Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Dewars Fvum Pvovidunce

Oh yeah, that's what I'm talkin' about. Gimme some of that American architecture.

Benefit Street in Providence, Rhode Island has a wide selection. Now, by wide selection I don't mean there are split level ranches and Bauhaus stucco boxes mixed in. I'm referring to a range of architecture from Georgian, to Adam, to Colonial Revival, with a smattering of Second Empire and other assorted Frenchified sort of things. Oh yeah, some Greek Revival. Somebody's always doing CPR on Greek architecture. There's some Italianate whatsis here and there. They dabble a bit in the Victorian, but just. For the most part, it's that chaste and elegant American extrapolation on the English tradition.

There's really only subtle changes between Georgian, Adam, and Colonial Revival period things. The first picture is an excellent example of the Georgian. A simple two story box, two rooms deep, with doors and windows strictly symetrically arranged. The style books can't make up their minds if the style goes from 1700-1780, or all the way to 1830. If it doesn't go to 1830, this house isn't one. But that's a classic Georgian door. Or Adam. You decide.

I thought the owner might come put and shoo me away from this bronzey-rusty-peachy wonder if I kept staring at it. I'm going to call this Adam. That's a bracketed console entry, which was very popular in later Victorian styles, but this is like their daddy. The leaded glass is really delicately done, and there were little bees or pineapples or flowers or something decorating the interstices and all the proportions are elegant and the black door looks marvelous with that not quite definable siding color and --Oh Lord I've been leering at this guy's front door like a lunatic for five minutes by the clock, and if he doesn't call the cops soon I'll be lucky. Take a picture it'll last longer, as they say; so I did.

Adams houses aren't much different from Georgian Houses; just a little more delicate in execution, and more likely to improvise a little with the massing of projecting wings and porches and ells and so forth. They have Palladian windows a lot. In New England, during the 1980s, there was a short fad for a kind of Jetsons Adam Revival house, with a projecting center gable, a garage attached but set back a foot from the front facade, a palladian window over the front door in the second story -- usually part of a two story foyer -- and a symmetrical facade. The house might have rambling ells behind. That house passed the true test of architecture -- the trick or treater knew exactly which door to go to.

That plan was superior to every damn thing that has come after it.

Here's our last one for today. Early Classical Revival, I think. It's got the big entry porch they loved, a much more imposing building and facade. That style overlaps with Greek Revival, and this has all the Greek goodies on it. It's a great big place, and it's a throwback to thirty years ago on Benefit Street. It's a rooming house. Most of Benefit Street used to be inexpensive apartments for students going to the nearby Rhode Island School of Design, or Brown. There seems to be a fetish for vicious dogs again, at least judging by the three pit bulls we saw being walked, so perhaps the neighborhood is that most common of urban situations: You probably don't need a pistol, but sharp teeth might come in handy in a pinch.

There's a lot of teeth on the mouldings too. I guess it's always been that kind of neighborhood.


tjl said...

Thanks, Sippican, for this and the preceding posts. You have quite an eye.

I can't tell you how much I miss this sort of thing, living in Houston where little predates 1975. 1975 was the absolute nadir of architecture.

paul a'barge said...

Try spending some time in the Heights.

Houston may not predate New England (by much), but it has much to offer ... it just takes some work to ferret it out.

tjl said...

Paul -

I live in a subset of the Heights, the Rice Military area, which does have much to offer but none of it predates 1998.

SippicanCottage said...

tjl- de nada. I've often wondered what the hell I'm supposed to be writing about. I decided to stop wondering, add that quote to the masthead, and talk about whatever wanders into view.

I'm the world's foremost authority.