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


  1. My name is William Tallman and I can trace my family back to Wisconsin. Need I say more?