Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Emil S. Heineman House, Detroit, MI

The Emil S. Heineman House, Detroit, MI. 1859 Photo: Scott Weir
A slightly less elaborate version of the later Ward house was built for Emil S. Heineman, a clothes merchant, in 1859, five years before the Ward house. Like the Ward house, Heineman is a symmetrical plan and has a similar fenestration, with double arched windows on the flanking bays and a triple arched palladian (somewhat more extreme) in the center even in the porch, as well as protruding windows on the first floor (boxed rather than bay). Clearly, a slew of Detroit Italianates followed this type. The decoration of the windows and porches is finer here, with cast iron hood moldings on the windows with central leafy anthemia in a rococo style and leafy finials. The porch has very thin columns and long dripping brackets. Of course, the necessary balustrades are provided, a sort of stylized Renaissance motif with urns. Notably, the windows on the second floor and the sides all feature Venetian tracery. Curvaceousness does not transcend the third floor, where the windows are simple rectangles paired as the principal floor windows. These are enclosed by an architrave and thin paired double s scroll brackets interrupting a run of smaller brackets. The whole is topped by a triple arched palladian cupola, with an engaged arch in the cornice and squiggly brackets. By comparison with the Ward and Newcomb types, one can readily see the restraint of the 1850s in comparison with the 60s and the 70s.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The David Ward House, Detroit, MI

The David Ward House, Detroit, MI. 1864 Photo: Scott Weir
Continuing with Detroit's love affair with arches, the David Ward house, built in 1864 for a wealthy lumber mill owner, is almost the inverse of the Newcomb house. It also follows the symmetrical plan with a gabled central bay and bay windows on the two flanking bays on the first floor, but where the Newcomb house had triple windows on the sides and doubles in the center, here the arithmetic is reversed, with the triple arched palladian in the center, an arrangement even reflected in the front door and the porch, which extends to cover the one angle of the bay windows. Whereas the Newcomb house pulled out all the stops, the Ward house is a bit tamer, with simpler, more spindly porch supports, windows that only have thick brick surrounds with carved terminals for the molding (almost Romanesque in style), higher pilasters on the bay windows, and much less classical balconies, with crosses for balusters. The third floor has a very interesting feature. Instead of having the windows break the architrave molding, the architrave curves downward to run under the windows, a rather unprecedented breaking of traditional conventions. Additionally, the central gable window is provided with its own balcony (rather obviously for show). Here the double s scroll brackets are grouped in triads on the corners, pairs and singles on the gable, an interesting way of mixing it up and emphasizing the corners strongly. Sloan would have been proud of this arrangement. The cupola is a triple arched palladian with some stocky brackets. Like a lot of symmetrical plan houses, it has side porches which makes it somewhat pyramidal in shape. It's interesting that the Newcomb house and the Ward house represent two kinds of very masculine design. Newcomb does it with elaboration and Renaissance complexity, thick stone and strong elements. Ward does it with thickness and bulk of elements, particularly the window surrounds.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Cyrenus Adelbert Newcomb House, Detroit, MI

The C. A. Newcomb House, Detroit, MI. 1876 Source: Scott Weir
Built in 1876 for a major Detroit retailer and opera house owner, the Cyrenus Adalbert Newcomb house (gotta give the Victorians props for their unique names), is an exceptionally high style symmetrical plan villa with a protruding central bay with an open pediment. The house is a play on variations, with brick and stone and arches in various combinations all vying to be different and grab attention. On the first floor, we have two bay windows, with columned pilasters. Interestingly, the cornice of this window has an architrave molding that forms a gable over each window, clashing with the roundness of the window arch but reflecting the angularity of the pointed keystone. The first floor porches are characterized by fanciful, foliate and decidedly unclassical capitals supporting shallow basket handle arches. Heavy balustrades top each element. On the second floor, we have triple arched palladian windows (the arch variation is very slight) on the sides, and a double tombstone window in the center; all are joined into a single unit with thick stone surrounds and a bracketed, pedimented cornice (open on the sides, closed in the center). The third story has a stringcourse that separates it visually, a very Sloan touch, with a repetition of the window patterns between flanking and central bays, though with simpler surrounds and no cornice. These interrupt the architrave molding which supports paired double s scroll brackets that appear very elaborate with bulls eyes and incised designs, and a run of smaller rotated s scroll brackets, resting on yet another molding! To top it all, and to contrast with the angularity of the gables, the cupola is classically designed with Tuscan pilasters, a further triple arched palladian, and an engaged segmental arch in the cornice. The only variation on this scheme are the segmental arched windows found on the simpler side façade. The whole effect is one of extreme richness and complexity, kind of like a piece of renaissance revival furniture transformed into a house. Nearly every trick in the architectural book to jazz up and make complex the façade is used. Surely nothing could be more appropriate for the man responsible for Detroit's over the top opera house downtown.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Neil Flattery House, Detroit, MI

The Neil Flattery House, Detroit, MI. 1859 Source: Scott Weir
The Neil Flattery house, built in 1859 for a city politician and merchant, is an interesting example of the pavilion plan treated asymmetrically. Typically, pavilion plan houses will enforce a somewhat rigid symmetry around the central bay, but here, asymmetricality is created by the varying window treatments, with a box window with paired tombstone windows above to the left and a two story bay window to the right, injecting a bit of the irregular plan spirit into the design. The pavilions themselves feature little engaged gables that jut out from the eave, encasing small pointed windows (note the miniature balcony attached to the one on the right, a particularly precious Victorian touch). The more recent image shows the house in its later conversion to stores, but the woodcut shows it in its prime with original details intact. The house featured a plain brick façade onto which a series of decorative details were added around openings which drew the eye to them, such as the rococo piles of foliage above the window moldings, the heavy brackets on the bay windows, and the triple arched palladian porch around the main entrance. The cornice featured an architrave molding with a run of double s scroll brackets paired at the accent points at corners and around windows. The engaged gables find their way into the elaborate cupola, creating a continuity with the main façade. Note that the brackets on the cupola actually run all the way down the sides and drip onto the roof, giving it an almost Jacobean sculptural appearance and serving as bracket surrounds for the windows.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The H. E. Benson House, Detroit, MI

The H. E. Benson House, Detroit, MI. 1860 Source: Scott Weir
The H. E. Benson house was built in 1860 for a prominent lumber mill owner on Jefferson Ave. one of the chief society streets in Detroit. As opposed to some of the more flamboyant houses, the Benson house is rather reserved, accomplishing its goals with verticality rather than ornament. The house has an interesting plan, apparently irregular, but with the tower shifted to the side rather than placed in the center; this movement of the tower and placement between two gabled pavilions establishes the side façade as a towered pavilion plan. It appears the main entrance was actually quite recessed from the front of the house, at the base of the tower under the (what seems to be) iron porch. Each section of wall is framed by a slight projection that follows the corners and the gable, outlining the façade, with a string course separating the floors; it's clear the painters chose to exploit this feature in their scheme. The thin brackets are only complemented by an architrave molding. The gabled facades are uniformly treated, with triple rectangular windows with a bracketed molding above and in the gable there is a round window. Note the small metal fringe that runs above the eaves with classical anthemia. The tower is particularly surprising, as it is rare to find one on which every side is gabled. A triple arched palladian window tops the tower while lower stories have arched windows, with three on the top stage, two on the second floor, and one on the first floor. The architect used arched windows exclusively on the tower for emphasis and to differentiate it from the rest of the angular house.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Francis Adams House, Detroit, MI

Francis Adams House Detroit, MI. 1860s Photo: Scott Weir
The Francis Adams house, built sometime in the 1860s (he moved to Detroit in 1857 and was established at this location by the late 1860s) for yet another lumber merchant, is one of the zanier Italianates I've seen. It's hard to classify what stylistic influences are at work on this building, but rococo revival springs to mind, as we saw its influence in the Backus house in Baltimore. This symmetrical plan brick home has a very sedate first and second floor, with pairs of tombstone windows sitting atop bay windows on the flanking bays and a triple arched palladian in the central bay. But like the Swain house, the top is where the action occurs. The cornice's architrave molding swoops and dips fantastically along the façade, interrupted only by paired c scroll brackets; this culminates in the central open pediment which appears to be a rococo/Flemish form topped by a pile of carved vegetation. This pediment rests on stepped brackets and encloses a window with a swooping hood molding that reminds me of Chinese designs. The whole is topped by a magnificent cupola that repeats the triple arched palladian form as well as the vegetal carving. In considering the house, it is clear that some continental European baroque forms are at work; considering Adams and his wife were both Maine natives, it's anyone's guess why they chose such a playful European form for their home.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Detroit's Lost Italianates: The Isaac Swain House, Detroit, MI

The Isaac Swain House, Detroit, MI. 1863 Photos: Scott Weir

This post kicks off my discussion of a fascinating series of lost Italianates from Detroit. I have to especially thank Scott Weir for his collection of photographs of these gems. 19th century Detroit was one of the wealthiest, growing cities in the US, and that wealth as a transportation hub with close access to Canada and Michigan natural resources. Detroit was a well planned city from the earliest periods in its history, with broad boulevards, a grand street plan, and plenty of impressive homes constructed by the city's wealthy merchants. Unfortunately, the economic decay of the 20th century, as well as geographic changes in Detroit's fashionable areas took a major toll on the city's architectural heritage, as they have in most American cities. Wealthy Detroiters constructed their elaborate 19th century mansions near the downtown in neighborhoods that soon succumbed to business pressures and lifestyle changes. The Swain house, built in 1863 for an abstemious, uptight, and wealthy lumber merchant was built at 1115 Fort Street, a site now occupied by industrial buildings and an MDOT office near the highway. Still, for the purposes of this blog, lost homes are as valuable specimens as existing ones, in that they give us a clearer picture of the stylistic diversity of Italianate design.

The house is one of the most substantial Italianates featured on this blog (the biggest ones are always the first to fall). It follows the five bay plan with a strong central projection and appears to have been built of brick. The photo at the top of this page shows the house in the late 19th century, while the one below is closer to the period in which it was built; apparently the entrance porch was in need of some expansion at some point in the house's history. Chimneys seem also to have been added. All of the home's windows were arched (first floor round, second floor segmental) with extremely heavy drip moldings festooned with foliage and carved keystones. The windows on the top two stories of the central bay were both triple arched palladians. But while the porch and body of this house are not particularly elaborate, the cornice and upper stages are a testament to the possibilities of the lumber Swain made his fortune in. The height of the paneled cornice which is of the arched variety is extreme, giving the house a very top heavy feel. The elaborately carved brackets accentuate this, being expensive double s scrolls that alternate in size. A bold architrave molding with dentils below the windows places an exclamation mark on the overdone cornice. Additionally, the surprises continue as the eye moves upward, with an odd, seemingly hexagonal, cupola. The unusually tall cupola repeats the triple arched palladian windows and is topped by a very strange rounded railing with strong newel posts. This same railing, which almost looks art nouveau or jugendstil, seems to have been repeated, as the second image shows, further down on the roof, perhaps a second rooftop balcony. The cupola is also unique in that it is rare that a house has such strong gables also have a cupola, which is primarily associated with the hip roof. In a house of rooftop surprises though, the strange cupola merely completes the top heavy design.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

'Floweree' the Charles Floweree House, Vicksburg, MS

The Charles Floweree House, Vicksburg, MS. 1866. HABS

This is perhaps Vicksburg's most impressive Italianate house (all images in this article comes from the HABS survey). Built in 1866 for Col. Charles Flowerlee, it is a rather uncomfortable hybrid Greek Revival/Italianate design that is an impressive and unique seven bay expansion of the five bay plan, finished in warm cream painted brick. The first floor features a central entrance with flanking windows and then two bay windows; these bay windows project slightly outside the façade, and are a strong Italianate feature seldom seen in these kinds of symmetrical houses. The central three bays have double height, square Tuscan pillars, hearkening back to the Greek Revival which run somewhat oddly into the bay windows, giving the house a strong variation of volumes with projections, diagonals, and varying shading effects, and presenting an exceptional sculptural quality. The top floor features a row of segmental arched windows with thick brick hood moldings, the same moldings seen in other Vicksburg Italianates that seem to be a local building trait. The windows flank a central grand entrance that repeats the paneled, pilastered decoration of the first floor entrance and the Greek Revival transom and side-lights fitted into a segmental arched frame, another Vicksburg feature seen in the Magnolias. The cornice is paneled, with filleted panel ends just like the Magruder house under a row of dentils; these are interrupted by c and s scroll brackets in pairs at the accent points of the house. Surprisingly, the house has a tall gabled roof instead of an expected hip roof, and a large seven bay Italianate conservatory projects from the back. The house is certainly an uncommon and individualistic design, but the contractor and designer are unknown; perhaps, given similarities to other houses in the area, it is a Beck design or a local tastemaker.

The interiors of the house are especially impressive, with some of the finest, most florid, and deepest plasterwork in the state. Every surface seems to have some viney outgrowth emerging from it. The house is for sale, and the realtor website has several color images of the exterior and interior. A video slideshow is also available. HABS fortunately provides some drawings, plans, and interior images.




Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Alexander Magruder House, Vicksburg MS

The Alexander Magruder House, Vicksburg MS. 1850 Photo: Wikimedia

Source: Wikimedia
This house was built in 1830 as a single story house in the Greek Revival style by Richard Featherston, but was remodeled into a two story Italianate structure in 1850 by Alexander Magruder, a doctor. It is a five bay symmetrical design, reflective of its Greek Revival roots, with sparing details, and a noticeable lack of window surrounds (the tracery looks to be an addition of the 1890s). The facing appears to be some kind of stone or perhaps a very deeply scored and textured plaster, with quoins in the corners, giving it a rather grand frame. The entablature on both the porch (with thick, square, Greek Revival pillars) and the house match, following the paneled style with sharply angular brackets. Perhaps its most attractive feature is the main door, which has an elaborate pilastered surround with panels matching the entablature, curvaceous brackets, and a fine basket handle arch transom. The house is currently a place one can rent to stay in. The fine and tastefully decorated interiors can be seen here.

Source: Jeff Hart
I'd like to mention another Italianate here, the demolished rectory of St. Paul's church (all images from HABS).

It was built in 1866 and designed by the priest, Jean Baptiste Mouton, and pieces appear to have been prefabricated in Ohio and shipped down. Despite the Gothic detailing, the house is solidly Italianate, given its cornice with angular brackets closely spaced, its symmetrical five bay plan, and its hip roof. It is one of several hybrid Italianates, like Indian Italianates, with a different stylistic vocabulary applied to a Italianate frame. Here, the Gothic details consist of window labels in a Gothic vein, a Gothic porch with a heavy ogee arch, and pointed windows. This last feature is an interesting transformation of the typical Italianate triple arched palladian into a Gothic formation. The whole façade was stuccoed and scored to appear like stone, making the undoubtedly brick house match the grandeur of Gothic stonework. Unfortunately, this was demolished in 1972.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Lazarus and Leona Baer House, Vicksburg, MS

The Lazarus and Leona Baer House, Vicksburg, MS. 1870 Source: Jeff Hart
Source: Jeff Hart
The Lazarus and Leona Baer house was built as an irregular plan Italianate in 1870 for Jewish merchants. The similarity both in styling and in plan and details to the Beck house suggests that it may have been contracted to Beck, especially the way that the window moldings are rendered in brick, which is exactly similar to those on the side façade of the Beck house. The house disguises its volumes with numerous porches and protrusions. The main recessed pavilion is disguised by a double story porch with simple spandrel brackets and an entablature with alternating long and short brackets, with the long carrying the posts of the porch into the top of the porch. The main entablature has long angular brackets interrupting a run of shorter brackets. The gable in the projecting pavilion has decorative Eastlake bargeboards and this pavilion's two story bay window allows the house to keep its volumes and mass intact so that it does not appear flat, as it would without the window, since the porch extends to the edge of the projecting pavilion. The interior is just as elaborate, with fine Eastlake woodwork and an impressive multicolored floor in the first floor vestibule (seen below). The house currently operates as a bed and breakfast.

Similar in design, but simpler, is another house in Vicksburg, irregular in plan, with spartan windows, a simple entablature, and a jazzy Gothic revival porch.

Source: Jeff Hart