Saturday, December 30, 2017

The R. F. Beck House, Vicksburg, MS

The R. F. Beck House, Vicksburg, MS. 1875. Source: Steven Martin

Source: Steven Martin
The next few posts we will be looking at Italianate Vicksburg!

The R. F. Beck house was built by a building contractor in Vicksburg, MS as a showplace of his own design and construction skills, and it does not disappoint. It is a decidedly individualistic irregular plan house, with sparing detail, partially due to a rather unsympathetic paint job, but a rich treatment in woodwork. The house is irregular in plan, with a side that forms a pavilion plan façade, but lacks the tower component, instead suggesting a tower by the central placement of the octagonal cupola at the junction of the l-shape (although the entrance, as typical of this plan, appears in the center). The windows, all segmental arched except for the full arches in the gables, actually do have hold moldings, articulated in brick, something of a development of the 1860s and 70s, but these are hardly apparent because, unlike their probably original paint scheme which would have differentiated them from the façade, they are painted the same salmon color as the brick. The side façade, oddly, has deeper and more articulated moldings, with several layers, rather than a flat expanse. The entablature is of the paneled bull's eye type and features single s scroll brackets. An odd feature, the brackets are spaced somewhat oddly on the house and not at all aligned with the windows on the long section to the right, while there are bunches of three brackets at the gable peak, a very odd feature. The porch as well is noteworthy, being a rather lacy Gothic concoction with trefoils in the spandrels. The door surround is nice and thick, suitably emphatic, with chamfered panels arranged onto a typical pilaster and arch surround. These same panels are answered in the chimneys, a feature of the panel brick style.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

195 N Manning St. Hillsdale, MI (ENDANGERED!)

195 N Manning St. Hillsdale, MI. 1860s

195 N Manning St. is a lovely little Italianate preserved both inside and out. Unfortunately, the house is currently threatened with demolition by Hillsdale College to provide yet more McMansions, robbing the town of a valuable piece of history and stealing a contributing historical property from the neighborhood. The house is apparently haunted in local lore; thus it's demolition would also deprive the town of a piece of local folklore.

The house is irregular in plan, but is tower-less, with a projecting pavilion, a recess, and a further recess. The windows are all segmental arched with brick drip moldings and keystones. The cornice broadly projects and is bracketless, while the porch is simple but elegant, with slender columns, segmental arches and charming little foliage rinceaux in the spandrels. Very few original porches like this survive in Hillsdale. A nice feature is the color scheme, which is an example of a highly appropriate color for the house's period.

The house is also well-preserved inside, a credit to the Delta Tau Delta fraternity that currently maintains the house. It has a beautiful curved staircase with designs reminiscent of the porch, thick moldings inside that extend at least three inches from the wall, Gothic panels, and all of its original woodwork intact. One odd feature is that the blocks at the corners of the door frame, which usually feature recessed bulls eyes, have convex bulls eyes, extending out from the blocks, an unusual design element. This house should certainly be saved, especially because Hillsdale is not particularly rich in such well preserved homes.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Summing Up Sloan

After 1861, Sloan's commissions declined, since the Civil War put a stop to most new residential construction as resources were shifted to the war effort. During the same time, Sloan's southern commissions as well fell by the wayside. After the war, most of Sloan's work in the north began shifting to Addison Hutton, his protégé, as he spent more and more time on his periodicals. Sloan moved more towards institutional work as well, updating his repertoire to the newly popular Second Empire and later early Queen Anne. Sloan died from a stroke in 1884 in North Carolina, his new office site.

A Sloan Stylistic Typology
What remains is to identify a typology for determining a Sloan production or a design influenced by Sloan. Key characteristics of Sloan's design can be see in this paradigmatic house from Woodland terrace:

A list of key characteristics (in a typical three story house) might be:

-A strong differentiation between all three floors

-A generous porch around the majority of the first floor

-Simple design in porches with a minimum of elaboration and thin posts, often paired

-Tall second floor windows, usually rectangular (sometimes paired and arched), often with a simple molding or eared surrounding molding

-A strongly marked third floor separated by a string course and featuring paired arched windows

-Paired rather than continuous or single brackets, usually widely spaced

-An engaged gable, that is a flat cornice forming a central gable; typically brackets are inserted in the gable

-Stucco or stone surface finishes, often with quoins

-A strong central mass with complex massing and volumes emerging from it, especially favoring complex side facades

-Triple arched windows in towers, placed either in the center or to the side

-A fascination with symmetry and central, balanced compositions, both in individual designs as well as in streetscapes

-A taste for simplicity over heavy ornamentation

Sloan's Influence
It is this architectural vocabulary that provided the template for the Philadelphia Italianate aesthetic in composition, particularly in West Philadelphia and the suburbs. So strong is this stylistic register, that there is often quite a bit of uncertainty on whether a building is by Sloan, influenced by Sloan, by an imitator, or based on a published Sloan plan. There are a variety of doubtful attributions or possible attributions. But no one can argue that Sloan, even outside of his pattern books whose travels spread Sloan's aesthetic beyond Pennsylvania, was wildly influential. Within Philadelphia, one can see several Sloan style houses in Powellton Village in West Philadelphia:

This house, for instance, reproduces Sloan's design in detail from the southern end units of Woodland Terrace.

This house is very Sloan like with most of the stylistic features identified above. It closely models itself on Sloan's published central tower five bay plans.

These three houses closely resemble Sloan's work on Pine Street and Woodland Terrace. You can see many Sloan features evidenced in each house. On the last one note the off center placement of the tower.

 This is a very close reproduction of one of the central units on Woodland Terrace. Note the Indian style cupola, a unique feature that selects from Sloan's more exotic designs.

In further posts, when a house stylistically connects with one of Sloan's plans, I'll note it. No venture would be more appropriate to an architect who sought to reform American tastes both by his own direct work and his printed designs. In doing so, Sloan showed himself as a peer of the first popularizer of the style, Alexander Jackson Davis, whose own published plans vied with Sloan's in bringing the style across the country. As one can see, Sloan's Italianate styling is a key development in 19th century architecture in not only Philadelphia, or the mid-Atlantic, but also in the US.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Sloan's "American Houses"

This is essentially Sloan's final big pattern book and is more influenced by other styles, particularly Gothic, rather than Italianate. Still there are a few Italianate plans. A nice feature in this work is the coloring of the illustrations and a greater presence of higher style Italianate designs rather than the more simple country and cottage designs. Several can be found in Homestead Architecture as well.

Design 2:

Design 3:
Design 4:

Design 5:

Design 6:

Design 8:

Design 13:
Design 31:

Monday, December 18, 2017

Sloan's "Homestead Architecture"

In 1861, Sloan published two more books of plans, his Homestead Architecture and American Houses. These are his Italianate designs from HA. In HA Sloan shows some changes from his earlier work, including a shift towards more simplicity in decorative details, the exclusion of high style European and exotic designs, and the greater use of Gothic detailing, higher pitched roofs, bargeboards, all on an Italianate frame.

Design 4:

A rather elaborate towered design.

Design 6:

This is a variant on the typical three bay symmetrical Sloan design with a projecting central focus.

Design 7:

A hybrid Gothic/Italianate design. This reflects Sloan's recent experiments with Gothic Revival, as can been seen in the Asa Packer house.

Design 10:

Design 12:

This is a particularly massive, urban design, with quoins, a full three stories, and a paneled framing of tower elements, seen on his earlier designs.

Design 13:

A rather simple rustic design.

Design 15:

Design 16:

Design 19:

Design 22:

This is a rather unique house with an irregular stone exterior, a very Pennsylvania feature, very broad eaves, and the interesting displacement of the main entrance to the side, perhaps reflective of some of his work at Woodland Terrace.

Design 32:

Design 33:

The design for the Eli Slifer house in Lewisburg.

Design 35:

A rather new instantiation of the octagon design. Though in plan it closely resembles the plan for Longwood, the exterior could not be more different, with gables and verticality emphasized rather than expansive and exotic details.