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


  1. A shame, indeed. The Upjohn house is so sophisticated in comparison to the earlier house; it would have been amazing to be able to compare two different perspectives on Italian architecture: the Palladian, as filtered through 350 years of classicism and executed by skilled craftsmen who interpreted the details freely, and the ostensible primitivism of the Romanesque, but with massing and details in the hands of a master architect (and correspondingly less latitude given to the craftsmen.) if one only must survive, I suppose the earlier harkens back to a purer phase in our republic, and was perceived as more "moral;" that surely was a strong justification for its survival. Tough not to second-guess our grandfathers however.

    1. Very nice comment! I am actually surprised that either survived. Architectural ideology and reception constantly shift. It was hard for any of these "degenerate" or "romantic" styles to survive the colonial revivalism that tried to remake the US in an 18th century form, reviving a Wallace Nutting-style American purity rather than the 'decadence' of the outward and Grand-tour remembering mid 19th century. Another part of the problem is the lack of general awareness of 19th century architects. Richard Upjohn is hardly an architect that is anywhere near as known as McKim Mead White.