic, since many of the houses feature Italianate doors and box windows. The survival of this row, once a common feature of 19th century cities, is truly impressive. It's pictured below.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The R. A. Loveland House, Janesville, WI

The R. A. Loveland House, Janesville, WI. 1861 Photo: Sarah Lawver
The R. A, Loveland house was built in 1861 and is a smaller, cheaper version of the Lappin house posted two days ago. The house is another side hall plan, but has less features that emphasize centrality, confining itself to a central open pediment in the central bay and an arched window on the second floor. Otherwise, the house has basically the same porch with its paired columns and alternating round arched and filleted openings and similar Greek Revival eared moldings. Additional images can be found here. The cornice itself also lacks the sculptural qualities of the Lappin house with architrave moldings and simple brackets. The fascination of this house is how a similar plan and architectural treatment can manifest in different ways according to the wealth of the builder. There seem to be several example of this type in the city, and the design is clearly an important vernacular base for the town's Italianates.

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Thomas Lappin House, Janesville, WI

Thomas Lappin House, Janesville, WI. 1864 Photo: Sarah Lawver
The Thomas Lappin house in Janesville is a fine example of a side hall plan that oddly functions like a symmetrical plan, built in 1864 for a major early merchant in the town. It was designed by the architect Gary Nettleton, a local designer responsible for many Janesville houses. The house has several fine features; although the there is no central projection, symmetrical emphasis is achieved by an open pediment, a central arched window on the second floor, and a pediment on the central bay of the porch. This is in conflict with the side hall entrance. The house's details are dignified, with simple Greek revival eared window and door surrounds with crown moldings; the windows on the first floor are flat while the second floor alternates between rectangular, round, and segmental arched windows whose alternation makes a pleasing effect. There is an odd diamond window on the right side. The whole facade is outlined with verge boards at the corners. The porch is grand, fully bracketed with paired columns that alternately create arched and filleted openings. The cornice type, which seems common in Janesville, is heavily sculpted with paired c scroll brackets, secondary brackets, and dentils with a thick architrave molding, giving it a lot of weight. Additionally, the third floor windows are cleverly hidden within the cornice's sculpture with decorative grills. The architrave line is broken in the center to provide a further central emphasis. Unfortunately, it seems a second floor window has been replaced by a door and someone has stuck shutters around the central window that have been put on backwards (a personal pet peeve), but all in all, the house is mostly intact. Additional views can be found here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Brewster Randall House, Janesville, WI

The Brewster Randall House, Janesville, WI. 1862 Photo: Wikimedia
Photo: Wikimedia
This house is an example of remuddling at its most dramatic. It was built in 1862 for Brewster Randall, lawyer and senator, as a simple side hall Italianate with Greek Revival eared window surrounds and a rather fussy molded door surround, reminiscent of Federal designs. The greatest amount of ornament was confined to the fine cornice, with its attractive c scroll brackets with beads and acanthus leaves, that interrupt both dentils and s scroll brackets rotated under the very wide eave. A view of the house as it was can in 2003 be seen here. At some point, someone decided to have some fun. The visionary decided to add some Gothic style exterior lambrequins to the windows, added somewhat incongruous classical pediments over the windows, glued sculpted lions onto the door, and added an oversize classical balustrade to the door's cornice. Additionally, the simple lattice porch was enlivened with further Gothic and ovoid tracery. However, even though this is unquestionably a remuddle, it is surprisingly consistent with the Victorian innovative spirit and love of ornament. As we have seen in Janesville, there is a strong drive toward the eclectic syncretism of styles, as in the Tallman house. The redesigner's combination of Gothic, Classical, and Rococo forms onto an otherwise staid Italianate house could have been done in the 19th century as much as in the 20th. Although sometimes we value the perfection of style and bemoan later additions, for people in the 19th century a house was something to personalize, to constantly reinvent. They didn't think of their homes as museum specimens and felt no shame at adding a Queen Anne porch or a Second Empire turret to an Italianate cube. Italianate is an interesting style precisely because you can apply any sort of style to it. Thus, although this house may not be the perfect specimen of Italianate purity, it is a perfect example of the restless spirit of Victorian architectural innovation.

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Hamilton-Richardson House, Janesville, WI

Hamilton Richardson House, Janesville, WI. 1871. Photo: Wikimedia
Photo: Wikimedia
This irregular plan house was built in 1871 for Hamilton Richardson, a very wealthy and successful businessman in Janesville. The house has been well restored and is currently the Guardian Angel Bed and Breakfast. It lacks the defining tower of the irregular plan houses, giving it a horizonta emphasis. The house is aggressively simple, with a facade of Wisconsin cream brick, arched windows with no surrounds but a ring of projecting bricks with stone keystones. Even the cornice is bracketless and simple. However, the house has its zany elements invested in its woodwork. First, the entrance portico features a bracket surround, where brackets define the doorway. In this case they are enormous c scrolls with strapwork and some exciting swoops on the ends. The porch as well (pictured below) has massive arches with delicate lattice supports. Overall, the house is very dignified.

Photo: Wikimedia

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The James B. Crosby House, Janesville, WI

James Crosby House, Janesville, WI. 1851 Photo: Wikimedia
Photo: Wikimedia
The James B. Crosby house was built in 1851 and has been connected to the work of Samuel Sloan because it is closely based on his plan for "an Ornamental Villa" in his book The Model Architect (pictured below). In its long history, it has been a hospital, a drama school run by a minister, and a foster home. It is currently owned by an architect who bought the dilapidated house and is in the process of restoring it, even rebuilding its demolished surgical wing from its hospital days as his facebook page says. The house displays its early design with its simple ornamentation and irregular massing, something that definitely is very Sloan (his designs, though early vary the most from standard plans). In essence, it is a symmetrical plan house with a gable rather than hip roof and a deep gabled central projection with a triple window. Another early feature are the very tall double windows with Greek Revival eared surrounds, the large overhanging eave, and the absence of an architrave molding. The porch is simple and stick like with some Arabesque designs similar to the Tallman house and a little fringe. The brackets are s-scroll type and pierced with large finials and intersect a run of dentils. Perhaps most magnificent is the octagonal cupola, which has rectangular windows and extends the s scroll brackets down the entire height of the cupola, adding c scrolls until the brackets reach the bottom. This creates a very exotic profile indeed!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The William Tallman House, Janesville, WI

The Wm. Tallman House, Janesville, WI. 1857 Photo: Wikimedia
Photo: Cliff
Janesville, WI is a nice historic town with a great collection of Italianate homes. The most famous of these is the William Tallman house, currently a museum. Constructed in 1857 for William Tallman, a lawyer, and once had Abraham Lincoln as a guest. The house is imposing, partially because of its tall third floor divided between the wall and the cornice; it follows the symmetrical plan. The house, like many in Wisconsin, is faced with yellow/cream brick which is augmented by sandstone quoins at the corners. An interesting feature of this house is the work on the windows and details. The first floor has flat windows with deep, cast-iron brackets and moldings with vegetal fluff on top. The second floor has arched windows with Venetian tracery and iron drip moldings enlivened by leaf garlands. Additionally, the deep porch is beautifully carved with rococo foliage and rests on impossibly slender Corinthian/Indian candelabra columns; it also retains its balcony railing. The front door itself is interesting. It uses a traditional Federal design with a fanlight, but the fan is articulated with Goth trefoil tracery with further carving on the spandrels and moldings.

Especially impressive is the box window/conservatory on the left facade. The windows on this have a particularly Moorish flavor, with Venetian tracery that is further divided into a nine-foil design set inside horseshoe arches with elaborate Arabesque strapwork. We have looked at some houses with Moorish designs confined mostly to the Northeast; this is the most western house that displays this stylistic syncretism. The house is finished in the round; even the back porch is decorated with Greek palmettes. The cornice is paneled with chamfered panels and paired octagonal windows. The brackets are of the s and c scroll type and the whole is topped by a cupola with narrow grouped arched windows and a fantastic bulbous finial. This house is an exercise in eclecticism. In looking at its combination of Moorish, Gothic, Greek, and Rococo, it's apparent that the designer was interested in using the Tallman's money to express wealth through stylistic exuberance. Some views of the interior can be seen here. The photos below show more details and were taken by Cliff.

This photo: Wikimedia

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

'Two Rivers' the David McGavock House, Nashville, TN

'Two Rivers', Nashville, TN. 1859 Photo: Brent Moore
Photo: Wikimedia
If this plantation, built in 1859 for the very wealthy McGavock family could have something elaborate, it does. In fact, it's a surprisingly urban design one might see in a wealthy city rather than in the countryside, which testifies to the taste and wealth of the family. It was eventually sold to the city which built a golf course around it. The house has a symmetrical plan, but the facade is far more elongated than the typical symmetrical box, somewhat dwarfing the windows in a sea of brick. The house creates rhythm and emphasis by defining the side bays with paneled brick pilasters and causing the central bay to project through its heavy, elaborate porches. As usual, the central bay differs from the side bays. The sides have rectangular windows topped by flat hood moldings with swirling rococo foliage. The central window is a segmentally arched with Venetian tracery that has not two but three windows contained within it, an uncommon design. This is topped by a drip molding. The central door is recessed and flanked by arched windows.

The porches run across the facade on the first floor and the central bay on the second, creating that all important central emphasis on a symmetrical house. In that, this house has some affinity with the New Orleans Porch Facade type. The thick paneled pilasters create filleted rectangular openings which feature brackets with carved acanthus leaves, raised diamond panels, and rosettes, no doubt reproduced carefully from a Greek Revival pattern book. The balusters are a Renaissance type, another indication of wealth (turned balusters cost money, especially that many). The cornice is paneled, with variations of s scroll acanthus leaf brackets and simple s scroll designs that are paired on the main facade. The central section is topped by a boxy paneled attic with a few carved moldings and vegetable accents. The cornice wraps around the entire house, but the facade treatment is not repeated on the sides which have a simpler design. HABS documented the house and provided the interior views and plans seen below.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

'Oaklands' the Lewis Maney House, Murfreesboro, TN

'Oaklands' Murfreesboro, TN. 1860 Photos: Brent Moore

Although I put a date on this house of 1860, I might have equally put 1820 or 1830. Like many plantation houses, Oaklands started life as a small two room house that accrued additions, ells, and wings. When Dr. Maney built his original home, he was in effect a settler, but after his wife died and he retired, his son Lewis took control of the home. Lewis added the Italianate facade in 1860, designed by local architect Richard Sanders, turning the old settler's home into a fashionable mansion, even if the Italianate design was more of a false front hiding a complex past. After the Civil War, the Maneys struggled to hold on with dwindling finances and eventually sold Oaklands to a string of owners. It was abandoned, vandalized, and threatened in the 1950s, but was bought and restored; it is now a house museum.

The house is a five bay plan with a strongly projecting central pavilion, The windows are rectangular with simple flat hood moldings crowned with elaborate rococo flowers and vines. The central window is arched with thick Venetian tracery, so common in other Italianates in Tennessee. The simple cornice has s scroll brackets. What really distinguishes this house is its impressive porch which spans beyond the entire front of the facade. It's a simple Italianate porch with an interesting rhythm of square pillars and arched sections with brackets. As part of the illusory nature of the redesign, from a purely frontal view it looks like it wraps around the entire house, but when one looks from a side view, the porch's dimensions seem rather ridiculous and the design's illusion becomes clear, especially against the earlier 19th century side facades. HABS documented the building in the 1930s before it was vandalized, including several interior views, below.

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Joseph B. Palmer House, Murfreesboro, TN

Joseph Palmer House, Murfreesboro, TN. 1869 Photo: Brent Moore
Photo: Wikimedia
The Joseph B. Palmer house was built in 1869 in Murfreesboro, TN by a retired Civil War general who served in several major battles. It bears a great deal of similarity to the Craigmiles house nearby in Cleveland, with which it is a near contemporary. Perhaps the Craigmiles house influenced the Palmer house's design. His house is an irregular plan Italianate that takes much of its force from its massing complemented by interesting details. While it follows the standard profile of an irregular plan house, it emphasizes its projecting pavilion with an extra level to its projection and also lacks a central tower, making it far more horizontal than vertical. The first floor windows are relatively simple, segmental arched elements with a limited amount of decoration. The second floor windows, however, are all round arched, and two have thick Venetian tracery (it's usually much more nimble). They are all topped by strong drip moldings that feature central cartouches and end in rococo designs. The ironwork, a southern specialty is decisively delicate, with very thin Renaissance and Gothic designs combined with Greek vegetal motifs. The cornice is extremely compact, featuring very tight double s scroll brackets that break into a run of dentils. Except for the flimsy ironwork, this house suggests masculinity in its understated and sober composition.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Stephen H. Farnam House, Oneida, NY

The Stephen Farnam House, Oneida, NY. 1862 Photo: Doug Kerr

Photo: Carol
The Stephen Farnam house is well documented and perhaps one of the most impressive homes on Oneida's Main Street. The builder (1862), Stephen Farnam was a hardware store owner, bank president, and axe manufacturer. Subsequent owners included a suffragette and a botanist. The house seems to currently be a Dark Shadows themed bed-and-breakfast called Collinwood Inn, a fine use for a house like this. It seems the alleged haunting of the house has helped it as a business. As an architectural specimen, though, the house doesn't need any ghosts to make it worth exploring. The house follows the irregular plan, one of the fancier designs, though unlike other examples, the tower juts forth to be almost flush with the left hand projecting pavilion, which has a very shallow roof slope. The house has brick walls and excellent Oneida woodwork. The windows are mostly rectangular, though it looks like they were all segmental arched once, with simple open triangular pediments and keystones with Eastlake incised carving. The simple paneled cornice features s scroll brackets.

It's the dominance of the shouldered, pointed arch that makes this house interesting, as if the builder fetishized that shape and fit in in to give the composition unity. A shouldered arch is an arch where the curve of the arch is interrupted by a vertical projection; in this case that projection is pointed. It's a fascinating shape since it combines curves and straight angles together. The porch has rectangular openings but features the shouldered arch running inside these openings with jigsaw cut-outs, similar to the porch down the street at the Shoecraft house. The same shape unifies the triple arched windows at the top of the tower and is repeated again in the base of the tower cornice. Commendable in this house as well is the retention of both the concave roofs on the porch, bay windows, and tower along with the delicate crestings. Hopefully the house will have a nice long life.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Walrath House, Oneida, NY

The Walrath House, Oneida, NY. 1866 Photo: Doug Kerr
Photo: Carol
The Walrath house, 1866, at 410 Main St. seems to have been a generational home for the Walrath clan, a family that includes civil servants and businessmen. This home is next to the Berry House posted previously. The house is a symmetrical plan villa with a brick facade and displays the fine woodwork that seems to be a vernacular characteristic of mid-19th century Oneida. I might say though, people in this town could try other colors besides white; there are so many more possibilities! The central bay projects (Oneida architects love the centralized emphasis) and features rectangular windows with stately pedimented and flat molding window surrounds. The central bay, however, contains some surprises. First off, on the second story there is a pair of tombstone windows, but surprisingly, they are segmental arched rather than round headed, causing the hood molded to intersect a little oddly. The porch itself is a tour de force of design with three arched bays that follow the triple arched palladian design, yet the central bay is unsupported by anything, with the arches terminating in rich finials. The lack of supports no doubt explains some of the sagging going on. The porch brackets themselves are a unique shape with a large c scroll with a smaller c scroll inside, making them look like claws. The cornice itself is paneled with inset windows that have an overlay with a very cool shouldered square (a shape where the corners of a square are rounded and there are rectangular protuberances at each long angle of the square). The brackets are of the s and c scroll type with strapwork. Perhaps what I like the most is the octagonal cupola, always an exciting change of pace. Here it has paired tombstone windows with a full cornice and brackets to match. Interior views can be seen here.