06 July 2010

carpenter italianate

We drove through Mt. Vision, New York on the way home from the family gathering at the KOA campground in Herkimer. Mt. Vision is along Route 205 on the western side of Otsego Lake, near Cooperstown. I noticed three houses that looked like siblings as we passed through the village. Each was a tripartite Italianate house with six windows on the front. The center section sticks out a foot or so in front of the rest of the facade, making a simple but lovely and classic composition. Perhaps I'd had too rich a diet of Palladianism at Hyde Hall in Glimmerglass State Park, also on Otsego Lake.

The Italianate detailing was fairly light in these houses: flat roof, simple bracketing under roofline, balanced fenestration, no columned porch. I think of my house in Alfred as carpenter Italianate. It was built by my great-great-grandfather, Martin W. Babcock, and my great-grandfather, Alpheus Burdick Kenyon. They may have used a plan book but mostly it's a cube with sheds appended out back: big cube, little cube, littler cube. The front side is basically tripartite though the porch lightens the verticality and the door is on the side rather than central as in the Mt. Vision houses. Nonetheless, they seemed to be carpenter Italianate like my house, just the work of someone building houses in a small town in the years after the American Civil War.

An added treat was a fancier version on the southern edge of town. The scale was slightly bigger but it still didn't have the porch in the example at the top of this entry. All four of the houses had closed louvers on the upper middle window. And, then, as we drove out of town, there was another bigger one. Its roof had been augmented by a hip roof: practical in snow country but it rather ruins the Italianate feel. I saw quite a few Italianate buildings with such augmented roofs as we drove around central New York State.

Since I wasn't in the driver's seat and we were anxious to get home, I didn't request that we turn around and go back so I could take pictures. The house illustrated above, found by googling "italianate houses" for images, is the Coite-Hubbard House (1856) which I thought gave an idea of the houses in Mt. Vision. The picture comes from Historic Buildings of Connecticut where it is described as: The building which now serves as Wesleyan’s President's House was originally built in 1856 for Gabriel Coite, who became a state senator in 1860 and moved to Hartford in 1862, when he became the State Treasurer. In 1863, his Italianate house on High Street in Middletown was sold to Mrs. Jane Miles Hubbard, the widow of Samuel Hubbard, who had been a US Postmaster General. Wesleyan University acquired the Coite-Hubbard House from her heirs in 1904 to become the new President's House, replacing the first building used for that purpose. [It amuses me that this example is an official residence since that is one of my postcard categories. When Judith Holliday was collecting libraries, I decided I needed a building type to collect and picked official residences. I also did an LCSH subject proposal for "Official residences" which was accepted by LC. They improved it by adding a see-also reference: See also |i subdivision |a Dwellings |i under classes of government or other officials, e.g. |a Governors--Dwellings.]

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