|'Ellarslie' the Henry McCall House, Trenton, NJ. 1848|
'Ellarslie' was built by John Notman in 1848 for Henry McCall, a military commander at the Battle of New Orleans and later a successful merchant. The house has gone through a variety of trials; in the 1880s, McCall's son sold the house and lands to Trenton to become Cadwalader Park. As the central building it the park, it became an ice-cream stand and later was stripped of its ornament to serve as a "monkey house" for a zoo exhibition. Restored in the 1970s, it is now the Trenton City Museum with an excellent collection of Trenton pottery products. As one of Notman's first Italianate residential designs that is relatively unaltered, it represents a significant example of his early work. The front of the house is typical of Notman's work, with a relatively flat façade of three broad bays. The entrance is in the center, surrounded by a huge arched porch, something few Notman houses are without, with simple panels and an interesting balustrade with circular piercing. The house is faced with stucco and has simple window surrounds. It lacks an entablature, but has typical early wide eaves and simple beam brackets. The roof is red painted lead, a design which suggests the style of Italian terracotta roofs.
The right façade and the back have more interesting volumes. On the right, we have a projecting gabled bay, a recessed central bay, and a large projecting chamfered bay. Most of this façade is covered by a spindly iron porch (beautifully restored) with a curving tent roof (painted here appropriately with stripes!). The back of the house resembles the irregular plan, although the tower is not placed as a focal point in the center but to the side. The projecting pavilion features an elaborate balcony, supported on oversized brackets like those at Riverside, that echoes the details on the front of the house. The tower has usual triple arched windows, but is enclosed in a simple and utilitarian service wing with several porches. Clearly this is not meant to be one of the house's vistas. It's rather interesting that Notman chooses not to use the tower as a frontal design element but hides it in an inconspicuous spot. This is a picturesque approach in that the tower always sticks out from the building, its base is unseen, floating over any façade you see.
The interiors of the house have been greatly altered by the removal of fireplaces and some walls, yet enough remains, including the staircase with an impressive convex ceiling, to give an idea of Notman's décor and design.