Wednesday, May 11, 2016

'Bellevoir' the Hamilton Ormsby House, Lydon, KY

Hamilton Ormsby House, Lyndon, KY 1867 Photo: Wikimedia
The Hamilton Ormsby house was built from 1864-7 to replace an earlier house that had burned. It is one of several impressive country houses in the suburbs of Louisville. The house was originally part of a large estate of the Ormsby family; it was sold in 1912 to become the site of the Louisville Children's home and is now the caretaker's house. The house is very grand for a country estate, but that's hardly a surprise when approaching the south, where country estates served as major showplaces and objects of competitive building. The house is a five bay plan structure with a brick facade embellished with stone quoins at the corners. The central bay is emphasized by greater width, projecting out from the facade, and featuring paired tombstone windows. The house's other windows are all segmental arched, establishing a pleasant undulating rhythm to the design. The window hood moldings are uniform across the facade, with a conforming molding with deep dentils and acanthus brackets. The central bay is again distinguished by having Gothic-style drops with rosettes in the molding rather than dentils. The simple entablature, with architrave moldings, frieze windows, dentils, and double s scroll brackets finishes off the house nicely. But perhaps the most impressive feature, echoing the windows' undulation is the porch across the central three bays, formed of the laciest ironwork and curving out from the facade in a wide circle. The impossibly thin supports are topped by a rococo entablature with a fringe. This combination of thin ironwork and heavy blocky design reminds me of English Regency designs, where contrast is drawn between the porousness of the iron and the solidity of the house.

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Nathaniel Wilson House, East Millstone, NJ

The N. Wilson House, East Millstone, NJ. 1888 Photo: Wikimedia
This somewhat strange house was built by Nathaniel Wilson, a hardware store owner, in the small town of East Millstone in 1888, yet the elaborateness of the design makes this house far too sophisticated for such a rural area. No doubt that was Wilson's plan, to show off his own success in front of his neighbors with their more modest homes. Additionally, 1888 is a very late date for building an Italianate house, especially one like this which is fully invested in the design principles associated with the 1870s, yet here we are. Maybe Mr. Wilson just stopped evolving with the fashions after 1875. The house's plan is a little tricky, is it a side hall plan with a wing, or an irregular plan without a tower or fully projecting pavilion. I actually go with the latter primarily because of the brickwork. The facade of the house uses the brickwork to create a series of recessed planes with angled bricks that form a row of dentils at the top that mark the bays and frame architectural units. If you look carefully, the right two bays are marked by one plane as are the left two recessed bays. The central bay is marked by another, where the tower should be, indicating the designer was thinking in terms of the irregular plan, even if they didn't reproduce the volumes.

The details on this house are rather intriguing. The first floor windows are segmental arched, the second rectangular, a slight variation from the usual interplay of shapes. The subdued label stone moldings are spare with bulls eyes and carved keystones, echoing patterns one sees on late 19th century Eastlake interior woodwork. The two main carved features are the porch and cornice. The porch which wraps around the house is a rather clunky arrangement of disparate artistic forms. Fussy posts with too many molded sections support an entablature that consists of an open arch with drops on the first stage, a row of pierced circles on the second, and strange boards on the third which have blind quarter arches with keystones and incised Eastlake carving in the spandrels. It seems the designer, instead of relying on any precedents, decided to construct an entablature from various random sections from a catalogue, transforming classical design into a series of superimposed decorative bands. The cornice as well is very strange. It's elaborately paneled in its frieze, with a run of dentils, then another band of panels above. The brackets, which are s scroll type, are elongated. It is in their placement that we can see the influence of the irregular conception. Unlike most Italianates, this house has an uneven and irregular placement for the brackets, with different spacings between the groupings. Around the tower section, for instance, we have two tightly placed brackets in a pair to the left while to the right are three tightly placed brackets, behaving as they would if there really were a projecting tower. Similarly to the right of the projecting facade, we have one widely spaced bracket and then a tightly placed pair, basically filling the space on the cornice with as many brackets as possible. It's very strange. As you can see on the side facade, there is a bizarre projection over the box window which takes the form of a mansard roof in section with decorated barge boards. But stranger is that the architect decided instead of treating it as a mansard roof proper, to run the cornice design onto it, causing to to grow inorganically out of the facade.

Overall, the Wilson house is a great example of someone who let their desire to impress with carving and woodwork get in the way of adhering to harmonious principles. But despite awkwardness, the house achieves its purpose in appearing grand and expensive, and is overall a successful stylistic muddle.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The John G. Schenck House, Neshanic, NJ

The John G. Schenck House, Neshanic, NJ 1858 Photo: Wikimedia
The John G. Schenck house at 305 Maple Ave. in Neshanic was built in 1858 (finished 1865) for a wealthy farmer and was originally named "Shadow Lawn". The house is an exquisite, high style, example of Italianate design with plenty of bells and whistles. Like the Munro house yesterday and the Bartles house in Flemington, this seems to be another example of the central New Jersey vernacular, with large semi-circular open pediments centrally placed on each facade and a broad porch that crosses the width of the front. The house is a symmetrical plan villa without the typical projections emphasizing the central bay. This example is especially noteworthy for the finesse of its design. The facade, for instance is clapboard, but note the the entablature has flushboarding, a subtle but elegant choice to differentiate elements of the design.

The first story has simple molded paired windows and the expected porch, with very thin paired columns and a central rounded pediment, echoing the touchstone of the design, the segmental arch. The second story has paired arched tombstone windows in the side bays with elaborately eared moldings connecting the two windows (note the several ears). These are topped with keystones that become brackets supporting the hood molding. The central bay features a palladian window with a segmental arched central element and a conforming molding. The entablature construction is complex. The architrave molding here is a unique Greek key design, while a second molding is bead and reel, an expensive carved choice. The dramatic paired s scroll brackets terminating in acanthus leaves interrupting a run of elongated dentils divide bays with paired segmental arched windows in between. Round arched tombstone windows differentiate the central bay. Noteworthy is that the high level of decoration seems to continue on the sides. Finally, the cupola is magnificent. It's low with a run of five arched windows, brackets that run the length of the wall, a cornice that has an engaged rounded pediment (again the echoes of the arch), and a Moorish fringe forming the entablature decoration. This house uses its curves and echoes them in each element of the design to form harmony and a likeness of parts, drawing the house into a unified vehicle of design. It's definitely one of my favorites.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The William Munro House, Hillsborough, NJ

The William Munro House, Hillsborough, NJ. 1870

Built in a somewhat rural area of Hillsborough, NJ, the William Munro house is an impressive example of a symmetrical plan villa in wood and has been beautifully maintained. The house is a cube with the defining feature of engaged round pediments on three of the facades which is echoed in the cupola. The central bay of the front facade projects dramatically while the sides are flat. The first floor windows are long with simple molded surrounds, while those on the second floor are segmental arched with deep hood moldings. The simplicity of the first floor windows is warranted by the elaborate porch that encompasses the majority of the first floor. The porch itself is impressive for the contrast between its heavy cornice with brackets, panels, and central pediment, and its impossibly thin posts, which make the roof almost seem to hover. The central second floor window on the front is particularly elegant with paired segmental arched windows with a bracketed projection over the window; over this is a fancy jigsaw cut out that is a vernacular version of rococo designs. The house's entablature is tall, with pairs of c and s scroll brackets, that surround segmental arched windows. The engaged open pediments (pediments with an open molding in the bottom) have arched windows, dentils, and centrally placed bracket pairs (somewhat uncommon). The cupola is particularly fine with a strong architrave molding and brackets placed both at the top and bottom of the wall, easing the transition from roof to cupola. The repetition of shapes in this house is a model of harmonious design. Images of the richly decorated and finely preserved interior can be seen here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Frank Hearne and Alfred Lamb Houses, Hannibal, MO

Frank P. Hearne House, Hannibal, MO. 1871 Photo: Mike Steele
Alfred Lamb House, Hannibal, MO. 1859 Photo: Mike Steele
Sitting across from each other on Bird Street in Hannibal, are two impressive Italianates, the Hearne and Lamb houses. The Frank P. Hearne house, above, was built in 1871 for a lumber merchant. The house has a plain side hall facade facing 6th St. but this view of the side shows its impressive irregular plan side facade on Bird St., a duality that gives it a rather schizophrenic quality. I prefer this facade. One can see the completely towerless irregular form and the longer left-hand facade which brings the house out to 6th St. The simple brick facade is pierced with segmental arched windows that have pedimented stone label moldings above, creating a nice interplay between rounded and angular forms. The cornice has smart-looking and frequent paired small brackets on a subdued entablature board that give it a sophisticated air.

This lower house was built by Alfred Lamb a railroad president in 1859. Since this photo, the house has been beautifully restored by expert restoration craftsmen and is now the Belvedere Inn. It follows the five bay plan with a hip roof. The segmental arched windows on the second floor are topped with especially fancy cast iron rococo hood moldings. The porches have been restored with all their splendor. What catches my eye especially on this house though is its massive cupola, perhaps the largest cupola I have posted on this blog. The cupola is rectangular, rather than square as expected, and each bay of the cupola has two arched windows with eared surroundings and dentils. The sides are twice as long as the front. I'd imagine that given its size, it must produce a sizeable interior space that has more functionality than the typical cupola.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Jesse H. McVeigh House, Hannibal, MO

The Jesse McVeigh House, Hannibal, MO. 1885 Photo: Brandon Bartoszek
Photo: Amanda Baird/BlackDoll Photography
The Jesse McVeigh house, built in 1885 for a member of one of the major families of Hannibal, is one of the most photographed homes in town, certainly due to its beautiful state of preservation, eye catching features, and attractive paint scheme, even if the painting is a little inaccurate for the period. The house follows the rotated side tower plan (of course this example is towerless, though the side tower mass is expressed by the right hand bay), which in essence is an irregular plan with the short side facade facing the street as the principal expression of the house. The home has a typical steep hip roof that nearly every Hannibal house has and is enlivened by beautiful detailing. The segmental arched windows have elaborate label hood moldings with fanciful, impossibly un-classical brackets, thick keystones, and Eastlake incised designs. A bay window on the front continues the general design. The cornice has a simple architrave molding with small entablature windows, a run of dentils, and elaborate s scroll brackets. Perhaps most impressive, though, is the abundance of porches, with elaborate paneled post supports that form shouldered arches. On the right, the porch has two stories (though the upper porch might be slightly later), while on the left, the porch gracefully curves out and projects an entire bay from the facade, a very uncommon feature, as side porches usually are far more closely attached to the facade. This is perhaps an influence of the porch mania and inventiveness of contemporary Queen Anne design that gives unlimited scope for non-traditional porch possibilities. It does create an awkward join between porch and facade, but nonetheless creates a beautiful open space around the entrance.

The plan must have been popular. It seems that John Mounce beat the McVeighs in introducing this plan in his house at 207 N Maple in 1880. The Mounce house is basically identical (without the second story porch addition) although the second story windows are joined rather than separated as in the McVeigh house.

Mounce House, 1880 Photo: Mike Steele
Photo: Amanda Baird/BlackDoll Photography