Thursday, July 8, 2010
Farmhouse moved but remained the same
In 1905, George Franklin Sargent Webster - at the plow in the photograph - and his wife - on the far right - posed on their lawn for this photograph which was made into a postcard.
The house behind them had been built 2 years earlier in honor of their marriage. The original farm house, a cape, was moved up the street to 1121 Broadway. The style of the house, Colonial Revival, contrasts with the barn, built about 1800. Both use the same boxy forms but put them together in very different ways. The facade of the barn is a flat surface with windows and doors placed in patterns determined by use and proportion - the door is square, large enough for loaded wagons, while the windows are centered on their spaces. The only hint of style is in the roof overhang and the return of the eaves.
The end wall of the new house repeats the lines of the barn. But the front of the house exuberantly breaks the flat plane with bay windows and columns. The roof is broken by the front facing gable whose steep overhang returns at the eaves to become the cornice for pilasters with elaborate capitals. Compare that to the barn's simple eaves and corner boards.
At the front door the flat pilasters become the background for round columns and their architrave - the band with its cornice above the front door. Again the flat two dimensional wall is pulled into three dimensions.
The house was originally yellow with white trim. Today it is dark brown. and those bits of trees in the photograph have grown to tower over the house.
Old Eagle-Tribune office was built in Italianate Style
Four years ago the people at the Eagle-Tribune gave me a chance to write about architecture in the Merrimack Valley. They didn't know if there would be an audience, or if I could meet deadlines. Nevertheless, they let me try. This column, the 100th, is to thank them for their support and encouragement.
305 Essex Street, at the corner of Lawrence Street, was the offices of the newspapers The Daily Eagle, The Evening Tribune, and the weekly Essex Eagle in 1890. Today the building's brick is exposed, but originally, as seen in the photograph, the brick was stuccoed to resemble cut stone, like buildings you would see in Florence or Rome - in other words, Italianate.
This building was designed to be seen from the street. The cast iron columns on the first floor allow large glass windows so merchants might display their goods to passing shoppers. Those columns, which could be as plain as the concrete filled steel columns in many basements, have bases, edges and flowering capitals, a treat for the pedestrian.
The fire escape becomes part of the ornamentation with its crossed railings. The eaves, embellished with brackets and mouldings signal the top of the office block. There is a 4th floor, but it is invisible to the pedestrian.
As can be seen in the photograph, its dormers are simple, without the variety of pattern seen in the walls of the lower three floors. So the massive eave line becomes the top edge of the building.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
A city house good enough for a fairy tale
Look at all that Victorian gingerbread! all that fretwork in the gables labels the house as Stick Style.
The name comes from the pieces - sticks of wood - used to decorate the house. The horizontal banding below the windows and the same detail used to create the frieze band at the eaves are typical details of the Stick Style, as is the cross bracing under the windows. The house is built from 'sticks' - wooden studs set side by side and braced. The trim is seen as an outward show of that framing pattern.
This doesn't look like classic Greek or Roman architecture. The arches on the porch and the frieze band are the only pieces borrowed directly from that vocabulary. However, the house maintains the classic order of base (bottom), middle and top. The frieze, the banding, and the porch are also all so defined.
This house was built about 1875 by W.H.P. Wright, a counselor ( at law? city?) with offices on Essex St. Later the Church of St. Laurence O'Toole, which was on the corner of East Haverhill St. used the house first as a rectory and then as a novitiate. In 1987, Merrimack College opened its Urban Institute here. The house is now a center for seminars, classes,, and a home for student interns in urban studies. It is the focus of the college's programs for Lawrence High School students and its collaboration with the Frost Elementary School.
This home was once half of the depot for Ballardvale train stop
At 174-6 Andover St., Ballardvale, is a two story house with fancy double Italianate windows facing the street. The hood over the windows on the first floor is flat with brackets on each side. The second floor windows are arched within an elaborate arch with springing blocks at its beginning and a key stone at its top.The roof overhang extends so far to the sides and front that it needs brackets for support.
Why was this house built here amidst mill housing?
It wasn't. This house was once half of the depot for the Ballardvale stop on the Boston and Maine Railroad.
The photograph shows the station as it sat on the west side of the tracks. This end, probably the right end, was moved to Andover Street in the 1870's. The remaining half served as the depot until the 1950's when it was torn down.
The first railroad line through Andover was built in 1836 to the east of Ballardvale. Its railroad bed is still visible running through Rec Park and Spring Grove Cemetery on Abbot Street.
When the Shawsheen River was dammed at Ballardvale for water power, and the mills built, the tracks were relocated to their present location to the west of the river.
The station was built in 1848 in the style of the day, Italianate. The shape and details of provincial farm houses built of stone were adapted for an American railroad station built of wood.
The elaborate windows announce that this is an important building. The overhang originally meant to protect farmers and crops, here is extended so that it shelters passengers and baggage.
A friend, describing the way houses changed from colonial days to the Victorian era, explained that they grew higher and higher, in feeling as well as reality. Drive up West Lowell Street in Haverhill to Scotland Hill and see.
This Italianate farm house sits on a knoll looking down the road. We, passing by, look up at it. Then its detailing makes it feel even higher. A curve at the top of the gable window, draws the eye up to the peak of the roof. Or see how the slender shape of the bay window, made by its four narrow windows is continued in the two long double windows just above it. From there one's eye goes to the skinny paired brackets and dentils in the eaves, and again to the roof.
Note how the brackets are bunched at the eaves' returns to act as mock Corinthian capitals to the slender pilasters on the corners of the house - a wonderful detail that reinforces the height of the house.
To the north, across W. Lowell Street, is a Georgian brick-end farm house probably built about 1800. Although it too is at the top of Scotland Hill, it sits solidly surrounded by its fields, a nice contrast to this house, built about 50 years later, so decidedly sited above its land.
Not much is recorded about this house. A local historian told me of the Polish and Armenian families who farmed here at the turn of the century. The 1851 Haverhill map lists "Dr. Merrill" next to the dot marking this house. Other houses on W. Lowell Street are associated with Ayre's Village, so perhaps this house is too.