Friday, April 1, 2016

The George Henry Corliss House, Providence, RI

The Corliss House, Providence, RI. 1875 Photo: Wikimedia
                                                                         Photos: HABS

The George Henry Corliss house in Providence was built in 1875 for a steam inventor and is an interesting example of the double tower plan. It's currently part of Brown University and houses two of the school's departments. This house shows the same tower variation as the King house, although the right hand tower does not project above the roofline. Nonetheless, the massing, square design, and verticality of the house make it a part of this plan with slightly projecting side masses and two tower like ends. The right hand facade, like the King house, has a projecting bay. In the Corliss house, this is represented by a three story bay window. The back of the house features a wing that really could be its own house and continues the design of the main body. Like the other houses I have noted in Providence, this one has the same Anglo-Italianate austerity, with a brick facing, and simple brownstone Renaissance details. The rectangular windows have simple eared moldings with hood moldings on the first two floors, while the third floor features segmental arched windows. The fourth floor of the tower has simple rectangular windows with fine Renaissance balconies. The entrance has a correct classical brownstone porch with paired Tuscan columns. The cornice has closely spaced Renaissance style brackets that surmount a simple cornice with dentils. A fine balustrade surrounds the entire top of the house, rounding out the building's European pretensions. Of all the houses on this blog, this is certainly one of the tallest and it's massive bulk really anchors this block, like the keep of a castle.

Photo: Wikimedia
The interior of the house was well documented in the following photos from HABS. Apparently, the Victorian decor was almost entirely intact when these photos were taken, and the house seems to be a particularly interesting example of interior trompe l'oeil decoration.


  1. What an astounding house. I do hope to visit Providence. The sophistication of their Anglo-Italianate work is very eye-opening. Your blog has informed me so much about the evolution of design. I see how my childhood home was a conservative Italianate with the addition of a restrained mansard roof, and our current house is a 1916 Tuscan farmhouse with strong Italianate influences even at this late date.

    1. Thanks for the kind words. Definitely visit Providence! Not only does it have unique design in terms of its Italianates, but it has a huge and unique collection of federal homes that are some of the most elaborate I've seen. It's a beautifully preserved city. Sounds like you have lived in some very interesting homes. Stay tuned this month for posts about John Notman, the originator of Italianate in the US.