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.



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