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Friday, April 20, 2007

Theodoric Would Be Proud. And Confused

Didn't like Italianate? I bet you built one of these instead.

During the same period of time as the Italianate style, let's say between 1840 and 1880, the Gothic Revival was also in its glory. Like Italianate, it's considered a "romantic" style. Picturesque informal setting country houses were all the rage, and the Gothic style suited it too. Here's an example from Sinclairville, New York, that has most all the bells and whistles of the type:
Let's see-
  • steeply pitched roofs
  • steep cross gable roofs
  • gothic or "saracen"arched windows
  • decorative gable trim
  • finials
  • projecting bays
  • open cornices and eaves
  • vertical board and batten siding
  • trail of breadcrumbs to door
Sometimes small things make a great deal of difference. There's a lot of elaborate decoration on Gothic Revival house, and it's the worst kind to make. It's got curved lines in it. Any architect will tell you that doubles the price of anything. But the introduction of the mechanical scroll saw at around that period that made all that gingerbread possible. Before that, anything like that had to be cut by hand with a fret saw. Not fun.

Here's another example from Tennessee:
That one is bordering on a subtype called "Stick." Let's move on. An excellent example from Essex, Massachusetts; the Brooks House:
That one has quoins on the corners, to mimic a masonry building. It shows the classic flattened pointed arch between porch supports. It's got the tiny diamond paned sashes for that medieval effect. Nice crenellation atop the porch roof. Everybody calls that dentillation. Everybody is wrong. Dentillation faces down. Crenellation faced up. If you called it castellation, I'm not allowed to flunk you. You've seen a million houses like that. All the filligree is removed, the windows are swapped out, the porch is in the landfill, and it's got clapboards or vinyl siding on it now. Look for the pointy cross gable in the center of the front. It's the giveaway for what you should still be looking at.

I'll build you that house for a million. I'll paint if for two million.

It's medieval in tone, but it's not necessarily rude and plain. Mar A Lago in Palm Beach is Gothic Revival, more or less, and it's not too spartan. Or Spartan:
But now I've found the greatest example of the type I've ever seen. The Bowen House in Woodstock Connecticut.
This place is awesome. It even has a gothic fence. I've got lots of pictures of it. I know you'll tune in tomorrow. It'll be worth it just to see the bowling alley in there. The gothic bowling alley.

3 comments:

Patsy said...

I'm so enjoying this tour -- and laughed out loud at the 'trail of breadcrumbs to the door' remark.

Now settle an argument I'm having and define a porte cochere. Did I spell that right?

SippicanCottage said...

Patsy- Yes, that's spelled correctly. The Bowen house has a really pretty port cochere. I was going to post a picture of it. Your incredible mindmeld powers have obviously infiltrated the intertubes and ouijaed that out of my mind. I'm going to buy tinfoil for a hat right now.

A roof over a driveway outside an entry is called a port cochere. Its less elegant relative is the plain old carport. It goes back to horse and buggy days.

A driveway with a roof over it at a side entry leading to a sort of barn in the back is my elegant default ideal for how to deal with cars architecturally. Now we just staple a house on the ass end of a garage and call it a day.

Internet Ronin said...

Same bat-time, same bat-station? I'd promise to be sitting at the computer screen waiting with breathless anticipation, but I know I will be a little late - taking my mom to see a play and I doubt we'll be back in time. (One of the boys living next-door to her is the star.)

I wish I'd had a camera when we went house-hunting in Portland OR. You would have loved it: a run-down Victorian gothic with 7 fireplaces, all the original gas light fixtures, and a ballroom. Almost all of Portland is divided into 5,000 square foot lots but this one was 7,500, and had a view of downtown. It also had a view of the morgue, IIRC. The price was right for the time, $125,000, if a lender could be found. But it would have taken another $150,000 to fix it.