Monday, December 11, 2017

Sloan's "City and Suburban Architecture"

City and Suburban architecture was published in 1858 and represented a very different side of Sloan from his Model Architect. While previous publications had focused on primarily residential and garden designs, CS offered plans for churches, houses, commercial, institutional, and industrial buildings. All these idioms were practiced by Sloan (recall he was most prolific in his schoolhouse designs). Sloan's residential designs in CS were primarily for row houses of stone, rather than the expansive and imaginative rural villas in MA. CS includes as well far more detail renderings of doors, windows, and architectural do-dads.

There are a series of shared characteristics to this volume. It reflects the more urban work that Sloan did for Joseph Harrison in connection to his house on Rittenhouse Square (featured as the final design in the volume) and his work in designing Harrison's developments both in the city and in West Philadelphia. These designs were far more Anglo-Italianate in inspiration, mostly designed as rowhouses in stone. The depressed arched windows with Venetian tracery are ubiquitous as well as the presence of rusticated first floors, all features from Harrison's house. They feature heavy window moldings and an interesting eclecticism with a mixture of classical Renaissance, rococo, and Rundbogenstil Romanesque decorative elements. The idiom expressed in this can be found all over Philadelphia, for instance in the Deaconess Training School.

Design 2:

This is a design of impressive variation for the typical three bay rowhouse. Each floor is carefully differentiated with the third and fourth floors varying the window placements and groupings to give a greater illusion of pavilions and varied volumes. The detailing is eclectic with rococo revival carved foliage and Romanesque details and drops under the bracketed entablature.

Design 5:

This is a rather fanciful rowhouse design for the end of a block with a tower. There are several correspondences with the Harrison house, including the use of depressed arches with Venetian tracery. The detailing here as well is eclectic, blending Rundbogenstil Romanesque designs with Anglo-Italianate classical detailing. Note the false wall in the rear.

Design 10

This is a more stylistically consistent design, with rococo forms, a rusticated basement, and only a small Romanesque fringe.

Design 11:

A particularly lavish basement with both rustication and pilasters and Sloan's signature depressed arch windows and Venetian tracery. The paired windows on the top story are a signature Sloan design.

Design 15:

Similar to Design 10 but with a fancier basement and balconies.

Design 16:

A variation on Design 15 but with heavier classical detailing and a simpler basement.

Design 17:

A plan for an entire row of 10 houses. This was likely the row that Sloan built for Joseph Harrison behind his house at Locust Street. It very closely matches the style of Harrison's house, especially in the treatment of the attic and window designs.

Design 19:

A high style symmetrical plan house with thick classical details.

Design 27:

One of Sloan's suburban detached designs. The house at Pine Street may have been designed based on this, though the triple window in the gable is far larger in the example. These designs are likely reflective of his work for Harrison in West Philadelphia.
Design 28:

Design 30:

Thursday, December 7, 2017

'Longwood' the Haller Nutt House, Natchez, MS

'Longwood' the Haller Nutt House, Natchez, MS. 1859 Photo: Wikimedia
'Longwood' is perhaps Sloan's most famous commission, his most eccentric, and his greatest unrealized project. Dr. Haller Nutt, a wealthy planter and agricultural inventor, commissioned Sloan to design the house in 1859, and by 1861, the exterior was completed. The outbreak of the Civil War, however, caused the workmen from Philadelphia to abandon the project and return north. The house was left with a finished exterior, but an unfinished interior, with only the basement complete and the remainder framed. The house suffered neglect, as Nutt lost most of his wealth during the war, but has been restored as a tourist venue. As a unique survival, Longwood provides us with a wealth of information on the process of construction and framing in the 19th century, an ironic testament to the work of Sloan as a pioneer of balloon framing. Additionally, the house is one of the most important and well known monuments of Indian Italianate in the US.

Sloan's design for the house, an octagon, was based on the briefly popular octagon shape popularized by Orson Quire Fowler, a lifestyle theorist in the 19th century who theorized that the octagon shape was more healthful and economical, leading to a spate of houses based on Fowler's designs. The plan that Sloan selected as the basis of Longwood was published in the Model Architect v.2 in 1852 as an "Oriental Villa". It remains one of the most elaborate examples of the fanciful strain of Indian Italianate design in the US, but, like the style in general, it remains Italianate to the core with a spattering of oriental details and design elements.

The original design:

The plan is octagonal, but Sloan has complicated the design. Four of the facades on the first two stories project by several bays, forming a Greek cross shape; these bays alternate with double storied porches, filling out the octagon shape. Each façade on these first two stories has three arched windows; on the projecting facades, these are closely spaced with a hanging porch on the first floor with three arches answering the windows. One the recessed facades, there are two windows flanking a door on each story, forming three arched openings. The third floor reverses the rhythm of projections and recesses on the first two; where the façade projects on the first two stories, it recedes on the third and vice versa. The fourth floor abandons the triple arched motif in favor of paired tombstone windows, a typical Sloan maneuver to differentiate the third floor. The whole is topped by a tall polygonal drum with arched windows and an onion dome, the consummate Indian/Mughal design element.

As much as the house makes a pretense of Indian design features, it doesn't nearly capture the authenticity of Henry Austin's Indian houses in New Haven, such as the employment of candelabra columns. Rather, it uses primarily vernacular Italianate motifs, but arranges them in such a way as to suggest the oriental world. For instance, a look at the double story porches shows Corinthian columns (of a slightly lusher variety than a strictly classical design), but the scrollwork on the porch is designed to mimic the horseshoe arches and ogee shapes in Islamic architecture. Horseshoe arches can also be found on the balustrades. On the side balconies, we see horse shoe arches again with interesting moldings above the columns, a further feature that recalls the Alhambra. Finally, the fringes on every cornice line and the dome itself, which has an onion shape, pull the entire composition into the Indian mode. One bizarre feature that I am at a loss to explain is the strange tracery in the windows, which looks more Chippendale gothic than Moorish.

All following photos from Wikimedia.

Unfortunately, the interiors were never finished, but this allows us a good glimpse of the construction methods of the house: