Monday, January 26, 2009

Italianate Houses In Jamaica Plain

Italianate villa - design by Andrew Jackson Downing.

When I put up the first slide show of Jamaica Plain houses, I didn't post any information, so I'll say something about the Italianate style here. The Gothic and Italianate styles both came to the United States from Britain. Through plan books like those of Andrew Jackson Downing, architects and housewrights were introduced to the elements of the Italianate style, with some builders using the books as an influence, and others copying designs from the books directly.

British travellers to northern Italy had taken home with them an appreciation of the rambling villas they saw in towns and villages. These houses had flat or low sloping roofs, wide eaves, and generations of additions cobbled on to the original simple house. Some had square towers added, and many had brackets under the eaves of the roof. This villa style became very popular in the United States, but is rare in Jamaica Plain.

Italianate architecture came to Jamaica Plain more often through the adaptations of Downing and other producers of design books. Downing created house designs for three classes of buyers, the well to do, the middle class, and farmers. The style he promoted for entry-level buyers was a gable-front L- or T-shaped house, with a more vertically sloped roof than the classic Italianate villa design, but present in Downing's cottage drawings. The roof brackets are always there, sometimes in pairs, as well as moulded window surrounds. This is what is most commonly seen in Jamaica Plain. Houses with 2 1/2 floors, gable ends facing the street, sometimes with an L wing on the back are found on Lamartine, Myrtle, Newbern, Holbrook streets and Atherton place among others. The Italianate style is seen in the double houses at Warren square, and two classic examples with square towers sit opposite each other near the top of Myrtle street (all displayed in the slide show).

Drawings above taken from: Cottage Residences, Andrew Jackson Downing.

1 comment:

  1. Hi there! Thanks for the big up! Love your blog - we for sure share our love for Jamaica, art, culture, nature, people...I could go on and on!