Wednesday, March 20, 2013

After all those Bungalows

At the intersection of Drehr and Wisteria; the house in the center has a bungalow porch; the one at the right is a recent 'ranch' style that tries to harmonize

The Results of a Research Project involving Bungalows
In memoriam, H. W. Janson 1913–1982
In  the year when, back at UC Berkeley, I was in my last year (to finish my dissertation and get a teaching position) H. W. Janson came in the Spring semester as a visiting professor.  I audited the course and still have my notes.  But Janson was very friendly with graduate students.  Once when he invited us to his rented apartment (in our own neighborhood, too) he had the page proofs of his new textbook, the famous History of Art (Prentice-Hall / Abrams, NY, 1962).  The first edition was reprinted through the 1960s, and I still have mine, good as new.  It was printed in West Germany and bound in Holland.  The page proofs were quires each wrapped in two sheets of plate paper for four colorplates; there were 79 colorplates, the 849 black-and-white illustrations being in the text.  The joint publication in half a dozen languages (many more later) also engaged preeminently the Hirmer Verlag (but they even had managed to get a couple of plates from Skira), and the “trade” edition differed only by coming in a box.  We had never seen such a textbook, and none of the succeeding editions was so well sewn and well bound; their history, being printed in various Asian nations and eventually with the availability of color offset printing with all the illustrations in color (but none full colorplates) is that of the death of the printer’s trade in the West, and a couple of them tended to fall apart after a semester in a book bag.  (If you want Janson, buy a 1st editon, any printing, even ex-library, even well worn, not only for the plates and binding but because it is what Janson himself actually wrote).
It was not long before the textbook industry and instructors in some colleges pressed for breaking up the text into topic paragraphs with headings, also for less demanding extended reasoning: in other words for a typical textbook.  Janson had spent years creating a book lucid enough for a high school graduate and worth reading by his peers, a book to educate the reader.  For young people he and his wife Dora (who had also helped on the big book, but less substantially) wrote another book.  I still believe that the 1st edition of History of Art is a masterpiece.  Succinctly but lucidly, seemingly easily, he develops and connects ideas, always based on the fewer than a thousand illustrations that could be allowed.  It is a book to re-read many times, and I assigned it for courses until, after his death, it was so compromised that for a while I went back to a boxful of University Prints and offset text, locally produced, to go with them.
All that to lead to the chapter most formative for me.  Part Four, the Modern World, pp. 453–464, Neoclassicism and Romanticism, unfolds the importance of considering them together, as the whole period c. 1750–1850, as fundamentally Romantic, beginning as a reaction from late Baroque, from Rococo.  Resorting to Nature, to Reason, to reform, to sincerity as ideals, to embody all of this any of the existing styles could be employed.  Latrobe’s idiosyncratic classical and neo-Gothic submissions for Baltimore Cathedral, Monticello and the Houses of Parliament and Labrouste’s expression of honesty in baring and managing cast iron in the Bibliothèque Ste-Geneviève, as Janson carefully elucidates them, do belong together.  And the music and literature of their time go with them, too (Janson assumes some literacy in his students).  You will have to read this for yourself.  It was the modern chapters, beginning here, that Prentice-Hall and the teaching profession had trouble with, especially, I daresay, in producing the Teachers’ Guides, with tests provided, that were demanded.  Wasn’t the big book a guide for the teacher?  If one disagreed with it, wouldn’t it be good to wrestle with it in discussion sections?
For all the years when I taught the survey end to end, a full year, I kept re-reading it and endorsing it to my students.
The other day I realized how deeply engrained it was in my own thinking.
A broadly sprawling beautifully maintained house with that broad, low arch that even in India is seen on bungalows and emphasizes their attachment to the ground.  But its details are neocolonial and as such the Drehr Place list labels it.  But I say that this is basically, by Los Angeles standards, a bungalow house.
On the other hand, the books that I bought after I came to teach in the South, when I had more spending money but usually no teaching assistant and much less time, did all get read, but not as I had read two decades earlier.  I used to go to the LSU bookstore and buy the books ordered for courses that I wished I could take.  I did read the McAlesters, but usually only used it as a Field Guide.  When Barnes & Noble opened a big store here, I went and replaced all the books that I had not recovered from lending or had given away, and, as a new bookstore has a wonderful array of standard sets, I bought most of the World of Art books that I didn’t have already.  I did read Primitivism and Modern Art, (the Romanticism of the last fin de siècle) but (I tend to use sales slips as bookmarks) I had only looked at The Arts & Crafts Movement, by Elizabeth Cumming (for England) and Wendy Kaplan (for America).  Now, in the latter, when I went looking for something else, I found the approach that I had learned from Janson fulfilled.  I mean, Pevsner does just architecture and loves only Voysey, and the handsome coffee-table catalog from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, American Arts & Crafts: Virtue in Design is all mobilier, as if architecture itself weren’t an art and a craft, as Stickley and the whole arts and crafts movement realized, had tended to keep my mind in a rut.  From William Morris to van de Velde and Behrens and Wright finally that whole fulfillment of sincerity in workmanship and truth in design fell into place, that whole romance of society and its arts, the continuity of Revolution-born art, including most (all?) of modernism.  In this comprehensive picture I found a place for all the bungalows.
For the ones that I love best are indeed the California kind that are linked with Craftsman, but they aren’t the only ones.  Also, those English cottage kinds come from the Garden Cities like Richard Norman Shaw’s at Leyswood, and the neo-Tudor is analogous to pre-Raphaelite renderings of pseudo-medieval tales, not to mention Victorian fairy tales.  And so on.  My hands-down favorite Arts & Crafts house is (or was) McKim, Meade, and White’s Low House, Bristol, Rhode Island.  The McAlesters just call it Victorian Shingle!  It is not an accident that the little virtuously fireproof house that Wright contributed to Bok’s Ladies’ Home Journal has the same rooms in a square sort of plan as that woodcraft puzzle where you have to move the piano from one corner to the opposite one, which also little bungalows have that aren’t the two rooms by three rooms under a single gable, a single ridgepole.  Fireproof: that’s thinking like “green” today, and Pasadena’s Wilson touted concrete, too.  And there sits the prairie-hugging Robie House at the University of Chicago and a whole new suburb of flat-loving Wright-influenced houses in Amsterdam.  Our Garden District can be taken as the salaried man’s equivalent.  The japonoiserie of even our 1920s bungalows is the last chapter of orientalism, and other bungalows need not participate in it.  On the other hand, the array in Wikipedia Commons, if you go to it for bungalows, seems to have been culled from the Realty trade.  Some don’t even say what city the house is in, and some only use the name bungalow for sentiment.  Why, a couple of blocks from where I live there’s a cinderblock box called Honeymoon Bungalow, painted in pastel colors, and I think it may be practically a whorehouse. 
On our side (the south side) of Government Street I was surprised to see a large and healthy bottlebrush tree, so common in California, rare here, in full bloom
So why keep the term “Bungalow”? 
First, though doubtless even in the suburbs of Bangalore itself, more than a century ago, there was the easy variety of styling that relatively expensive houses usually display; though certainly in Henry L. Wilson’s Bungalow Book there are houses that just look like sprawling Hollywood life style such as greeted expatriate Europeans in the 1920s and 1930s as much as like anything in The Craftsman (and the latter itself featured quite a variety of houses designed by Stickley’s friends, I daresay), though most of the one-storey houses or one storey with a bedroom dormer or a camel back in the Baton Rouge Garden District represent every variety of house we think of as bungalows, the fact is, no matter what kind of facing they have, they have an overall shape and character that we see and think ‘bungalow’. 
So what is the McAlesters’ problem?  Take the last seven lines on their p. 454 (overlooking the questionable assertion that they were inspired primarily by Greene and Greene and admitting the importance of ‘extensive publicity in such magazines as [most of them women’s magazines]’; thus familiarizing the rest of the nation with the style "a flood of pattern books appeared, offering plans for Craftsman bungalows; some even offered completely pre-cut packages of lumber and detailing to be assembled by local labor.”  How shocking!  It meant that even without adequate local resources you could build the house you wanted.  Just as Sears offered the same kind of children’s clothes as big-town children had, and the same kind of red wagons, and…you name it.  How shocking to build your home from a pattern book!  How shocking if you could even get an English Garden Cottage that way.  ‘High-style interpretations are rare except in California…One-story vernacular examples are often called simply bungalows or the Bunglaloid style”.  What can a Californian, like me, expect of an author who uses  a “speedometer” illiteracy like “bungaloid”? 
I say that a bungalow is a vernacular concept in the first place.  That salaried Americans like them very much.  That it is OK to like red roses (my grandparents had American Beauty red roses on trellises in front of their house).  That it is OK also to grow up in a Council House and call it by that name, if you live in England.  After all, honesty of many kinds was at the root of all Arts & Crafts, though the movements were founded by and driven by the classes that had the means and leisure for them.  Ask William Morris if that isn’t so.  If America can use its railroads and rivers and Sears and Roebuck entrepreneurial drive to ship Kit Houses, yea, even in Colonial styles, all over the country, that is a kind of exceptionalism that I can rejoice in.  Besides, my 85-year-old house cost very little and is still in good condition, and I like it.  I can use its spaces as my own life style requires, a claim that “Falling Water”, for example, cannot make.

With thanks to my friends in Missouri.
And on Park Blvd, here is a really pretty English Cottage, across Cherokee from the Reiley-Reeves house; most of ours with such a profile and massing are Tudorized.

Go to the album for other images, and click on an image here to zoom the set.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Bungalows, Pi, Tau, Brackets

A bibliographical note at the end.
Some more images in Picasa Album
See also addenda throughout the text, made on 16 March 2013

Consider Very Early Frank Lloyd Wright
(G) 2332 Wisteria. The additions to the sides date from 1936.
(G) 2332 Wisteris

(G) 2332 Wisteria

(F), below,  is as nearly a duplicate of (G) with pi rather than tau below the slab and even with brick pillars and a balustrade made of bricks, too, as I have found anywhere in the Garden District.  They also have that squared bracket with bevels making a sort of blunt nose.  We are reminded of all the publications of Japanese prints and studies of Buddhist temple bracket roofing that were available worldwide just after WW I (and since the Chicago Fair, 1893, which had a Japanese temple).
(F) 840 Park Blvd. (not 822)
(F) 840 Park Blvd. (not 822)

(F) 840 Park Blvd (not 822)

(F) 840 Park Blvd (not 822)

These put the houses with the most similar details, in the two blocks of Wisteria between Camellia and S 22nd (nos. 1968, C, and no. 2142, B), discussed previously only as "minimal", in a different light.  The tau motif houses also have smaller brackets, not of squared timber beveled to make blunt ends.  They are small houses.  The Drehr Place house (G) even has these square brackets on the side.
Since I could climb a bit onto house (B), I was able to show its porch pillars with the tau motifs on three sides and, in profile, looking indeed like tenons to secure the joint to the pillar of the slab that holds the bracket (though these occupy a different position at Horyuji).  You can see how the idea of joinery interested the designer (and presumably the contractor, too).  I think I have seen such a device if not in Stickley then in Roycroft and, I think, in some beautiful specimen in the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg (a museum for evryone who really loves furniture and cabinet work and photography, too—as you see I do, and, yes, they have pottery, too).

 (B) 2142 Wisteria
  (B) 2142 Wisteria
  (B) 2142 Wisteria
  (B) 2142 Wisteria
 (B) 2142 Wisteria
(B) 2142 Wisteria (details 
Though the brakets are triangular, they have their edges beveled in the same way.  And notice the little bar across the head of the main gable bracket.
(C) 1968 Wisteria (with Halloween decorations removed)
Both of the last two have transoms over their doors.  (C) seems to have the same floor plan but it may have been "simplified" as in series  that the MacAlesters show, pp. 18–19.  It is not so much changed as having lost some elements.  That is why when I say that only a few houses share traits, it must be remembered that like ancient coins that have passed through naive hands for cleaning and have been "tooled" many little houses have become hard to study comparatively.
Somewhat "exceptional" colors of paint can make a simple little house look strange.  I wondered whether this one's balustrade was Japanese-inspired, too, but, though probably meant as "oriental", I haven't found one in any of the Genji scrolls' illustrations or on a screen or in a print.  It is sad, though, how few Asian images I now have access to.  There are "oriental" oddments in Late Victorian, too.

(H) 1001 Park Blvd, at Olive

Some useful references on line and  in general books:

The bracket system came to Japan with Buddhism, but Japan which retained and evolved architecture in wood and joinery without metal as an aesthetic is the best place to look and a century ago was best known in the west (and well published).

Alexander Soper (for the architecture) in Pelican History of Art

Robert Treat Payne and Alexander Soper, The Art and Architecture of Japan, Harmondsworth, 1955.
This is the 1st edition, which I have at hand, in which Horyuji veranda is Figure 5 and other drawings, the Kondo Figure 7, details of other roof bracketing Figures 8–9.
Horyuji is what I thought of on seeing 2332 Wisteria Street, not that Horyuji is copied, but that I knew it was, along with Todaiji, the one that American architects, especially the Chicago school of Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Prairie” period, would be sure to have known.  The low profiles are shared by the Prairie House and the American Bungalow (California included), and Japanese prints were well published, too (though Wright had a lot of late printings of them), and the Japanese temple at the 1893 World’s Fair was probably influential, too.  To my shame, I don’t know if San Francisco had one, too, but Golden Gate Park has its Tea Garden (which during WW II we did not call Japanese, though it was).
By the time, 1923 ff, that the Tokyo Imperial Hotel was built, Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture was in a different phase.

Spiro Kostof, A History of Architecture, OUP, 1984.
p. 652 and p. 654, where with the title The Japanese House, we have plan and section and the established ratios based on tatami mats and then beautiful drawings of classic Japanese joinery.  That is how the 8th and 9th century temples were built, too, entirely without metal or glue.
The Craftsmen and those sympathetic with them understood, indeed adored, this Japanese aesthetic, but what we have on our bungalows is expressive of joinery; as in early Doric order in Greece the forms come from and express the wooden origin.  That is the only reason I mentioned it; the international Arts & Crafts, and specifically the Craftsman movement, is a tincture to the souls of all the early modern movements, in whatever form it takes.  Early 20c theories on the formation of the Doric and Ionic orders participate in it.  Craftsman pottery is just as japonais as the cult of joinery and the use of painted screens.  Just look at the Whistler room in the Smithsonian in Washington, DC.  Compare Hiroshige's (themselves western-influenced) prints with Monet's famous Impressions that gave their movement its name.  Consider Mme. Monet's silk kimono.  Our brackets are the last echo of the movement for, at once, the foreign and the primitive.  Did Gauguin mind putting a Buddha in a Gallo-Tahitian painting?  So it doesn't matter whether the buyers of some of Baton Rouge's bungalows knew or did not know (or that the minor architects knew or not) the japonaiserie of bungalow brackets.
We tend to think of OUR age as the one of dissolving cultural boundaries.  Nonsense!  I wish I had a set of photos of all the sets in major opera houses of performances of Puccini's "Madama Butterfly" in its first quarter century on stage.  More than screens and kimonos, I am sure.

For that little house with a green balustrade, see the porch of the Griswold house in Newport, RI; ibid., p. 646.  I think this belongs to Victorian stick style.  And it seems, if the limited repertory on line is not misleading, that this kind of balustrade was really Chinese.  A young architect drunk on folios of beautiful engravings of Asian temples and palaces and gardens may not have cared, just so long as it was "oriental".

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Not all Bungalow are ours

Back to Bungalows

November.  Not the right season for roses.
The literature on bungalows is huge, but ours are of the latest and, mostly, of the smallest.  Bungalows as a type do not really outlast the Great Depression (recent houses designed to evoke them only do so in the same way as mixed neo-classical ones do our Federal houses).
But, my own memory not going much beyond my childhood in the '30s, I did not realize how early the bungalow as a small family home, or a "starter home" really was.  Nor did I understand that California was one of the cradles of the type(s).
The stereotype of the small bungalow was enshrined not only in the earliest Kit catalogues but encapsulated on a Victor Black Seal 10" shellac 78rpm record that I got from someone's attic and have owned since the 1960s.  The refrain goes:
I want a little bungalow
Where the red, red roses grow
A tiny little home so cozy
Just room enough for me and Rosie;
Away from all the ice and snow
Where the warm, love breezes blow
We will live on love and kisses
Cupid he will wash the dishes
In our bungalow where the red, red roses grow.
Since the sound is pretty good,  I guessed it dated from the early 20s and I dug it out when I started studying the Roseland Terrace bungalows.  I was going to lay the disk on the scanner and post the label here, but now the Library of Congress has created the National Jukebox and provided matrix, date, etc., everything for us, including the photo and the sound
Just listen: it really does say that Cupid will wash the dishes!
And it was recorded on June 6, 1913, in Camden, NJ.

Sears had a Kit house almost identical to mine, which was built in 1928, in its 1916 catalogue, and a similar plan appears in the 1910 edition of Henry L. Wilson's Bungalow Book.  That's California, and 1910 was the 4th edition.  Stickley, in The Craftsman,  published a number of wonderful bungalows, not cheap, by California architects and/or designed for California patrons.
My point in giving you here the whole refrain of Where the Red, Red Roses Grow is to show it as a stereotype of young salaried newlyweds.  The houses Stickley admired might be fairly small, or almost the size of Pasadena's Gamble house, but they oozed taste and, in a word, craftsmanship.  Like the knock-offs of designer dresses and furniture (not least Craftsman style) sold at Sears, et al., and in the furniture stores on small-town main streets, the 1920s bungalows built in response to the new refinery and the new university campus, in the decade of Boots and her Buddies, when Baton Rouge needed lots of family housing, and fast, are pared-down editions of the pre-World War I bungalows, for the most part.  Sears even sold pared-down whole craftsman interiors and furniture, and I cite only Sears because of their catalogues.

I was thinking: When I was in the 1st and 2nd grades I would curl up in an overstuffed chair and read the Sears and Montgomery Wards catalogues.  In particular, I was fascinated by things such as snowsuits and adult undergarments and varieties of cooking stoves and washing machines and horse saddles and stirrups, and I wonder how much reading vocabulary we actually got from those, relative to Dick and Jane or Sally and Jerry at school.

We do have some big bungalows here, and I'll try to photograph several when DST comes, tomorrow.  Anyway, now I'll get back to my core idea: how one needs to take all things together, not because they will be alike but because they are, when contemporary and in the same town or region,  part of one composite whole.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Two Exceptional Houses on Park Blvd.

From across Park Blvd. (once Goldenrod) just S. of Wisteria
614 Park Blvd
614 Park Blvd
614 Park Blvd
614 Park Blvd

(1) The Boehringer House.  614 Park Boulevard.  Substantially finished by summer, 1912.  No turret, but character is, as Mr. Cazadessus said, in this case the restrained "Queen Anne" of the early 20th century.  Every detail of the original porch balustrade, as well as the brick foundation, and the occuli and the stained glass and, for the moment, even the original layout of the kitchen, are preserved.  If the exterior weren't distinctive and well made enough, the semi-partition dividing the dining room space from the living room space is done with a reduced-scale Ionic order matching that of the front.  The major doors and windows all have transoms.  The siding also is plainly original (where storm damage did not require replacement).  The upper balustrade is waiting to be replaced (the mortices are there, too).  It also has a full-height, finished basement in the rear (and now I must ask whether some of the other large houses that sit high enough have a basement, too).  I can't imagine a finer house in what was then a town of about 20,000, when the old Capitol was the only one, when LSU was still downtown, and just look at the desolate looking field in the c. 1912 photos of what is now Roseland Terrace.

The Cazadessus collection photos labeled c. 1912 in the East Baton Rouge Library prove that it is indeed less than a year younger than the Reiley-Reeves house.  Only, the Boehringer house is perfectly up to date and handsome and normal for a Revival house with what came to be called Queen Anne elements, and the Reiley-Reeves is a truly idiosyncratic creation.
--ccc 030 is the best photo of the Reiley-Reese house (no one knows whom the label refers to)
--cc 031 shows the foundations of the Boehringer house in progress and the newly built Reiley-Reeves house two blocks to the south
--cc 049 was taken from Governmemt Street to S
--cc 048 was taken from "back line" (probably Olive Street) to N; it shows the Reiley-Reeves house but no evidence of foundations of the Boehringer.
--ccc051 shows the Boehringer house, much as it is today
--ccc038 shows the Reiley-Reeves, barely finished, not yet tidied up
These all are labeled 1912, and I judge that the one with the B. family on the porch in summer clothes is only months later than the laying of the house's foundations.

General as that "1912" for almost all the photos may be, the relative dating of the two houses seems sure, and the clothes are just right for the children and their mother, like those of early autochrome photos taken about five years earlier.
Would that we had such good dating for the next.


The front of the house, showing the importance of that anta defining the pedimented forefront and making the transition to the semi-hexagonal entrance.  And I guess those are real cypresses.

The front to the house partly shaded
The front entrance on the corner
The side entrance
(2) The really "Queen Anne"-like, superb house at 1103 Park Boulevard, at the corner of Myrtle, so probably to be accounted in the third part of the Garden District, though it is on Park and at least the north side of Myrtle is in Roseland Terrace.
Placing the entrance at 45° and so making a transition from the front block to the rest of the house, and placing a balustrade above it, continuous with that in front of the upper windows, while the plain, solid corner of the gabled front element of the house, given an anta capital makes a subtle but unmistakable colossal order, and the transoms of the front windows are aligned with the round pediment over the door make this the most enchanting and elegant house in the whole Garden District.  I like it even better than 717 Camellia, even perhaps better than the Boehringer at 810 Park.
Another note of interest is the side entrance, not an add-on but designed to go with the façade on Park Blvd., it is an independent entrance on 1912 and 1910 Myrtle.  I suppose it may be rented today, but it LOOKS like something rather rare here: it would lead to the kitchen (thence to the dining room) and to the kitchen stairs and up to rooms or small apartments for a cook and general servant.  Of course, it might be for an unmarried child or a maiden aunt—anyone who might want a private entrance, and in that case not necessarily limited in access to the rest of the house.
I really want to find a house with this plan!  The side entrance to the kitchen and servants above is seen on some pre-World War I house plans, but I don't know what the expectations were here.  Here, after all, persons who could help with the house and garden lived within a few blocks and could walk over to any house that needed 'help'.  Why, in my modest block one of my neighbors, who was about 80, was helped by Lucy, who came twice a week.  But Lucy had helped her since she was married...  I don't really know very much about Baton Rouge.  I do know about the laundresses coming up the alley; it was explained to me as the reason for having the stationary tubs in the garage before the days of Bendix washers and dryers.
Anyway, this house is itself discreet and almost severe, but that brilliant unification of the entrance and the gabled front and the continuous balustrade is, to me, more breathtaking than all they geegaws on the elaborate houses of the 1880s and 1890s.

The Ones that look Georgian or Colonial

Broad Houses with optional wings, low, serving as breakfast rooms, sewing rooms, solaria, portes cocheres.  Thus like Sterling's "Vernon" shown in the last post.
The solid-looking architectural-seeming wall around the house on the SE corner of Oleander and Camellia, its NS alley at left (this is looking southwest, but the violation of the enclosure by swamp oak and power pole is plain).  The foliage had been very dense.
Judging by the little line drawings in the handbooks, for Revival purposes, Georgian and Colonial (or Federal) come to the same thing: windows neither clustered nor pedimented, let alone in the Palladian manner, often with side wings.  No overhanging eaves or decorated cornices.
As a youngster, I regarded such houses simply as those of lawyers or doctors or shopowners who could afford them.  They were grander than any that my friends had and much more modest than summer homes at Newport, say, or English country houses.  I thought that they were meant to look respectable, like (for example) a First Presbyterian Church.
  717 Camellia
So the first one here that came to my attention was exposed, only about 50 meters from my house, when the skirts of Hurricane Andrew brought down a swamp oak or two and some power poles on top of it.  At that time the growth around it was fairly dense.  For years one would have thought that the house was not fully occupied, so little happened around it.  Recently a friend of my own age recalled visiting there half a century ago.  Another hurricane later and one began to wonder if anyone was caring for it; by then I knew it was a handsome house.  In 2011, someone began working on it, a window frame at a time, scraping and fixing and painting.  It wasn't some large contractor, but just a man or two.  Bit by bit, weather permitting, they have kept at it, and, plainly, the house is saved.
Like the catalogue house in the last post (the "Vernon", offered by Sterling in 1916) this is austere and its side wings seem to be a solarium and, perhaps, a small parlor or sewing room or den.  Its tile roof and its size stand out in Google's satellite view.  The shutters were removed for cleaning and repairs and, I trust, will be re-hung, since their attachments are still present.  Seven windows across.  Historically, its monumental austerity would have betokened earliness, but as part of a nationwide revival it means rather that the buyer knew exactly why he wanted it this way.  There were publications of such houses, and his builders would have purchased the one he favored, its porch its sole pretentious feature.

2040 Oleander
The smaller, daintier white house across from this one not only is in excellent condition but has some fairly elegant millwork besides arches over the main windows.  It is very elegantly proportioned.  I think that the upper windows that are almost dormers and have little gables are perhaps not quite Colonial but still quite demure.  The house faces the crossing street, at 2040 Oleander.

620 Camellia at the SE corner with Wisteria, the 'wing' at east as a porte cochère, as shown in the detail.

A block to the north a somewhat larger house still has its shutters but some housepainter has deployed his power spray and covered everything with the same sticky gray-blue paint.  The house had needed paint, but cleaning those shutters some day will be a huge chore.
Other basic types of houses also have these one-storey side rooms, usually with that lovely balcony on top.  This house also has wider eaves as well as true dormers.
I think that the same choices of windows, doors, and what not would be found to have been used in all of these.  The last time I worked in close association with architects and their students, they all had to use the big book, published annually as I recall,  containing all the types and specifications and standards for standard building practice, for houses, schools, shops, etc.  Why, even today the building supply outlets sell a range of windows and doors, besides fixtures.  19th-century books of designs show readymade woodwork and publish how to frame various kinds of structures.  It is fun to consider what most fancy Late Victorian houses would look like as naked skeletons!
By the way, I looked up the use of W.C., which must mean a flushing toilet, and the first one was at the Crystal Palace in 1851.  By the time that Roseland Terrace was laid out, the realtor specified modern plumbing, so that none of these houses had to build its own septic system.  Most of these houses, including the Reiley-Reeves house that was built in 1911-1912, have a humble building in back, but it isn't an outhouse, and a number of Victorian plans show behind the kitchen a small "WC", I presume with an overhead cistern and a chain to pull.  Almost all the bungalow plans of the 'teens and 'twenties show a bathroom in the middle of the house with the conventional symbols for the familiar fixtures.  I think that the structure at the rear of the property is for garden tools and laundry.  A washerwoman came and used the stationary tubs, with a washboard, a manual wringer, and, I suppose, a boiler for hot water.  I have seen all that in the 1960s in towns and villages.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Big, Colonial-Revival Houses: I

Baton Rouge, Government Street, south side, just east of S. 22nd Street.  I suppose that this house dates from the 1920s, since the Drehr Place part of the Garden District lies right behind it.
Actually, the GDCA's list of houses in Drehr Place reports that this house was brought from downtown decades ago and can be dated c, 1910, and consents in calling the windows Palladian.  No wonder it is uncomfortable beside the anomalous building at 2202 Government: it would be more comfortable next to the Boehringer house at 614 Park, since each adheres purely to an early 20c revival style.

The Big, Colonial-Revival Houses in Roseland Terrace
I am learning how to make better use of the McAlesters' Field Guide.  I must give myself the same advice as I gave undergraduate students: just read every sentence, in context, too, carefully (the authors already have pared it to the bone in editing).  The date-spans that they give are important.  So, while I look in the Victorian chapter for "Queen Anne" (which they, too, p, 268, dub "rather inappropriate" as a label), I look in the chapter, Eclectic Houses, Colonial Revival, c. 1880–1955, (but mostly pre-WW II) for the houses we have here.  And there are good reasons for the difficulty of dating them, without going to the State Archives to check the contractors' records, which I shall not do.  I mean, in the first quarter of the 20c it is perfectly plain which elements are taken from "Queen Anne", in quotation marks, whatever the original appropriateness of the label may have been.
As I have said, this topic has been a new one for me, allowing me to work my way to what I had never realized before, since choosing labels for a data base is really NOT what study is all about, and I like to imagine students reading these posts not to classify the houses in a Linnaeus sort of way but to follow an old student in self-imposed exploration.  What I do know is that nothing can be assumed to be true simply because everyone knows it.  For example, every ancient Greek knew the Trojan War...
The underlying socio-economic and technical history of my entire subject is the same for the history of Sears Roebuck, et al., for factory manufacture of readymade clothing, for the rapid development of automobiles and highways, for machine printing of newspapers, including rotogravure, etc., for the integration of railway networks and postal networks, for the migration (as always) of farm workers and younger sons to the towns, making them cities where they weren't before: all these require all the others.  All was accelerated by the first world war, too, even if America was less affected by it.

Now, practically any house might be a "kit house".  Here is a 1916 page from the Sterling catalogue for a model they call the "Vernon".  It is a kit in the sense that all the materials, pre-cut and cut to exact measurement, including the hardware and most of the fixtures, as well as the plans and specifications, will be assembled and shipped to the lumberyard of your choice, in one or more box cars.  Sears, which we can thank for publishing the most and the most re-printed catalogues, baldly advertises that you don't need to hire an architect or hunt down all the fixtures needed, or get a lot of expensive (and perhaps misleading) estimates, or worry about things not fitting or not working, since Sears will do all that and more 'at no extra cost' for you.  Sears also, of course (but so have the larger mills locally and nationally), has the whole range of manufactured options, such as windows and doors and machine-carved swags and dentils and cornices and capitals, that you require to make your house your own.  The photos (in the 1926 catalogue) of their mills and warehouses and customer-service installations, with lots of phone operators, make us better understand Grand Rapids and even Dearborn.  They guarantee their shipment down to the last joint and hinge.  My own family's experience with Sears and Montgomery Ward in the 1930s, as I recall it, endorses that claim, if only in a small way.
You cannot tell a kit house, I am quite certain, from a non-kit house.  Even Sears is happy to sell you the specifications and plans and supply lists for the house of your choice for $10.  Options included.  Studying one of the simplest 'bungalows', I can see no reason why a family with several brothers and brothers in law and uncles, such as could raise a barn, could not build their own kit house, but equally I am sure that most hired local contractors.  I used to think that the Baton Rouge houses were built by local companies, but not necessarily, since Sears and several other companies supplied cypress window and door frames (for hardness and freedom from warping) and likewise all the other components in recommended woods.  In either case, windows could be bought at the mill, along with all the other sorts of millwork, and might or might not be of regional origin.
When you look through the architects' publications and through the re-prints of The Craftsman you see the minds of real architects, striving and competing to do something special, and their houses, as much as a dress by Worth or a car by Dusenberg or Bugatti, could not be machine-cut (like J. C. Penney or Marks & Spenser clothes or the body of a Ford Model A).  Now, I'm not sure, and short of proving that a house was unpublished—or, on the other hand, is in some catalogue that I haven't seen–I can only say that I have not yet found a pre-WW II house, no matter how large and expensive or small and cheap, that cannot have been built from commonly available published plans and specs.  Even as early as Wilson's 1910 catalogue, the option of pre-cut and kitted out, or in plans and specs only, was offered.
Just as the sub-Vogue gowns had to be simplified and otherwise economized to be sold by Sears and its competitors, so did the sub-McKim, sub-Craftsman, et al., to be profitable and practicable as kit houses.  And one of Chanel's little dresses and today one by Ralph Lauren are distinguishable from the fads that they inspired as surely as a real Queen Anne chair is distinguishable for a Grand Rapids knock-off made of ash, or worse.
The Baton Rougeans who owned our big houses in the Garden District may have driven Packards, of course, and the bungalow drivers (naturally) had Model A or even an inherited Model T.
It is one of the secrets of the Garden District's enduring success that they lived side by side in every block.  Post-war developers' tracts, as I think I said already, were doomed to be Watts (and in Oakland, CA, Brookfied Village, q.v).