|The H. E. Benson House, Detroit, MI. 1860 Source: Scott Weir|
Friday, January 19, 2018
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
|Francis Adams House Detroit, MI. 1860s Photo: Scott Weir|
Saturday, January 13, 2018
|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.
Sunday, January 7, 2018
|The Alexander Magruder House, Vicksburg MS. 1850 Photo: 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).
Thursday, January 4, 2018
|The Lazarus and Leona Baer House, Vicksburg, MS. 1870 Source: Jeff Hart|
|Source: Jeff Hart|
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|
Wednesday, January 3, 2018
|'The Magnolias' Vicksburg, MS. 1877 Source: Wikimedia|
Monday, January 1, 2018
|The John H. Bobb House, Vicksburg, MS. 1849 (1797) Source: Wikimedia|
This house has a complex building history. Originally built in 1797 as a small house, it was expanded in the 1820s and further finished in its present form in 1849 by John H. Bobb, a hybrid Greek Revival/Italianate affair, of the side entrance plan, typical with southern houses. The house was used as a field hospital during the Civil War and Bobb himself was shot in a dispute over flower picking in his front yard, all giving the house, currently open as a museum, the distinction of being haunted. The house has a simple typical Greek revival façade, with spare lintels over rectangular windows. It's the porch which really brings in the Italianate design (the porch façade type), with thin supports, pierced with jigsaw designs and lacy brackets supporting a large Greek Revival entablature pierced by Italianate paired s scroll brackets. Of particular note is the somewhat odd extra layer at the top of the cornice with dentils that almost look like Gothic crenellations.
|Source: Jeff Hart|