Monday, July 18, 2016

"Bartram Hall" the Andrew M. Eastwick House, Philadelphia, PA

"Bartram Hall" the Andrew Eastwick House, Philadelphia, PA. 1851
Courtesy: The Library Company of Philadelphia
Courtesy: The Library Company of Philadelphia

Andrew Eastwick, a locomotive manufacturer, gave Sloan his first commission in 1850 after a return from Russia where he had been making locomotives for the new Russian railroads. The house was built on a portion of Bartram's Gardens, the first botanical gardens founded in the US in 1728. Since Eastwick was a great admirer of the gardens, he made sure to inform the public he wouldn't harm "one bush" in the preserve and named his hall in honor of the gardens. As Sloan's first independent commission, Bartram Hall made a huge splash, and it is surprising the young architect's first big job was such a lavish house. Sadly, the house burned down in 1896 after being sold to the city in 1890. Currently there's a picnic pavilion on the site.

Sloan designed Bartram Hall in what he termed the "Norman" style, a form of Italianate that hearkened to Romanseque medieval precedents. Stylistically, this conforms to the Rundbogenstil, an Italianate form popular in Germany that gained ground in the US, primarily as a design style for public buildings. In fact, Sloan's design for Bartram Hall is one of the earliest examples of this style in the US applied to a domestic building. A close second is the James Bishop house is nearby New Brunswick, NJ that bears many similar qualities and stylistic features. The house follows the irregular plan and has features typical of the Rundbogenstil, Venetian/Florentine tracery, inverted crenellations, or drops which are rows of small arches near the cornice, shallow gables, and thick quoins. The primary addition is the octagonal crenelated tower at the back, which gives the house more medieval flair. The design was so significant, Sloan offered several views of it in The Model Architect, under Design 10, and used a colored image as his frontispiece:

As can be seen from the images, the house has a straightforward irregular plan with the expected tower, but while it appears narrow and l-shaped from the front, side views show it to be a massive cube that has elements of the pavilion and irregular plans on the sides. The walls were finished in heavy masonry. As other examples of this style, the real interest is provided by the ornamental treatment, which Sloan described as rich and based on zig-zags and chevrons. Instead of brackets, the cornice features deep inverted crenellations that run around the house. All the windows are arched, filled with Venetian tracery, and are surrounded by thick drip moldings that terminate in medieval vegetal finials. Sloan did add some vegetal rococo forms on the brackets for the balcony as well as at the gable peaks. Even the bay windows are topped with crenellations and are paired with thick, arcaded porches (which run around most of the first floor of the house) that convey the massiveness of the medieval style. In fact, the ornamentation is surprisingly consistent throughout the house's facade. The tower is impressively tall, breaking with typical Italianate gradations where the topmost story in smaller than the stories below. A tall gently curving roof with dormers gives it added height an impressiveness, more like a church tower than a house tower. The details are drawn carefully in Sloan's plans. Also attached is a ceiling design in color that might have gone with the house, as it follows closely on the description of Design 10.

Sloan included a full set of floorplans for the house. As can be seen, the rooms are large and arranged attractively around the central stair hall with a variety of lobbies and intervening halls. The attic floor is particularly well designed with its ample closets and smart hallways.

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