Monday, July 15, 2013

Houses with semi-cylindrical...II: The Boehringer House

II. The Boehringer House (1912)
By request, the newly finished house, from which, using also the windows, you can identify the interior by reference to an exterior photo taken when it stood alone.  The infant oak tree had been planted only months earlier.  You can verify the glass in the door and front windows as well as the stained glass.  Also the lattice enclosure of the semi-enclosed NW back porch.

I already wrote about the house built for the Boehringer family when I identified it among the Pazadessus photos in the Digital Archive of the East Baton Rouge Parish Library as an "exceptional" one.  It is simply exceptionally well designed and well built.  The 1912 photos show its foundations being built when the Reilly-Reeves house was just finished in the winter to spring of 1912 and this house by late spring complete but not yet much landscaped and in the summer of 1912 evidently inhabited by the Boehringer family with two little girls.  If you just count the rooms, there are no more than eight (not counting baths and porches): it faces east, and on the south side has a living room, a dining room, a pantry, and a kitchen (the last less high-ceilinged but present already in the newly finished house); on the north side it has a real entry hall (which also accommodates the stairway), then with a protruding bay matching that of the dining room opposite it a room that century-old plans often label library or study, but, directly accessible from the dining room through the corridor-hall, you could call it a drawing room in any of the old meanings of that name.  I imagine that a WC/bath is behind that (it would correspond to the pantry), but from the exterior I see a semi-enclosed porch.  The semi-finished basement (which makes a fine wine cellar and serious workroom)  is accessible here, from an interior stairway.
This kind of a basic house plan, not always as large as here but often with more bays both laterally and in depth, is a standard one and, if I can manage it, I shall write about it later as such.  Suffice it to say here and now, from the front door you can look straight through to the back door.  This is still true of the Roumain house, too, additions notwithstanding, and a couple of generations earlier of the Fuqua house in Beauregard Town.  Since I am not an architect, I squirm at the idea of counting other people's rooms and arrangements.  Here an LSU family who understand their house and love it have most kindly let my camera in, too.  What delights me here, beyond its stately and gracious character and its very solid and refined workmanship (window frames and transoms to die for), is its fully informed use of a real Ionic order throughout and its matching upper and lower balustrades (both visible in the old photos, the upper progress but preserved in pieces).  This architect knew that an Order is not limited to columns with all the right details; he also knew the entablatures to choose among, the pedestals for Ionic, and all the other moldings.  No thought was spared.  What is more, the designs of the windows, stained-glass included, are preserved.
From SE.  This one of the two original oaks survives.
The semi-hexagonal bay of the E windows of the living room.
Shortly after midday the beveling of the heavy glass door windows, in the latest style, reveal their prismatic character and also show the order on the porch and the balustrade and part of the Christian 
Science church directly opposite it.  The lens telescopes the width of Park Blvd, which then was Goldenrod Avenue.
 The through hall from a point between the Study at left and the dining room at right, so right in the middle of the house.  All the openings, with transoms above provide the openness (supposedly a modern idea but also more than a mere idea before AC or even efficient ceiling fans (unless you wanted your house to look like a barber shop); this house type is not only light but, no matter how you paint it, airy.  In fact, though the camera is good about handling color balance, the alternating casts of pale cyan and pale pink exaggerate colors.  Today no one knows whether the woodwork was dark or light in 1912, but magazines and catalogues do sometimes call for off-white paint (Greene and Greene did so sometimes) and I like to think of the Ionic character of all the main rooms with their exactly matching Ionic merely reduced in scale as carrying out the idea of marble columns,
because here all three of the showy rooms, Living, Dining, and Entry, use the Ionic (complete with entablatures and with pilasters like Ionic antae).
The ceiling medallion in the Living Room is the most elaborate of the four that I noticed, but in the same intelligent taste as all the rest.
Here in the semi-circular part of the porch, we see that the capitals larger and smaller do actually match each other.
It would have required video to complete continuously the design and space.  Here at left is the door into the hall looking E from the dining room, through the living room, to the front windows with which we began in the second image above.  This image is taken from the doorway to the pantry:
The pantry when new would have needed to be kept as cool as possible; in this one case the window in its S wall has been enlarged.  This image shows only a small part of the pantry, which by itself contains enough still life to keep an artist happy for weeks on end, as light shifts and usage gradually alters things.  There are some more views in the Album.  Here we see that the wonderful planks of the flooring are as fine as farther frontwards.
By present-day standards the kitchen may be small but it also boasts a genuine moveable table that won't wobble and, pulled out, could seat six.  And having a pantry helps a lot.

Now, back to the front, to imagine having just come in the front door.

This oval window is easily located on the N exterior.  It gives light to the landing where the stairs turn to enter the upper group of rooms (assumed to be bedrooms, which are doubtless, as they usually are, light and ample with window nooks for reading on the N and S, for example).
Not being a farmhouse, this one has no "mud room", but a couple of chairs to your right as you enter could take a book bag or a jacket or a place to sit to remove galoshes.  As for such impedimenta, the bench with a lifting seat would handle roller skates and the like.  Two steps perpendicular to that small utility space are marked by the heraldic stained glass and paneled to match the rest of the wall.
With the Living Room open at our left we have the through hall setting out to pass the Dining Room door.  One of the great virtues of this generous house, in my opinion, is having plenty of room for one of the owners' true sofas, strong and ample (not that I tested it!) and for an upright piano.  A real family needs lots of storage places, and this house actually needs all those provided.  The remaining width of the hall still is greater than the aisle of any First Class air liner; think rather of the coach cars of one of our great trains.  The paneling design is carried up the underside of the stairs.
This picture was taken for the nice door moldings and the open transom into the Dining Room, but a detail like that pendant knob (think of a newel post coming straight through and needing a terminal) delights me no end.
So here is a conspectus of the Entry Hall, integrating the Living Room's Ionic divider and showing the smaller and plainer ceiling medallion in the center.
Behind the piano, so to speak (on the other side of its wall), is the other middle room with its windows and center panel (its landscape-motif stained glass matching that in the corresponding place in the Dining Room).  Academic families don't need to hire Interior Decorators; in this house as in many others books and chests fill the bill, but the owners also have their own taste and must take real pleasure in their house. 

As for locating things, the neighboring lots do cramp this one, so the image is askew, but on the underside of the eaves of the semi-circular part of the porch you can see where part of the balustrade is fastened, then the heraldic stained glass on the lower landing and, farther right, the oval stained glass on the upper landing.  Subtracting the neighbor's garden gate, you discern the semi-hexagonal bay of the Study and, above it rectangular shape of the upper-storey group of windows.
At the foot of the front steps, part of the very solid dark red foundation bricks laid in 1912 are visible and the ample space for bench, table, and swing in the porch itself.

Though most Baton Rouge houses do not have real basements, the rear, west, part of the Boehringer house does have one, deep enough to stand in comfortably.  This was taken, as I recall, just to the north of the kitchen.
This nice house in the 600 block of Napoleon St. in the southern half of Beauregard Town has a wrap-around porch and gables over the centers of the front and the sides, but it is not interested in classical references.  Someone, fairly recently, has restored this one.  It looks either more rustic or earlier to me.  
Dated "c. 1910" in the register for Drehr Place, this really handsome house (also minus its balustrades), with its "colossal" Ionic order and Palladian-arched windows, probably has a plan rather like that of the Boehringer house.  I'd love to get inside to see its front rooms.  It was moved to the 2200 block of Government Street next to the one-time Methodist church, now being restored, when it had to vacate its original site downtown.  Anyone want to help me to identify it?  I can't imagine anything better to live in than one of these big, square houses; the Boehringer one is merely, for my taste, an uncommonly lovely one.

A whole album of details of the Boehringer house is in my Picasa albums.
And, for additional exterior views, photos nos. 226–233 in the album: