HOME DIGEST Twists and turns in Colonial Revival story

HOME DIGEST Twists and turns in Colonial Revival story

Bill Cunniff

Forty residences — from 1781 to the present — are honored in a new book, The Colonial Revival House (Harry N. Abrams Publishers, $45). Two of the homes are in the Chicago area. The book is illustrated with 275 photos.

“Some element of Colonial Revival exists in every American town,” said Richard Guy Wilson, the author. He has served as an adviser and commentator on many television programs on PBS and A&E (including more than 65 episodes of “America’s Castles”). Wilson is a professor in architectural history at the University of Virginia.

The term Colonial usually means the period of initial European settlement (1607 in Jamestown, Va., and 1620 in Plymouth, Mass.) to 1783 (and the Treaty of Paris).

Spanish- and French-style homes that date into the 19th century are also part of the Colonial legacy. This is because states such as Texas and California were, in a sense, colonies up to the time of the origin of their statehood, which wasn’t until the mid-1800s.

The term Colonial Revival came to encompass post-Revolutionary homes as well as the Federal period (1780-1820), and also the Greek and Roman revivals that thrived during the 1820s and 1860s. So the term Colonial Revival has a wide scope.

“The Colonial Revival story is not simple and straightforward, but contains many twists, turns and ambiguities,” Wilson said.

Thomas Jefferson, at least initially, wasn’t a great fan of Virginia’s Colonial houses. “Very rarely constructed of stone or brick, much the greater portion being of scantling and boards,” he grumbled. “It is impossible to devise things more ugly, uncomfortable and happily more perishable.”

Yet, Jefferson later shifted his position. In the 1820s, he advocated that the house in Philadelphia where he wrote the Declaration of Independence be preserved.

Jefferson was an architect himself. Despite a lack of formal education in architecture, he designed several of his own houses, including Monticello. “Jefferson made important contributions to American architecture,” Wilson said.

The oldest home in the book, in Cambridge, Mass., once belonged to writer Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. (Longfellow had the garden behind the home redesigned in a pattern his wife likened to “a Persian rug.”) George Washington resided in this home in 1775 and 1776. Washington’s Mount Vernon is discussed in the first chapter, too.

Author Washington Irving lived in a Tarrytown, N.Y., home that he called Sunnyside. His intentions were “to make a little nookery somewhat in the Dutch style, quaint but unpretending.” Details include a mixture of gables (with crow steps) and clustered chimneys.

The second chapter notes homes from the Civil War to 1910. The 12,800-square-foot McFaddin-Ward House in Beaumont, Texas, features four giant columns supporting a two-story portico, and underneath it, 20 columns support a one-story porch.

Homes from the 1910s to World War II are covered in chapter three. The Blair House in north suburban Lake Bluff was designed by David Adler around 1926.

“I was fascinated by Adler’s sharp eye for detail and scale,” a draftsman recalled. Sometimes, the draftsman would be doing small- scale work, in eighths of an inch, and the master architect would instruct him to make an adjustment. “Moving a line a quarter of an inch, Adler saw a difference in proportion or expression,” the draftsman said.

When Blair House was just a few years old, a writer for “Architectural Forum” said the residence “has achieved all the storied charm of a venerable ancestral home, traditioned through generations.”

Adler also designed the Reed House — which stretches along 224 feet by Lake Michigan in north suburban Lake Forest. The gallery is 83 feet long.

The last chapter has residences from World War II to the present. Around 1980, an art-collecting couple in Greenwich, Conn., wanted an architect, Allan Greenberg, to design a house to look like Mount Vernon and also to resemble airy classical houses of the 1880s. The result “is not a copy of the original, but a corrected one — ultimately more classical than Washington ever created,” Wilson said.

“Washington’s Mount Vernon is a small house, cramped in many areas,” he said. “Greenberg’s Greenwich house is large and ample, and a fully modern structure.”

The Colonial Revival House, (Harry N. Abrams Publishers, $45).

TINLEY PARK SHOW. About 200 home-improvement products and services will be presented this weekend at the Tinley Park Home Improvement Show. The products include windows, doors, remodeling, heating, cooling, roofing, tankless water heaters and waterproofing.

The latest in lighting, security systems, carpeting, flooring, kitchen appliances and bathrooms will be shown as well. Items for the yard include gardening, landscaping, decks and patios.

The show will be at the Tinley Park Convention Center, 18501 S. Harlem, (just off I-80 at Harlem Avenue). Hours are 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. today, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors (62+) and free for children 18 and under. Parking is free.

Gardening guru Roger Swain and home-improvement authors Katie and Gene Hamilton will speakers at various times at the show.

Tinley Park Home Showcase. Ryan Group, (800) 883-7469.

HOME BUYING SEMINAR. A panel of mortgage lenders, real estate agents, attorneys, credit counselors, home inspectors and insurance agents will take questions on Saturday at a free home buyers workshop in Country Club Hills.

The seminar will be at 10 a.m. at the Country Club Hills City Hall, 4200 W. 183rd St.

Home buyers workshop. South Suburban Housing Center, (708) 957- 4663.

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