Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Sticking With Stick Style

A timber- Lumber that is nominally 5 inches or more in least dimension.

A plank- a heavy thick board, especially one 2 to 4 inches thick and at least 8 inches wide

A board-Lumber that is nominally less than two inches thick and two inches or more wide.

A stick- A long slender piece of wood

A Stick Style house:
Not "A" Stick Style house. More or less, it's "The" Stick Style House. the Carson House in Eureka, California. It's still there, too:

I literally am having trouble comprehending this shack. It's like the world's wedding cake or the hood ornament on the universe or something. The Library of Congress has some more pictures. The place has the effect on me that flashing lights have on people prone to epilepsy. I'm slack-jawed looking at it.

Click on the pictures and look at it large. It has an almost impenetrable amount of surface decoration. The effect is somehow airy, though.

William McKendrie Carson ran a lumber mill. A redwood lumber mill. Redwood is rare and unusual today in house construction, but it was the early equivalent of pressure treated wood. The heartwood from redwood is as impervious to rot and unattractive to bugs as the nasty greenish southern yellow pine treated lumber you're all familiar with now, giving you splinters on people's decks. Along with some types of cedar, it was used in places where rot would be a problem, like house sills and various exterior millwork. Thirty years ago I'd still see it used for here and there in that fashion.

Here's the good part: Just like many people in the building trades now, when things got slow at the millwork plant, Carson decided to give his employees something to do instead of laying them off. This is why all general contractors houses are elaborate and unfinished, generally. In 1885, he sent his workers to build him a house. And just to numb my mind further, since he had a lot of it on hand, of course, he had them make this whole house -- framing, siding, all those gew-gaws-- out of redwood.

We like to go to the Marble House in Newport, Rhode Island, and poke around what passed for a summer cottage for the Vanderbilts. It's an enormous pile of marble hard by the Atlantic Ocean. I think it would be cheaper to build the Marble House now than the Carson house. After all, marble is just rocks. Redwood's really expensive. And marble doesn't need painting. I bet this does:

The inside is an insane riot of woodwork too, of course. Carson probably thought he saw plenty of redwood all day long at work, so the interior woodwork is made from an enormous lot of a wood called "primavera" that he had imported for the place. I'm sure the architect and the owner knew that redwood would make for a very dark, plain interior. Primavera is also called white mahogany. It's insanely rare and expensive now, too.

I could never live in the Carson House. I'd just sit in there, drooling a bit, and gape at the place, trying to conjure in my mind the scale you'd use to weigh the effort and material used to build this thing. A man's gotta go out from time to time.


Sola gratia said...

Loving the series, loving the photos (suppressed architect that I am - doing floor plans and elevations at eight years old...really). Midwesterner (and for one year a Californian) that I am, I am awaiting with anticipation your delving into Craftsman (Craftsmen?) houses, which are archetypal.

And then you must, MUST, move on to my idea of the furniture that would've filled 'em.

Keep it up.

SippicanCottage said...

Glad you like it. Craftsman covers a range of styles, all interesting.

I will definitely do the furniture thing after. It's an excellent idea.

Thanks for reading and commenting.