Tuesday, January 23, 2018

From Towers to Turrets to Projecting Bays: The Democratization of High Style House Design

Syracuse, NY. Loomis House ca. 1890. 623 Euclid Ave. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2012
Syracuse, NY. Levi Chapman House. 321 Westcott Street, in process of "vinylization". Photo: Samuel Gruber 2012
From Towers to Turrets to Projecting Bays: The Democratization of High Style House Design
by Samuel D. Gruber

Its been frequently documented that high-style innovations and affectations in art and architecture - but also in cuisine, fashion and etiquette - trickle from the top down, often being simplified and standardized, so that much of what we commonly mistake for vernacular design is actually highly inflected interpretation and adaptation of class trappings. Of course, it works the other way too, and often the lowest street culture can influence or even be adopted as a trend by the arbiters of high-style taste. Grafitti Art, the Blues, Rock and Roll, and Hip-Hop are examples. But so are rustic masonry and exposed timber construction in architecture and design.

We can certainly see the trickle-down side of this at work in the architecture, design and construction of houses in the Greater Westcott Neighborhood, which in its entirety provides a primer on late 19th-century and especially early-20th century Middle Class residential aspirations and achievement. A look at the continuing diminution of corner towers - so prevalent in the Queen Anne style in the last decades of the 19th-century - is a good case in point.

Syracuse, NY. Babcock-Shattuck House. Photo: PACNY 2014
In 2013 I posted about Queen Anne style houses in the Westcott Neighborhood. Just before 1900, there were still some big houses of wealthy owners that sported impressive attached corner towers. The recently-restored Babcock-Shattuck House at 2000 East Genesee Street has a round corner tower, while the Loomis House at 623 Euclid Ave (corner of Lancaster Ave), and the Levi Chapman House at 321 Westcott Street, have large attached polygonal towers. 

The Loomis House is still relatively good condition, but the Chapman House has unfortunately been recently covered with vinyl siding. Both of these houses have their towers knit into the main building fabric with the tower roofs cut into the slope of the main roof much as a dormer would be. Though thoroughly integrated, the towers still stand as strong elements of the overall composition and they are not obscured by porches. They give these houses the castle look of a baronial homestead.

After 1900 we traces of similar tower on many houses, but these get lower and flatter, and are sometimes obscured by porches. The houses at 108 Avondale and 708 and 714 South Beech Street are smaller than the Loomis and Chapman houses, but continue the form. The projecting corner tower still has its own polygonal roof.

Syracuse, NY. 108 Avondale. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2015
Syracuse, NY. 708 South Beech St. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2013
Syracuse, NY. 714 South Beech St. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2013
In the next shift, however. the tower has entirely morphed into a projecting polygonal bay surmounted it own prominent gable. It no longer is the corner of the house, but rather projects directly from the facade, filling about half the house width. Like the towers, the projecting bays still help to draw more light into the house by having windows facing three directions. Typical examples of this form are at 710 and 729 South Beech Street.

Syracuse, NY. 710 South Beech St. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2012

Syracuse, NY. 729 South Beech St. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2012
This form is related to another common type popular in the area from at least the early 1890s. This is a another simple variation on the Queen Anne type, but stripped down and easy to build on a small lot. The type is defined by L- or T-shaped roof, with a cross gable, and projecting front polygonal bay. The narrow bay is surmounted by a prominent gable, and this is set against and almost within a larger gable that spans the entire house width. There are several examples on South Beech,  Dell, and nearby streets, though more often the projecting bay is rectangular and not polygonal.

Syracuse, NY. 711 South Beech St. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2012
A simplification of this type does away with the extra smaller gable, and instead extends the primary gable over the bay, creating a little covered recess over the front door. An example of the this can be seen at 116 Clarke Street at the corner of Strong Ave.

Syracuse, NY. 116 Clarke St. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2012
A slightly more complex profile is created at 1007 Euclid Ave., just off Strong Ave. In this two-family "flats" type of house, the projecting bay is under the main gable, but a second gable is created over a second story porch that spans half the width of the house. The lower porch presses up against and partially obscures the projecting bay - all that is left of old corner tower.

It is only a small step  from this to a form very common in the 1920s and visible in my own house at on Clarke Street. Here the projecting bay is only built on the second story. Down below the wall is flat and totally taken over by the porch. The upper story bay does, however, get its own gable. This does provide the simple frame house a lively profile that harks back two generations to the Queen Anne style.   

Syracuse, NY 1007 Euclid Ave. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2011
Syracuse, Ny 123 Clarke Street. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2016

That second story bay is very functional. It pulls in sunlight for much of  the day since it has windows facing east, south and west. Is is one of Luna's favorite spots in the house (see photo below).

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

More 19th-Century Italianate Houses in the Greater Westcott Neighborhood

Syracuse, NY. 1326 Madison St. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2016
19th-Century Italianate Houses in the Greater Westcott Neighborhood
by Samuel D. Gruber

Three years ago I wrote a post about Italianate houses on the Eastside. As I noted then, there is only a small number since the area was sparsely inhabited during the third quarter of the 19th century when the style was most prevalent. Those Italianate houses that do stand were mostly farm houses along the major routes in the district, especially East Genesee Street and South Beech Street.

I am now researching a large part of the Eastside for the Greater Westcott National Register Historic Site nomination and I've some across a few more examples of the style - though I still know nothing about the history of these houses. Most surprising is the group of Italianate houses in the 1300 and 1400 blocks of Madison Street, which is one of the oldest settled stretches in the area. The 1892 map of the city shows that Madison, Cherry, Bassett, and nearby streets were already fully developed with houses at the time. In 2016 I wrote about the demolition of two Italianate houses on the 1000 block of Madison Street.

The most impressive of these houses is a handsome and beautifully maintained brick structure at 1326 Madison Street. Especially attractive is the saw-tooth detailing on the belt course and the raised brick patterns on the window arches.

Syracuse, NY. 1326 Madison St. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2016
There are also two large and attractive wood frame Italianate houses in the 1400 block of Madison Street. One of these, #1400-1402 on the corner of Cherry Street is now for sale. This sprawling structure with a good north view has long been a favorite of mine and now that it is for sale perhaps I'll get a look inside. It is listed as belonging to C. L. Hovey on the 1892 map of the area. Though the house has been re-sided and altered in other ways, its 19th-century form remains true. 

Both houses on the 1400 block have been added to, in the typical fashion of Italianate houses where extensions are added to the main cubic block. Sometimes these may be contemporary with the main structure and may have contained kitchen, storage and other utilitarian functions. It seems that the original blocks of both these house were not exact cubes, but were more T-shape in plan, allowing rear side rooms to get some north light.

these houses probably date from the 1870s or early 1880s.

Syracuse, NY. 1400-02 Madison St.at the corner of Cherry St.  Listed as belonging C. V. Hovey in 1892. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2016
Syracuse, NY. 1410-12 Madison St. Listed as belonging to M .M. Park in 1892. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2016
There are also a similarly-dated house on Bassett Street, an irregular street into which Madison ends, and which pushes up the steep hill from the former Erie Canal until it turns and intersects with South Beech Street. The Italianate house at number 133 has a wrap-around porch which appears to be original.

Syracuse, NY. 133 Bassett St. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2016
In the previous post, I mentioned one small Italianate house at 726 South Beech Street. There is another at #615. This is a simple two-story wood frame block with a ground floor projecting polygonal bay (probably the dining room). There is a later Colonial style (ca. 1900?) full-width ground floor front porch with an off center entrance beneath a small pediment. This once would have been decorated with a relief decoration. The house is now covered with vinyl siding, but because of its prominent siting it still holds its own.

Syracuse, NY. 615 South Beech St. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2011

Monday, January 15, 2018

Atonement Lutheran Church, a Modern Landmark on Syracuse's Southwest Side

Syracuse, NY. Lutheran Church of Atonement. Edgarton & Edgarton, archs (1962). Photo: Samuel Gruber 2014.
Syracuse, NY. Lutheran Church of Atonement. Edgarton & Edgarton, archs (1962). Photo: Samuel Gruber 2014

Syracuse, NY. Lutheran Church of Atonement. Edgarton & Edgarton, archs (1962). Photo: Samuel Gruber 2016
Atonement Lutheran Church, a Modern Landmark on Syracuse's Southwest Side
by Samuel D. Gruber

I began this post over a year ago after attending an excellent concert by the Onondaga Civic Orchestra at the Atonement Lutheran Church. It was the first time I'd been in the building and I was impressed by the aura and warmth of the spacious modern interior. I've previously written about several mid-century modern religious buildings in the region, such as Saint Daniel's Church in Lyncourt. Atonement Lutheran Church is certainly a modern icon on the Southwest side, one of several churches built in the decades after World War II to serve the expanding population and to take advantage of new building technologies and to cater to new modern aesthetic tastes.

This church was opened in 1962 and designed by the local architecture and engineering firm of Edgarton & Edgarton with input from the Dept. of Church Architects United Lutheran Church in America, and constructed by R. A. Culotti Co. Edgarton and Edgarton are best know locally for the design of the War Memorial of 1952. In 1959 they designed the shopping center (East Syracuse Shopper) at James and West Manlius Streets. Very little is known of the firm. L. Dexter Edgarton was a graduate of Syracuse University and in the 1950s the firm has an office in the Marine Midland Building downtown (if readers know more about the firm please let me know).

The Atonement church congregation moved from 1926 Midland Avenue where they had occupied since 1927 a Gothic Revival style parish house and community center designed by Frederick R. Lear. The planned sanctuary had never been built due to the Depression and World War II.

Syracuse, NY. Former English Lutheran Church of Atonement, Midland Ave. Parish hall and community house, Frederick Lear, arch (1928). Photo: Samuel Gruber 2012
Syracuse, NY. Lutheran Church of Atonement. Edgarton & Edgarton, archs (1962). Photo: Samuel Gruber 2014
The old and new buildings could not be more different. The 1962 structure is a large shed-like building constructed of concrete block and brick on the outside and redwood inside.  Some of the concrete block is ornamental, used to create decorative screens outside the tall side windows.  The most prominent feature is a tower at the entrance surmounted by a large aluminum cross. Inside there are several innovations.

Syracuse, NY. Lutheran Church of Atonement. Edgarton & Edgarton, archs (1962). Photo: Samuel Gruber 2014
The white Georgian marble table-style altar is free standing, said at the time to be the first free-standing altar in the region. This surrounded by a large communion rail which can accommodate more than 40 people. There is little ornament inside the sanctuary, but a large plain white poplar cross is suspended from the ceiling in front of the plain brick eastern wall. The church was dedicated by Rev. Dr. John M. Joslyn, who had already been serving as pastor for five years when the 1928 building was dedicated.

 Architects Edgarton & Edgarton were already known for their engineering of the impressive 160-foot vault of the War Memorial. Though the Atonement Church is much smaller, they still attained a sense of vast space with the high wood ceiling raised on wood supports that also buttress the brick walls.
Syracuse, NY. Lutheran Church of Atonement. Edgarton & Edgarton, archs (1962). Photo: Samuel Gruber 2016
Syracuse, NY. Lutheran Church of Atonement. Edgarton & Edgarton, archs (1962). Photo: Samuel Gruber 2016

The congregation was founded in a church dedicated in 1906 at the southeast corner of Brighton Ave. and Cannon Street, but by the spring of 1926 “the church building was no longer adequate to meet the needs of the enlarged Sunday School and Congregation, and the congregation was authorized by the Board of American Missions of the United Lutheran Church to dispose of the property as soon as possible and to lay plans for the erection of a new Church and Parish House.” In May 1927 the property on West Brighton was sold to the city of Syracuse to be used as a precinct station. On June 19, 1927 ground was broken for the erection of the Parish House and Community Center at the corner of Midland and Brighton Avenues. The cornerstone was laid November 13, 1927 and the building was dedicated in September 1928.