Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Concerning "Queen Anne"

South side of the Reiley-Reeves house of AD 1911

A day spent in perfunctory on-line search, trying to learn why Roseland Terrace’s Reiley-Reeves house has been called “untutored Queen Anne” led to some surprises.  First, “Queen Anne” houses are, of course, American, but by Victoria’s death in 1901 they were no longer so popular.  For example, in Carthage, MO, the exemplary tour guide shows Queen Anne dating from the ‘80s and ‘90s of the nineteenth century.  So, indeed, in Google Images.  Rather than invest in a new book, I have ordered three more Dover reprint volumes: these have a special authority, since they are photographic copies of period books, and they usually include plans.

One must wonder whether such epithets are not fashionable merchandising devices, like the “Kate Greenaway” dresses for little girls of my childhood and “Grand Prix” attached to perfectly ordinary street and road cars.

One Dover reprint that I ordered is for wooden Victorian houses, some with arcades.  The old photo of the Reiley-Reeves house shows a darker-colored arcade.  The white stuff on all later photos of our house is unharmonious.  I can hardly go with an ice pick to find out! 

Much more puzzling is the plain clapboard south face of the house.  Of course, there might have been another house as little as six feet away, but not when the big house was built—as isolated as if on a hilltop.  For that matter, the only view of the house that looks “Queen Anne” at all is from the NE.

Going through the invaluable MacAlester book that heads my basic reading list, I noticed in the period around AD 1910 a style that typically has proportions of the Reiley-Reeves house: Richarsonian Romanesque.  Remarkably, clapboard though it is, this house has some of the quietly solid, not to say stolid, character of that style.  Why, in the San Francisco Bay Area we have somewhat Richardsonian houses faced in brown shingle (also typical of the first two decades of the twentieth century).  It seems to me that, whatever Mr. Reiley and his architect called its style, the house is true to its own decade.

It is essential to remember that if they did, perchance, fancy a Richarsonian character, there is no local stone here to build it of, and the arcade in the old photo somehow does not look like brick.

My friend jbk sent the tour booklet provided by Erv Dunham, and I thank them both.  I have no intention to master American Houses, but questions do arise.