Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The William Duncan House, Towanda, IL

Duncan House, Towanda, IL. 1869
Photo: Ron Frazier

Photo: Jenny Addison

Photo: Wikimedia
The William Duncan house, built in the countryside of Illinois for a successful livestock dealer in 1869, is an oddly sited, sophisticated example of Italianate design on the prairie. It survived the years with few modifications but was eventually abandoned and vandalized. The house is currently being restored by interested owners who are committed to bringing it back to its former state. It is a fascinatingly designed specimen of the double tower design that departs from Upjohn's precedent and presents two distinct facades. The front façade is a typical double tower plan, although the towers are of an identical height and projection, unlike other examples of the plan. The back of the house follows the pavilion plan. The house has impressive and sophisticated Anglo-Italianate details for its location in the countryside. The first and second floor windows are stacked, with round arched windows on the first floor and segmental arched windows on the second. These are connected by projecting brick or stone frames with simple moldings and keystones. The towers have triple arched windows on the top stage, while the back pavilions have round windows in the pediments. The corners have nicely done quoins of molded brick. The central bay on the front of the house has a porch on the first floor of brick with segmental and round arched openings flanking it with triple arched windows above, while the back has a deep two story classical porch. The cornice is simple with s scroll brackets closely spaced on a deep eave. I cannot say how surprising it is to see such a design essentially in the middle of nowhere. Images of the interior, with a lofty elliptical staircase can be seen here and here.

Photo: Ron Frazier
Photo: Kathy McEldowney

Monday, March 28, 2016

'Homewood Villa' the William Wyman House, Baltimore, MD

Homewood Villa, Baltimore, MD. 1853
Photo: Courtesy of Maryland Historical Society, [B330]
The house was built for William Wyman in 1853 and was probably designed by Upjohn himself. Wyman was a very wealthy Baltimore merchant who first lived in the Federal style house on the property until he constructed his own Italianate mansion, Homewood Villa (named after the Federal house). The house stayed in the family until 1949, when it was given to Johns Hopkins University which allowed the house to fall into disrepair. Despite a passionate grassroots response and attempted fundraising, the house was demolished in 1955 a little more than 100 years after it was built.

The house is a perfect example of the double tower plan and matches the King house in Newport very closely, even in the details. Not only does the house have almost the same fenestration pattern and variation, but even the wooden awnings, balconies, and open pediments were reproduced. It's the differences between the two houses that are most significant. First, the most noticeable difference (besides the reversal of the plan) is the taller tower is a full stage taller than in the King house, giving Homewood Villa a far more vertical thrust as well as creating even more drama in the profile. The added stage has been treated with a small round window with Gothic tracery on the front and tombstone windows on the sides. Another feature is the porches. The King house lacks porches, but here both the central bay is extended with a simple arched porch that repeats the triple arched Palladian design. Both sides as well are furnished with long porches that harmonize in design with simple arches, square Tuscan pillars, and rosettes. In this house, the shorter tower instead of paired rectangular windows has a bay window, although I am unsure if this is an addition from later remodeling. Finally, unlike the King house, the villa has the brickwork in the cornice extend to form an architrave to define the entablature, a subtle detail that adds an extra shadow that brings it closer in line with Renaissance formality. The fate of this house is quite a shame, as it would be a stunning addition to the country's examples of Upjohn's plan.

Below is an image of the Federal 'Homewood' built in 1808 that does survive.

Photo: Wikimedia

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The William Terry House, Hudson, NY

The William Terry House, Hudson, NY. 1850. Photo: Doug Kerr

The William Terry house (also known as the Terry-Gillette mansion) at 601 Union Street in Hudson shows both how Upjohn's double tower plan plan spread in the 1840s and early 50s as well as how slavishly his designs could be followed. It was built for Terry, a retailer, and after serving as an Elks Club and then a store, it is currently a performance venue. The house, in its original form, was very similar to the King house with a nearly identical profile and a similar window arrangement. It seems like the original Venetian tracery windows on the front of the house have been destroyed by later changes, although the decorative brickwork around them is unique to this house. Additionally, the design seems to have been drastically altered by the large port cochere to the right of the façade, although the treatment harmonizes with the design of the house. One of the original windows survives on the side façade (see below). In the Terry house, the builders decided not to go with some of the doo-dads found in the King house. There are no wooden awnings or balconies; even the engaged balustrade on the second floor in the central block is simpler and has more widely spaced balusters. The house also lacks the decorative open pediments that top the King house's rectangular windows. Otherwise, the house is an excellent example of what a, no doubt, local builder could do with a published plan, and it remains an important example of this plan in the US. The interior features an impressive curving staircase (below).

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Edward King House, Newport, RI-the Double Tower Plan

The Edward King House, Newport, RI. 1845 Photo: Wikimedia
I'm introducing a new plan today; it's one of the rarest Italianate plans, hence it's lack of inclusion in the initial plan post. The first example of this plan, which was developed by the famous architect Richard Upjohn, is the Edward King house in Newport, RI (1845). The earliest phase of Italianate design was a period of experimentation with the Italianate form and a constant search for the combination of towers and volumes that would create the most "picturesque" and romantic design. The King house is of the same early period as Blandwood (1844), the earliest Italianate, in Greensboro. Basically, the plan is almost a square, but the volumes are dramatically broken up by the front facade which has two projecting towers around a central recessed bay. Hence, I call it the "double tower plan". This closely resembles the plans which I call the "pavilion plan" and the "side tower plan" in that the emphasis is placed on the corners on the house rather than a central feature, and the double tower plan belongs in this family of designs.

The primary difference is that in the double tower plan, the corners of the house have emphatic masses that counteract the horizontality of these other plans. The two towers are usually romantically varied by being different heights. Additionally, the central mass is de-emphasized by having both its decoration and volume compacted and simplified. The double tower plan was widely praised in its day. Andrew Downing published the King house and its plan in his Architecture of Country Houses:

Downing offered the above illustrations of the plan and design of the house, and added of the form: "The sky outline of this villa has the characteristic irregularity of the Italian school of design, and the grouping of the whole is a good study for the young architect who is embarrassed at how to treat a large square mass of a building-for the ground plan is nearly square". Downing continues gushing about the design, citing its harmony despite the many window forms, and calling it "one of the most successful specimens of Italian design in the United States".

In looking at the King house, built in brick and brownstone for a wealthy Newport landowner and merchant, one can see what Downing is talking about. The corner towers are thick, much thicker than a typical Italianate tower, and they vary in both height, projection, and design. The left hand tower is less emphatic, with rectangular windows with open pediments on the first floor, tombstone windows with a wooden awning, and three arched windows on the top stage. The right hand tower projects much further and is far wider than the left. The first floor here has a large round arched window with Venetian tracery, a triple rectangular window with both a balcony and fringed wooden awning, and triple arched windows on the top stage; this same window variation can be found on the tower's side. The central bay of the facade is recessed with triple arched palladian shapes on each level. This is repeated on the pavilion on the right hand facade, with a triple arched palladian on the first floor and a round headed window with a balcony on the second. The several Juliette balconies particularly seem to create a sense of fantasy. The whole is topped with closely spaced s curve brackets in the Anglo-Italianate tradition, an early feature.

The King house, after spending most of the 20th century as a public library, is currently a very fancy senior facility on whose website you can see some interior pictures.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Robert Earl House, Herkimer, NY

The Robert Earl House, Herkimer, NY. 1874 Photo: Doug Kerr
Photo: Carol
Built at 215 N Main St. in 1874 for Judge Robert Earl, the house was given to city in 1895 to be its library, a role it served until 1975. It seems to currently be a drug rehab facility. The house is a grand symmetrical plan Italianate with brick facing and a projecting central bay. The shape that defines this house is the chamfered pediment which tops the central bay as well as the windows on the front of the house. The house has a usual variation of windows on the flanking and central bays, with double segmental arched windows contained within one elongated segmental arch on the sides and an elliptical arched window in the center. While the porch is relatively simple, with unexpectedly narrow columns, the open pediments above the windows display all the complex woodwork of the 1870s with incised Eastlake carving and the complexity of forms. The simple cornice has c scroll brackets (long ones define each of the bays and alternate with shorter brackets) and is broken by the third story windows around which run the architrave molding. An interesting feature is that in the pediment, the brackets actually run at an angle rather than vertically. The cupola is interesting in that it has double rectangular windows with an eared surround and two sets of brackets placed at the base and the top. It seems like this house needs a little bit of TLC. With such a history of service to the town it certainly deserves it!

Photo: Carol

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Henry Laurens Kellogg House, Newington, CT

The Henry Kellogg House, Newington, CT. 1874 

Photos: Geoffrey Webster
This exquisite home at 293 Willard Ave. in Newington was supposedly built in 1874, but if so, it is an extreme anachronism. From the style I'd have said 1850s since it displays so many features of early Italianate design; perhaps Kellogg, a factory owner, was just really behind the times. Nonetheless, it's an odd irregular plan house, since there is neither a tower nor a projection for a tower, and the projecting pavilion is longer than the recessed facade, a reversal of norms. The house is entirely faced in flushboards, giving a smooth surface, and the windows are almost all tombstone windows, a real rarity since most Italianates revel in varying window treatments, with very simple surrounds. Several of these have rather elaborate cast iron balconies with Roman-style foliage and (amazingly!) intact fringes on the bottoms. The lack of an architrave molding and the frequent, tightly-spaced brackets are another early stylistic feature. The porch is clunky and surprisingly thick with strong arches and columns that have little precedent. They seem to have the general eclecticism of Henry Austin's candelabra columns (though much heavier), with carved Gothic foliage and lotus petals on the capitals, with paneled, chamfered shafts. The house is currently condos, and I give all credit to the owner for not siding this gem like so many others in the area.

Friday, March 18, 2016

161 Second Street, Troy, NY

161 Second St. Troy, NY. 1850s-60s

Frustratingly, I found very little information about this house at 161 Second Street, even from historians. I can say in 1899 it was occupied by Martin Payne, an inventor. Nonetheless, it is one of my favorites because in a city dominated by tightly packed rowhouses, this symmetrical plan villa sticks out dramatically. Date-wise it is definitely a product of the general building campaigns in the area in the late 1850s and 1860s. Unlike many typical symmetrical designs, this one seem proportionally compact and bears the stamp of the Troy vernacular, tombstone windows in rectangular frames, box windows over doors, arched door surrounds, doors with odd window divisions to fit the arched frame, and a general somberness. The facade itself is brick, though it could once have been stuccoed in line with the brownstone houses nearby, and projects slightly in the center and is topped by a pediment, the angle of which is obscured by a somewhat incongruous sheet of plywood incorporated into the cornice. The cornice is paneled with particularly large s-scroll brackets with all the bells and whistles, incised carving, strapwork, flowers, and delicate little finials. The panels in the cornice are interrupted by very large third story windows that seem original, if a little forced. The cupola, a rarity in Troy, is a model of austerity, with flat flushboarded siding and triple arched windows, but there are alternating long and short brackets, not often seen on cupolas which tend to have very large brackets at the corners and no others.

This completes our jaunt around Troy. The city has far more to offer, to be sure, and I will return at some point to round out my description of its architecture. If I can say one thing, though, visit this city. For lovers of Victorian architecture you will not be disappointed! The following selected pictures would be all the inducement I need.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Charles McLeod House, Troy, NY

The Charles McLeod House, Troy, NY. 1867

The house at 149 Second Street in Troy, built in 1867 for Charles McLeod, the vice president of a stove manufacturing company, is one of the most sophisticated designs in the area. It has gone through a variety of owners after the McLeods after 1907 and was altered in 1885,  It follows the side-hall, row house plan, although the left-hand bays are filled with a large three story bay window. The facade is articulated in fine brownstone which is distributed in a series of pilasters, blind panels, and horizontal string courses. These features are usually associated with the "Brick-panel style" known from Boston. Because the panels and pilasters form the facade's articulation, window and door surrounds are kept simple. The front doors themselves with their rich carving and the odd insertion of a round arch into a segmental arch are one of the finest sets of Victorian doors in the city. The impressive bay window is especially interesting, as it is so heavily defined by thick cornices and is framed so well by the facade's pilasters. The first and second floors feature filleted openings with rectangular windows inside them. The top floor draws the eye up with arched windows with floating triangular pediments connected by keystones and brackets to the windows. The elaborate paneled cornice completes the design, with s-scroll brackets with carved acanthus leaves and panels with blocks in the corners. The house is currently the home of a wellness retreat and suffered a devastating fire in 2010. Fortunately, the owners love Victorian architecture and have worked tirelessly to rebuild and restore the grand interiors with fine woodwork and painting, images of which can be seen here.

Further down the street back towards Washington Park is another fine brownstone at 167 Second Street. This house was no doubt another product of the late 1850s and is a fine tribute to the segmental arch in a row house plan. A severe brownstone facade with all the demureness of Anglo-Italianate design, features simple hood moldings and a very plain cornice. The largest note of fun is the door which has a full molded surround with a riot of rococo vegetation flowing from the top.

The last little note, across the street is probably one of the coolest, almost intact runs of temple-front Greek Revival houses. You almost never see them all lined up like this, especially in an urban setting.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The John Magill Houses, Troy, NY

The John Magill Houses, Troy, NY. 1872
Moving up Second Street, north of Washington Park, we can see that the same high quality of architectural design continues in the streets around the square. These two rowhouses at 146 and 148 are fine examples of upstate design. According to one resident, "both were built built by John Magill in 1872, replacing a smaller building on the property. Magill was a masonry contractor and later became a police commissioner for Troy in 1882, the year of Troy's dueling police forces. Magill lived in 148 and died in 1911, his wife until 1920. Nine children. I am fairly sure the first floor parlor was his office. The building was designed by renowned architect Marcus Cummings, who also designed old Troy City Hall (burned 1938, now Barker Park), 33 2nd St. (Daisy Bakers), the Plum Memorial Building at Sage College, and many other prominent buildings in the city. I am aware that Magill was the contractor on City Hall and Oakwood Crematory." Magill was later indicted for taking bribes.

As architect designed houses, the buildings show a high level of refinement. They follow the row house plan, with a typical side hall entrance and a brick facing. But the real delight of these houses is the details. The brownstone details are particularly nice, consisting of crisply cut drip moldings over the segmental arched windows which work with string courses and drops to frame the windows beautifully. The rusticated base as well offers a solid foundation. The houses' woodwork on the box window over the door is exquisite, with brackets that terminate in fine Greek Revival palmettes that are emphasized by steep engaged pediments. Above the window eclectically combines traditional Italianate designs with Gothic quatrefoils (clover leaves) and Eastlake incised carving. The show stopper cornice continues the quality of the box window woodwork and resembles closely the cornice seen on the Connors-Boland house, with a row of Gothic pilasters forming a blind arcade. This seems to be a particular vernacular in Troy. I particularly like the central projection in the cornice, which counterbalances the horizontal thrust of the brownstone string courses. Both these houses retain their original details perfectly. The interior of one can be seen here.

The third house in the picture, 144 Second Street, is a bit more austere but clearly reflects the design of its taller neighbors and was most certainly built around the same time. Taking a more traditional approach, this house has a pretty cool alternation of pediments, with rounded pediments on the first floor, triangular on the second, and flat moldings on the third. The same quality of woodwork continues, though the cornice has been altered to the arched type with a row of semicircles rather than a pilastered arcade. The central projection definitely echoes the Magill houses, and I'd suspect the same architect designed all three.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Peter Thalimer and the Burden Houses, Troy, NY

The right hand house at 224 was built in 1868 by a speculator and forms part of a pair. It was first inhabited by the Burdens, owners of an ironworks. The left hand house at 222 was built in 1857 by a different speculator and was first inhabited by Peter Thalimer, who operated the company store of a nail factory. These row house plan homes are simple but elegant. The Burden house has a plan stuccoed façade with elegant segmental arched windows with very simple moldings. The front doors are particularly notable here with arched windows and triangular windows above. The Thalimer house is brick faced with fine brownstone with alternating round headed and segmental arched windows. Notable on this house is the bay window over the front door rather than a simple box window and the fine brownstone balustrades on the first floor.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Connors-Boland House, Troy, NY

The Connors-Boland House, Troy, NY. 1880
At 216 Third Street, this house was built by a speculator in 1880 and was subsequently occupied by the Connors, who manufactured paint, and is currently owned by the Bolands. Unlike many of the other houses on Washington Park, it is faced with brick with brownstone details. It follows the typical side hall row house plan. This house is covered with Eastlake incised carving, with segmental arched hood moldings with guttae (little triangles at the bottom of a Doric triglyph) and incised foliage. The box window over the front door similarly has a combination of Eastlake and Gothic ornament. Perhaps the coolest thing about this house is its cornice. The frieze of the cornice is formed by an arcade of blind arches with tiny Gothic columns supporting them with small brackets above.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The James T. Main House, Troy, NY

The James T. Main House, Troy, NY. 1858

At 206 Third Street, this house was built for James T. Main, a grocer, in 1858, but is also known as the Fisk-Fitzgerald House. This is perhaps one of the finest houses on Washington Park and certainly has one of the fancier facades. It follow the symmetrical plan and has a simple Anglo-Italianate façade edged with quoins, always a fancy addition. The window surrounds are simple with moldings supported on brackets, but these grow smaller and simpler the further one goes up the façade. The first floor windows have tombstone windows wedged into the rectangular window opening, a feature that's very common on the square; the upper windows are simpler. This differentiation between first floor and upper windows makes for a sophisticated balance of masses. The balance is continued by the central door with an arched opening surrounded by simple pilasters and topped by a crest with the American flag, which contrasts with the more elaborate windows to the side. The central window on the second floor is a projecting box window with Tuscan pilasters, a Renaissance balustrade, and fine closely spaced brackets; this contrasts with the simpler windows to its sides. The paneled cornice, with dentils, large brackets, and smaller brackets, completing the balances by adding the right touch to the top.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Charles W. Thompson and Francis Thayer Houses, Troy, NY

The Thompson and Thayer Houses, Troy, NY. 1860
Stylistically related to the last house I posted are these two linked houses on the north side of the square. Both these row house plan houses were built by Charles W. Thompson, the lumber merchant, in 1860, the man who built the previous house. The right hand house (larger of course with widely spaced bays) was built for himself, while the left hand house was built for flour merchant Francis Thayer. Basically all the elements are repeated. There are the same arched openings, although it seems in this case that Thompson decided to cheap out and forego the molded surrounds and rococo carving, leaving the windows plain. The cornice is exactly the same undulating type with the same arrangement of brackets. One has to wonder why. Why would Thompson basically build a simpler version of the house he had built in 1858; the only difference is a little bit more room. It seems the facade's simplicity was a bit too austere for someone. A box window seems to have been added in the 1880s/90s on the Thayer house.

A third house at the end of the ensemble is Italianate and was built for Arba Read, a brewer, in 1853. Unfortunately, it is mostly ensconced in vines and doesn't photograph well. Nonetheless, the beautiful foliage gives the house a real charm. This house is actually brick with stone quoins at the corners and follows the symmetrical plan. I suspect it was meant to be stuccoed. The house has typical bracket and molded window and door surrounds and paired brackets. A later mansard roof holds dormers. Perhaps the most amazing feature, which I have yet to see paralleled, is the bay window to the left which has panes of actual brilliant cut glass. Cut glass, familiar as an expensive luxury item for tableware is extremely rare as a treatment for windows, and this alone is something very noteworthy. This bay is probably an addition of the 1880s.

Just for the hell of it, here are the other two houses on the block facing the park.

Friday, March 4, 2016

The S. Burt Saxton House, Troy, NY

The S. Burt Saxton House, Troy, NY. 1858
This house was built in 1858 for Charles W. Thompson, the wandering lumber merchant, but it is known as the Saxton house, named after its second occupant who owned a flour mill, because Thompson built several houses on the square and lived in each of the for a short time. This is one of the finest Anglo-Italianate examples on the square with a plain façade (indeed, while some liked showing wealth with zany ornament, it seems the wealthy urban classes always preferred restraint) and a normal row house plan without any elongated bays. This is a house dominated by arches; everything is arched including the fine paneled undulating cornice that curves around the windows. The whole sits on a rusticated base. The windows and door have simple molding surrounds, but little bits of rococo carving crown each one, relieving the facades simplicity. The brackets are paired somewhat irregularly to accommodate the undulating profile of the cornice.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Uri Gilbert House, Troy, NY

The Uri Gilbert House, Troy, NY. 1854
This house at 189 Second Street was built in 1854 for Charles Thompson, who again only occupied it briefly; thus, it is known for its second occupant, a stagecoach manufacturer. Charles Thompson seems to have been a peripatetic figure in Washington Park, building one house, staying in it for a few years, building another, and then relocating. This is one of the largest houses on the square being a full five bay plan row house. Uri Gilbert is infamous for his coachman, an escaped slave rescued by the citizens of Troy from being sent south. The brownstone façade is perhaps the most properly Anglo-Italianate of the bunch, with iron balconies on every window, brackets supporting moldings, a lack of framing, and an arched doorway with an exaggerated bracket/molding topper. The cornice features long brackets, architrave moldings, and interrupted dentils. The really impressive element is the stone balcony that runs across the entire façade over the rusticated basement and the sweeping central staircase with its curving balustrade. That surely cost a good amount, both in conception and upkeep, especially as the structure does not seem strongly supported. One could not get away with intruding that much on a public sidewalk today!