Thursday, August 18, 2016

Going "Dutch": On the Origins of the Ubiquitous Gambrel Roof "Colonial" House

Syracuse, NY. 700 Allen Street (corner of Clarke St). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016
Syracuse, NY. 122 & 120 Concord Place. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016
Syracuse, NY. 250 Cambridge . Photo: Samuel D. Gruber
Syracuse, NY. 100 block of Fellows Ave. two versions of the gambrel roof "Dutch Colonial" house, one showing its gable to the street; the pother its shed dormer. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016

Going "Dutch": On the Origins of the Ubiquitous Gambrel Roof "Colonial" House
by Samuel D. Gruber

In my Westcott Neighborhood in Syracuse, and in many other areas of the city and inner suburbs developed in the early 20th century, one of the most notable house types is the so-called Dutch Colonial Revival House, with its distinctive gambrel roof.  I'm often asked the origins of this house type, with the interlocutor hopeful of some telling historical anecdote. Alas, the history and popularity of the form has less to do with early American history than more modern American marketing. 

There is nothing Dutch about the house and it has nothing to do with Dutch heritage. As Daniel Rieff, in his Houses from Books: Treatises, Pattern Books, and Catalogs in American Architecture, 1738-1950: A History and Guide (University Park, PA, Penn State university Press, 2000) has pointed out: "Although the house type was recognized as not found in Holland—while common enough in England —for better or for worse, this house type must be called “Dutch Colonial,” as it has been for more than ninety years."

Architects had been playing with the gambrel roof for houses since the 1880s, when they were common elements in shingle style houses. There were also some examples beginning around 1900 of the gambrel roof associated with "Colonial" elements  In 1907, however the type with a long shed dormer (rather than several discrete dormers) by the architect defined and presented by architect Aymar Embury II in a house he designed for a Garden City competition. The next year he popularized the house type in an article in International Studio (August 1908), “Modern Adaptations of the Dutch Colonial,” and in 1913 he published a book, The Dutch Colonial House: Its Origin, Design, Modern Plan, and Construction (1913), which forever established both type and  name. It became  popular throughout the United States but it is possible that after Embury's designation it had a special appeal in New York State because of local (but not in Syracuse) Dutch history. 


Syracuse, NY. 122 Concord Place. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016
Dutch Colonial House as described and illustrated in Loizeaux, Classic Houses of the Twenties, "Which Style of Home?"
Design 5-A071. Robert T. Jones, ed. Small Homes of Architectural Distinction (1929).. Photo: from Rieff, p. 211

In plan, however, the house differed little from the even more common gable roof house, popularly dubbed Colonial, though in many of the Dutch designs the construction of the second floor (bedrooms) and attic were conflated. The gambrel roof - where each roof slope is broken into two jointed parts, allowed for more head room on the topmost story, in what otherwise might have been an attic.  In the larger versions, where the  house had two full stories and then a gambrel roof, the third story became more usable space - with high ceilings and more light.

In the Westcott neighborhood,the Dutch style is especially evident on the one-block long Concord Place which was mostly developed in the years between 1900 and 1914. A big house at 116 Concord has a gambrel cross-gable, and there is a similar house at 120 Concord.   At the east end of the street even Arts and Crafts architect Ward Wellington Ward adapted the Dutch style in 1910 for the main wing of the Tuck House, at 126 Concord Place, one of his early houses in the neighborhood. 



Syracuse, NY. 116 Concord Pl. (c. 1900). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016

Syracuse, NY. 120 Concord Place. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016
Syracuse, NY. 126 Concord Pl. Ward Wellington Ward, architect (1910). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016

Even in the teens, the gambrel roof was also being employed in more modest designs such as the New Eden and Tucson house models in the Aladdin Built in a Day House catalog of 1917. These houses derive from the simple gable-front "homestead" house that was come on small farms and more rural lots, but also was an easy-to-built starter home for a family of modest means living on a city street. Slightly more robust versions of these homes can be found throughout the Westcott Neighborhood, including 712 Lancaster Ave. and 115 Clarke Street. 
The New Eden Aladdin Built in a Day House Catalog, 1917
The Tucson. Aladdin Built in a Day House Catalog, 1917
 
Syracuse, NY. 712 Lancaster Ave.  Built after 1908. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2013
Syracuse, NY 115 Clarke St. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2011

In the 1920s the Dutch Colonial design was a very popular variant of new Colonial Revival architecture, especially in the expanding urban and suburban development area where single family homes were promoted. The two-story version was favored by proponents of well-design small homes, and many examples were featured in widely circulated manuals and books of house designs during the 1920s. In the first three decades of the 20th century, the so-called Dutch design was a popular one in various building catalogues.

According to Daniel  Rieff 

Soon versions of it could be found in mail-order-house company offerings. Aladdin’s attractively designed “The Lancaster,” “a Dutch Colonial type and one of the most truly artistic Aladdin homes,” is depicted in its 1915 catalog. Perhaps reflecting its relative newness as a type, the copy notes that “The Lancaster [is] an original design from the Aladdin architects.” It immediately became a popular type. “The Verona,” a gambrel-roofed house of this type available from Sears between 1918 and 1926, was another attractive version, with a surprisingly sumptuous living room twenty-seven feet long, made all the more appealing in the 1918 catalog by the rich color plates used to illustrate it. 
...Fourteen [Dutch Colonial Homes] were included in the 1929 compendium Small Homes of Architectural Distinction: A Book of Suggested Plans Designed by The Architects' Small House Service Bureau, Inc., edited by Robert T. Jones, “technical director” of the Bureau. ...Sears offered thirteen or fourteen models of so-called Dutch Colonial houses between 1918 and 1937.
The Verona. Sears Built Modern Homes (1918 catalog), 32. Photo: From Rieff color plate IX

In The Books of A Thousand Homes (Vol. 1), compiled by Henry Atterbury Smith and first published in 1923 by the home Owners Service institute, there are many examples of Dutch Colonial designs. Vol 1 is reprinted as a Dover edition with the new title 500 Small Houses of the Twenties (Dover, 1990). 

For further reading:
Reiff, Daniel D. Houses from Books: Treatises, Pattern Books, and Catalogs in American Architecture, 1738-1950: A History and Guide (University Park, PA, Penn State University Press, 2000. 
 
Smeins, Linda, 1999. Building an American Identity: Pattern Book Homes & Communities (Altamira Press, 1999).
 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Fine houses of Syracuse's 19th-Century Mayors

Syracuse, NY. 201-203 Green St. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016
Syracuse, NY. 714 North McBride St. Louis Will house. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2014
Syracuse, NY. 500 N. McBride St.. Truesdell-Schoeneck house (1892). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2014

Fine houses of  Syracuse's 19th-Century Mayors
by Samuel D. Gruber

I've recently written about beautiful Queen Anne style houses on North McBride Street and houses built by an early Syracuse Mayor Lyman Stephens. Let's continue these themes - here are more mayors' Queen Anne houses and two of the are on North McBride Street, too.

Syracuse, NY. 201-203 Green St. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016
At 201-203 Green Street, on the northeast corner of Howard Street, is a palatial brick and stone Romanesque style residence with delicate porches and a polygonal tower. In 1895, two opposing candidates for mayor occupied the two halves of the building. Republic Charles Baldwin (running on the Citizen's Municipal Reform Party ticket) and and Democrat James Kenndy McGuire (1868-1923) lived side-by-side.  27-year-old McGuire, Syracuse's "boy mayor," won the election and served until 1901. The building was restored in the 1980s by the owner Joan Farrenkopf and preservation architects Crawford & Stearns. This project, and those on the 300 block of North McBride helped revive the identity of the recently-designated (1979) Hawley-Green National Register Historic District.

McGuire was one of the most influential and progressive (despite being a Democrat) mayors of the early city, especially championing the building of new schools. He was an ex-mayor at age 33 and went on to a active and public life, especially associated with cause of Irish nationalism. His life story has recently been researched and published in the biography James K. McGuire: Boy Mayor and Irish Nationalist by Joseph E. Fahey, well summarized by James McKillop.

Syracuse, NY. 216-218 Green St. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016
Just up the street, on the north side of the 200 block of Green Street, at 216-218, is massive multi-storied Queen Anne style house with a large cylindrical tower built in 1890 for Congressman Michel E (“Honest Mike”) Driscoll who served seven terms in the United States House of Representatives.



Syracuse, NY. 500 N. McBride St.. Truesdell-Schoeneck house (1892). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2007
On North McBride Street, on north side of James Street, are two other excellent examples of the Queen Anne style; the Truesdell-Schoeneck house at 500 N. McBride Street, and the Louis Will House at 714 North McBride.  

The Truesdell-Schoeneck House was built in 1892, from an elaborate architectural kit provided by catalogue purchased by the original owner John Truesdell. The kit, which would be shipped by train and then built by local carpenters, is attributed to architect George Franklin Barber.  The house was subsequently occupied by Edward Schoeneck who served as mayor of Syracuse and a New York lieutenant governor. 

Further North, at 714 North McBride Street is Lovely Louis Will house, built in 1885, and home to candle manufacturer Louis Will. Will was Progressive Party (Bull Moose) mayor of Syracuse from 1914-1916.  The architect of the house has not been identified. The brick house is built on a sandstone foundation, with some terracotta decoration. A fine expansive porch, of the type once seen on many houses throughout the city, wraps around the front (west) and  south sides. The house has stained glass windows, purported to be early works of the Tiffany studios (n.b. I have not seen these close up).

Syracuse, NY. 714 North McBride St. Louis Will house. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2015
Louis Will was the child of German immigrants. After his father's death he and the family began making and selling candles. The firm Eckermann and Will was founded about 1875 and the successful firm later merged with its competitor to form Will and Baumer Candle Company in 1896. In the subsequent decades Will expanded his business dealing into many other area, and entered public life leading to his one term as mayor. Later, in the 1920s and 1930s he played a major role advocating the removal of railroad lines form the downtown streets leading to the creation of the elevated rail line a few years after his death in 1932. The family sold the North McBride house in 1944 and it became a residence for the Salvation Army. In 2000 it was purchased by a private owners who as worked to restore it to its original beauty.

The Truesdell-Schoeneck House is a local protected site. The Will house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.
Syracuse, NY. 500 N. McBride St.. Truesdell-Schoeneck house (1892). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2007
Add captionSyracuse, NY. 500 N. McBride St.. Truesdell-Schoeneck house (1892). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2007


Monday, August 8, 2016

Deco Delights: Former Eastwood Engine House 17 on South Midler Avenue

Syracuse, NY.Former Engine House 17, 401 S. Midler Ave. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016
Deco Delights: Former Eastwood Engine House 17 on South Midler Avenue
by Samuel D. Gruber

Old (fire) engine houses are found all across the city of Syracuse. Most of these are too small to accommodate modern-day firefighting trucks and equipment and so have been sold off over the years to private owners, or have been converted to serve some other public function. These out-dated engine houses date from the late 19th century through the mid-20th century. 

Engine House 17 was built in 1929 on South Midler Avenue and Sunnycrest Rd., after the annexation of Eastwood by the City of Syracuse in 1926. The building replaced a substantial two-story gable front, wood frame structure built in 1907 that served as sort of village hall. The new building, just a block east of the Eastwood High School (1922), continued this purpose with police and fire services until 1988.  I have not yet identified the architect or builder. Today it houses the Frank DeFrancisco Eastwood Community Center run by PEACE, Inc.


Syracuse, NY.Former Engine House 17, 401 S. Midler Ave. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016
Syracuse, NY.Former Engine House 17, 401 S. Midler Ave. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016
Syracuse, NY.Former Engine House 17, 401 S. Midler Ave. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016
Syracuse, NY.Former Engine House 17, 401 S. Midler Ave. Tower detail. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016

The Syracuse engine houses were built in many styles, including Renaissance, Flemish (Engine house 10), Tudor and Modern, but all have some basic components. The most distinctive of these features visible on the exterior are the ground floor garage bays for the engines and the attached tower which was used for drying hoses - these let anyone know what the building was once used for.

The attractive Engine House 17 with Art Deco detailing around the door frames and at the roof line served as dual public service center, housing both Engine Company 17 and Police Precinct 5, which was entered through a decorated doorway on the side.

Syracuse, NY.Former Engine House 17, 401 S. Midler Ave. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016
Syracuse, NY.Former Engine House 17, 401 S. Midler Ave. Entrance to Police Precinct 5 on right. Photo:  
 
For more on the history of Eastwood see Margaret McVicker, Did You Know?: A History and Memories of Eastwood, (Syracuse, 2010).

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Most Beautiful Houses: Mayor Stephens' Highland Avenue Row

Syracuse, NY.  Lyman Stephens House, 213 Highland Avenue (c. 1856). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016
Syracuse, NY.  Lyman Stephens House, 213 Highland Avenue (c. 1856). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016
Syracuse, NY.  Lyman Stephens House, 213 Highland Avenue (c. 1856). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016
The Most Beautiful Houses: Mayor Stephens' Highland Avenue Italianate Row
by Samuel D. Gruber


I recently wrote of some pretty Queen Anne style houses on North McBride Street in the Hawley-Green National Register Historic District near James Street. On the other side of that major artery are also still many notable and beautiful 19th-century houses, some of which are in the locally protected Sedgewick-Highland-James Preservation District.

Though most of the great 19th-century mansions of James Street were torn down in the 1950s and 1960s, but just a block north of James Street on the north side of Highland Avenue between Graves and Oak Streets, is another near-contemporary stretch of street laid out in the 19th century with its striking row of four impressive Italianate mid-19th century houses intact. Today, this block is part of the southwest-northeast axis for the Sedgewick-Huighland-James district. Highland Avenue is the district's oldest developed portion. 

Lyman Stephens, Mayor of Syracuse, 1855
The row is anchored by the Lyman Stephens House at 213 Highland Avenue. Built c. 1856, one year after Stephens served as Syracuse mayor (1855), it is one of the finest remaining pre-Civil War mansions in Syracuse. The building's form and massing are in the Italianate villa style, but the house also shows the influence of the contemporary Romanesque Revival. There is a corbel table beneath the wide, bracketed eaves, and the use of some Romanesque style round-headed windows.  Inside, the house is said to contain intricate plasterwork detail. 

Stephens, who was a prosperous salt manufacturer and Mayor of Syracuse in 1855, also built the three houses in 1874 for his daughters and their families immediately to the west of his own residence. 
Syracuse, NY.  209 Highland Avenue (1874). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016
Syracuse, NY.  The near-twin houses of 207 and 209 Highland Avenue (1874). Note the matching towers. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016
Syracuse, NY.  207 Highland Avenue (1874). Porch added later (c. 1900). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016
Syracuse, NY.  207 Highland Avenue (1874, porch added c. 1900). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016
Syracuse, NY.  207 Highland Avenue (1874, porch added c. 1900). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016
Syracuse, NY.  209 Highland Avenue (1874, porch added c. 1900)). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016

These three homes are more in keeping with a version of the Italian villa style popular in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The house at 209 Highland retains the original entry porch, but the two (originally) nearly identical houses to the west have been modified with larger porches added at the turn of the 20th-century.  The porch at #205 is especially impressive. it was applied with skill, so the two styles go well together. As a place to live, 207 was probably much-improved with that early 20th-century porch. One can imagine the evening spent there watching the world go by (and at least one resident was relaxing in the shade of the porch when I took a walk on this block a few days ago). The addition of ample porches coincided with improvement and expansion of street paving and the creating of permanent sidewalks, all of which encouraged walking strolling and perambulation at any pace. 

The westernmost house in the row is currently vacant and in need of repair, but it is, according to neighbors, scheduled for renovation.  The use of arch keystones with decorative reliefs is shared in all three 1870s houses and is one of many indications that they were built together.


Syracuse, NY.  205 Highland Avenue (1874, porch added later). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016.
Syracuse, NY.  205 Highland Avenue (1874, porch added later). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2016.