Sunday, February 10, 2013

Minimal Craftsman Bungalows

Further on the houses with the tau motif, see post for 15 March, below.
This seems to be a good type to begin with, and to agree with the trade catalogues that Sears was not too lax in calling them bungalows.  They have the proportions of small bungalows, and they have a couple of traits that are Craftsman rather than "Stick" or merely nothing in particular.
Someone else has borrowed from the library all the Gustav Stickley books (reprints, to be sure), and I'll check these details as soon as I can.  
The detail that particularly caught my eye is the discrete and structurally expressive, though actually purely decorative, T-shape motif that would represent a tenon driven through a horizontal board such as would distribute weight and thrust to prevent posts from cracking and gable ends from separating.  (That is, it derives from a member analogous to the Doric Order's abacus).  Precisely because it is so Stickley-like and so purely aesthetic, I started looking for it on every house where it might be used.

On house A it is visible on the independent pillar that supports the corner of the porch.  There might also be one at the top of the main gable.  When the rain stops, and I have finished the basic coverage, I'll go back to see.  There are two front doors, though it is not a duplex, and there are transoms above them (the wider door with side lights might be an upgrade option).  The transverse gable looks original.

The former owner, who restored house A to its present handsome condition,  informs me that he had to replace an incorrect and unsightly post; so, for a correct one, he took the design from a house on Oleander.  If that house had been a snake, it would have bit me, because it is back-to-back, across the alley, from house B; it has a suite of motifs similar to B's but the alternative porch, all the way across.  It is 2147 Oleander:
Its brackets all look original and add a variant to the repertoire, and it adds to the likelihood that the tau motif did originate (in true Craftsman, pre-WW I) as a wedge or, at any rate, as a tenon holding the parts of the "capital" together.

House B is one of the plainest of the six-room houses in Roseland Terrace.  It is also a pure hall-less double shot-gun plan.  Though the porch railings are replacements and the stair steps, it is otherwise wholly unaltered.  It, too, has two front doors with a transom over each, and its original screens, except where window AC units had been placed (the transoms, too, have their original screens).  It also still has its hexagonal tile roofing and the semicylindrical tiles over the ridge poles both on the main roof and the little porch gable.  The brackets that aesthetically relate the uprights to the gables are right out of  Craftsman bracket charts.  This house, plain as it is, and cheap as it must have been (cf. Sears model "Winona"), is all tied together—and that is the Craftsman ideal (Stickley must have liked the Doric Order just as I do).  One of the transoms is stuck, but the other one still works.

I once tried to buy House C.  It has been through several owners since, and the present ones have served it well; even one of the earlier ones did so.  When I first saw it a quarter century ago, it was a one-owner house and though it had suffered from the old age of its owners (and had extension cords for extra electrical sources in the attic!) it still had its original half-enclosed back porch in the rear and, best of all, it still had the 1920s woodwork throughout, all with its original rubbed oil and varnish.  That was why I wanted it so badly, never mind that thousands of dollars in plumbing and electricity and work on the porch, screened in for sleeping when all the children had been young but left for junk and deterioration in recent decades, would be necessary.  The house remains sound and straight, but it has lost the dark woodwork that goes with Craftsman and lost all its screens and even has its window frames painted white.  I can understand how under Cape Cod fog one might want a bright, white sort of house, but not in the semi-tropical light and heat of Louisiana.  Getting the white (or worse) paint out of the cypress is nearly impossible.  Still, every time I look at House C I wish it were mine.

An October photo, so just disregard the Halloween stuff.  This house is very like B above, but its brackets have been reduced (the one at the peak of the gable is missing).  Flipped left to right, it is like B, and its T motifs at the top of the posts that rest on pillars to l. and r. of the porch (the bushes largely hide these on B) show what B's are like; of course, they ought not to be the color of the clapboard wall.  The one door, with its transom, is just like the two on B.  They all look as if they came from the same warehouse.  Notice that the T motifs are on the sides of the posts as well as the front.  How nice the windows would look if they matched the frame of the screen door.  I have no doubt that the interior use of space is like (or was once like) that of B: it can't be much different.  With whatever modifications, the space must be six cubical spaces, 14' square and 9+' high.  Housepainters, except for those you pay almost by the foot, and to use a brush, love to convince owners that they don't really want all that pointless detail, and they really hate wooden screen frames, made to measure, and with metal screening!

And why did I suspect an overzealous housepainter for what is lacking on D, despite its elegant use of T motifs on the pillars?   Considering how delightfully the main gable bracket relates the divided attic vent to the other three brackets, will one be surprised on going back to look behind the foliage to find T motifs on the post pillars here, too?   By the way, the camelback that you see beyond the main gable probably gave the owners two more rooms.

This is a detail of the newly renovated and repainted (and at some time much lengthened, too) house to the south of the Reilly-Reeves house.  This is 822 Park Blvd.  Notice above that little American flag planted in a flower pot the applied pendant rectangles at the top of the white post.  They don't quite look like the applied T motif, almost more like outsize dentils!  
House F, at left, is actually 840 Park Blvd. (telephoto lens is not advised here!).  It is closely related to 2332 Wisteria, which is in Drehr Place (being east of S 22nd), and both have pi rather than tau on the faces of the pillars, among other similarities.

By lettering these houses, when I have some addenda to the descriptions, I can come back and add them here, at the bottom, letter by letter