Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Queen Anne (and Stick Style) Survivors on Syracuse's East Side

Syracuse, NY. 623 Euclid Ave. (NW corner of Lancaster).  Loomis House, c. 1890. Photo: Samuel Gruber

Queen Anne (and Stick Style) Survivors on Syracuse's East Side
by Samuel D. Gruber

Not too long ago I posted about Italianate houses on the East Side, and mentioned that stylistically they lost popularity to the nascent Queen Anne Style in the 1870s, and to the related Shingle and Stick Style variations that continued to be built until the end of the 19th centuries as popular so-called Victorian houses.  This styles, toward the end of their run in the 1890s, often combined with the Colonial Revival style  to include Palladian windows, Ionic or Tuscan columnar porches and other classical elements mixed in with their still variegated roof lines, stairway stained glass, and vestigial corner towers.

Syracuse, NY. 106 Victoria Place. One of the four oldest houses on Victoria Place, built before 1892. It combines elements of several Late Victorian styles. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2011.

The Queen Anne style became fashionable in the United States in the late 1870s. The style is often called “Victorian” since it is the most recognizable and most visually exciting of all the many 19th-century variations of 19th-century domestic architecture – many of which are equally “Victorian”. Queen Anne, refers specifically to houses that have all or some of these characteristics: an irregular plan, asymmetrical form, hip, multi-gabled roofs or a combination of roof types, towers, dormer windows, stained glass windows, bay windows, turrets (small towers at the corners of buildings), encircling porches, and tall chimneys with decorative brick and shingle patterns are typical.

Part of the popularity of the Queen Anne style was due to technological innovations that allowed plentiful and relatively cheap lumber from the Upper Mid-West and elsewhere to be mechanically cut into standard size and shapes, and shipped by railroad across the country. Power saws, lathes and drills allowed an almost limitless choice of decorative details. These could be ordered out of an assortment of builder catalogs and even general mail order retail catalogs. Queen Anne houses and contemporary late Victorian styles were also the first houses to be fully designed with healthful ventilation, as well as internal heat and plumbing, and even gas for lighting. 

Queen Anne is the style that represents "Victorian" to many people. It is visually the liveliest of the styles of the Victorian era and was popular in Syracuse and throughout the United States.   Queen Anne houses were often quite large and date from the last decades when the professional middle class was likely to have live-in domestic help and childcare. For later generations, these houses have been too big (and expensive to maintain) and so have been transformed for apartments, offices or other new uses.

The former Babcock-Shattack house, built ca. 1895 and being restored for condominium use, is a good case in point.  By the 1930s is was used as a political clubhouse, and after World War II as a meeting place for the Jewish War Veteran's.

Syracuse, NY. Walnut Place (Walnut Park).  It is not clear which direction we are looking here, and what intersection this is, but on the right you can see a typical house of the time with a wrap-around Queen Anne style porch.

Syracuse, NY. 1540 E. Genesee St. One of the most intact Queen Anne houses, but it probably once had a porch and slate roofs. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2009

Scattered across the Eastside are several Queen Anne and stick style houses, but not so many as their once were, since much of territory for Queen Anne houses, often designed by notable architects, were the new residential districts north of the newly founded Syracuse University laid out in the 1870s.  Alas, this prime part of the "Hill" has been mostly ravaged in recent years, as part of the institutional zoning district that has encouraged widespread demolition along University Avenue and adjacent streets.  

Many fine old houses have been demolished, especially a large number between Ostrom and Comstock taken down to build the Science Center in the 1980s.  Others have been leveled for parking lots and parking garages.  Some survive, but have been seriously "remuddled" by large scale landlord to turn them into student housing.  Mostly, what we find surviving are the either the "bone" of Queen Anne houses, now stripped of much of their original ornament and trim, or more simple houses - sometimes a single gable-fronted upright house, that has been enlivened with small corner turret, or a Stick Style porch, or some other intricate detail.

Perhaps the best preserved Queen Anne house in the area (at least on the outside)  is the large green towered structure at 623 Euclid Avenue  at the NW corner of Lancaster (photo above).  This house was already standing in 1892, and belonged to E. L. and Emma Loomis. In 1901  Loomis was secretary and manager of the Bankers Mortgage Company of Syracuse and also was one those who incorporated the new Eastwood Manufacturing Company.  In 1910 he was Deputy Superintendent of Poor, a post he held for many years. He had been involved in real estate development with his father Henry H. Loomis, and the two were active in developing the Westminster Tract in which it is centrally located, and many parcels in the sixteenth and seventeenth wards.  This is one of the oldest houses in the neighborhood and rivaled contemporary houses on West Onondaga in size and decoration.  The present green color is not representative of what would been an original polychromatic paint job that emphasized the many different shapes, angles, and types of siding, especially the decorative shingle patters, some of which still survive. The house's impressive qualities recall the short period of neighborhood development before the streetcar and subsequent congestion on Euclid Avenue discouraged grand houses. 
 Syracuse, NY.  400 block of Clarendon Street, 1890s. Photo: Samuel Gruber (2011)

Many other houses in the neighborhoods have smaller towers which were only vestiges of the castle-like corner tower.  Some of these, like the one perched atop the hill at 4?? Clarendon, are simple late Victorian boxes - with one or more projecting from bays.  The addition of the corner turret, however, adds a bit of spectacle to this house.

Syracuse, NY. 737 Comstock Ave., ca. 1895.  Photo Samuel Gruber (2012)

Another large towered house at 737 Comstock Avenue, now a SU fraternity, also has a large rounded corner tower.  This much-altered building, when it had a porch and before it was painted white, probably more closely resembled the late Queen Anne style of the 1890s.  But like the Babcock-Shattuck (to which it seems related), it already also include Colonial Revival elements.

 Syracuse, NY., 612 South Beech Street.  Photo: Samuel Gruber (2013)

Syracuse, NY., 612 South Beech Street.  This house, probably built in the 1880s, preserves one of the best Stick Style porches on the East Side.  Photo: Samuel Gruber (2011)

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