Tuesday, April 19, 2016

'Fieldwood' the Richard Stockton Field House, Princeton, NJ

'Fieldwood', Princeton, NJ. 1853-5 All Photos: HABS

Perhaps John Notman's largest home (now) in Princeton is the house built for Richard Stockton Field, a descendant of a major colonial family in the town. After use and adaptation by Princeton University (as Guernsey Hall), it is currently condos. A unique feature of the plan for this Italinate house is its squarishness. When seen from above, it forms a massive cube (partly because of extensions when it was given to the university). Yet, although it was originally more rectangular, unlike the cube form of the symmetrical plan, Notman freely plays with each of the facades, forming a unique profile on each side. Each façade is distinctive enough, it's difficult to identify the house's main façade, which is more traditional in appearance than the others. As contrasted with the drawing above, the house has gone through some changes, especially the replacement of spindly iron porches by massive stone versions. The principal façade, as seen in the top two pictures, has the form of a typical irregular plan house in an L-shape, although, in line with other Notman plans, the tower is placed to the side rather than highlighted in the center of the design as we expect with the irregular plan. The ornamentation is spare and the walls are typical local stone in a variety of mottled colors with sandstone and plaster trim. The fine classical details, flared wooden awnings, and grand arched entry porch, and Renaissance balustrade are in harmony with his other designs. It seems that the iron porch, seen in the watercolor, was replaced in the early 20th century by a stone portico based on the entrance portico. The presence of a two story bay pavilion on the left hand façade gives the front a chamfered look, an appearance emphasized by the original iron porch.

Going clockwise, the façade to the left of the main façade has been drastically altered. As seen in the upper image, it originally had one projecting bay with a wrapping iron porch. Later, the house was extended to by a matching bay (though note the architects did not continue the brackets on the chimney cornices). The porch was removed and the central bay of each bay window was destroyed by chimneys. A new turn of the century sun porch was added.

The back façade of the house has likewise been altered. Originally, it was designed as  pavilion plan façade with calculated asymmetry in the presence of a be-awned bay window on the right side. The porch is a particularly interesting example of a rustic post and beam Italian design; I like it much more than the pompous stone porch that currently is on the façade.

The final side, lying to the right of the main entrance is the pedestrian service façade. It is cleverly hidden by Notman by the presence of the frontal tower. It's not particularly common to have a house so picturesquely finished in the round, but Fieldwood is a fine example of an architect playing with multiple façade formations. Each façade is asymmetrical; the front has its tower and right hand pavilion. The lefthand façade had a projecting bay on the right side. The back façade, despite its symmetrical composition again emphasizes the right with its bay window. The right hand façade from the front is weighted to the left with the tower. In each section, Notman creates a series of focal points that interlock and diminish the staid symmetrical possibilities of the design.

The house's most amazing feature (at this point I really wish it were not a private residence), is the octagonal stair hall with a wrapping staircase worthy of Mannerist Italy topped by a dome and decorated with neo-Classical plaster roundels. The walls are beautifully stuccoed that is scored like stone and the landing is supported by the odd fans seen in Prospect House. Clearly, this was a Notman thing. For its period, this staircase is one of the most beautiful and sophisticated interior designs. You can see it below in more HABS images.

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