What Style Is It – Turn of the 20th Century Edition
Greenwich Village, the East Village and NoHo offer a vast array of architectural styles that span their long histories. Through this series “What Style Is It?” we will explore the architecture of our area and look at the various architectural styles and their features. So far we have looked at the Federal style, Greek Revival and some mid-19th century styles including Gothic Revival, Italianate and Anglo Italianate and mid-to-late 19th century styles including Second Empire, Neo-Grec and Romanesque.
Today we will look at turn-of-the 20th century styles: Queen Anne, Renaissance and Beaux Arts.
The Queen Anne style emerged in the United States in the mid-1870’s and enjoyed immense popularity in the 1880’s and 1890’s. It was based on the work of the English architect Richard Norman Shaw, and in the United States was combined with the developing interest in 17th and 18th century architecture. The style relied on classical and Renaissance precedent, borrowing and combining features from multiple stylistic traditions, and was often mixed with Romanesque details. It is characterized by asymmetrical massing, eccentric details and contrasts in colors, materials and textures.
The Seventh Day Adventist Church at 232 West 11th Street is one such example, built in 1881 by Laurence B. Valk. The church displays much of the eclecticism of the Queen Anne style including band courses of decorative tile work, diamond lighted windows sashes, and decorative pointed gables above arched doorways. 95 MacDougal Street in the South Village Historic District is an excellent example of the style applied to an old law tenement. Designed in 1888 by Rentz & Lange, the facade is clad in yellow brick and the central section of the upper floors projects out from the main front. It is heavily ornamented with red terracotta panels, blind fans, and balcony sills, as well as with light-colored stone lintels and other trim. The facade is capped by a massive cornice ornamented with sunbursts and brackets and a crowning plinth that deeply projects out towards the street. Example of the style may also be seen in the form of updates to early 19th century row houses. Numerous houses in the East Village show this trend including 57 East 3rd Street, a Greek Revival row house which was raised to four stories in 1899 when its Queen Anne cornice was added.
The Renaissance style emerged during the 1890’s and was used well into the 20th century. This style rose to national prominence following the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago with its renowned white neoclassical buildings. Moving away from the mixing of styles and asymmetrical massing of earlier decades, the Renaissance style relied on symmetry inspired by the Roman Palazzo and applied details such as fluted pilasters as well as various decorative motifs of wreaths, garlands and other foliate forms. Red brick and brown stone gave way to light stone and brick as the cladding of choice. Within the context of the high rise building, this style enjoyed the opportunity of a more complete application of the Roman Palazzo form and typically included a dominating ground floor of rusticated stonework, horizontal bands of brick or stone (string courses) to visually separate the floors, and massive, arched windows and doorways on the ground floor.
In the South Village Historic District, 39 1/2 Washington Square illustrates the style when it was emerging. It was built as French Flats in 1883, designed by Thom & Wilson and features Renaissance inspired elements. Five stories in height, this brick and stone building has a bold, brownstone entrance and keyed first- and second-story window surrounds. In the NoHo Historic District a wonderful example of this style may be seen at 715-727 Broadway. This block-long structure was built in 1894-96 and designed by Robert Maynicke. It is clad in a combination of limestone, brick and features cast iron columns and terracotta ornamentation including wreaths, dentil courses, band courses, arched screens and keystones.
Also drawing from the Columbian Exposition, the Beaux-Arts style is derived from les beaux arts (the fine arts) in France, and wasassociated with the Ecole des Beaux-Arts (School of Fine Arts), where numerous 19th and early 20th century architects studied. The style emphasized classical (Greek and Roman) forms and features, elaborate detailing, massive plans, and heavy masonry. A hallmark of the style is its elaborate, decorated surfaces with little area left unornamented. Grand Roman arches and colossal columns or pilasters – often paired – are typically featured, along with other Renaissance and Baroque-era designs. Beaux-Arts was mostly used for grand public and institutional buildings, and for the private homes of America’s industrial barons.
740-744 Broadway in the NoHo historic district was built 1910-12 and designed by Francis H. Kimball in the Beaux-Arts style. This corner building stands on a granite foundation with a three-story limestone base with rusticated piers. There are grand granite entry ways with prominent keystones and carved sculpture and the seven story brick central section has windows set in a multi-story arcade. There are panelled terracotta spandrels with rosette decoration and the two-story terracotta upper section has windows recessed below two-story arches.
One of my personal favorite examples of the Beaux Arts style is in the East Village. The former Van Tassell & Kearney auction mart is located at 126-128 East 13th Street and was designed by Jardine, Kent & Jardine and built 1903-04. Only three stories in height, it nonetheless conveys monumentality with its application of the Beaux Arts style. The fifty-foot wide red brick facade terminates in a rounded cornice, echoing the shape of the central window. Enlivened by four bull’s eye windows and limestone trim, the apex frames a projecting limestone element that originally supported a flagpole.
Next in our series, we will look at styles which proliferated at the beginning of the 20th century.
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