The week of October 12 came and went so quickly I again didn’t get everything on my list crossed off for this project or my “real” job. No surprise, it seems to be the pattern these days. The following details, though, I am happy to report:
VCU Facilities Management has electronic versions of “rough” plans for the row, and has been so kind to share their files. This will be a great addition to the project.
More importantly, Dr. Brownell and I have identified an early ancestor to the porches, found in Victorian Architecture: Two Pattern Books by A.J. Bicknell & William T. Comstock. This book reprints the 1873 edition of Bicknell’s plans with 75 plates and Comstock’s 1881 edition with 80 plates. A close cousin to almost every element of the porches are shown across these two books, including the “teeth” – as we were calling them – below the frieze, and as Dr. Brownell realized perhaps are actually a simplified version of lambrequins, as these plates seem to make more clear.
This presence points towards an elaboration of the Italianate element that derives from antiquated Venetian awnings, and promoted by A.J. Downing in his 1842 Victorian Cottage Residences, highlighted on page 116, and his 1850 Architecture of Country Houses, on page 316.
In reviewing all of these findings related to the ancestory of the porch design, we really began asking ourselves “Who designed this?” If appears to be someone who has the ability to arrange forms effectively but doesn’t necessarily have to understand the significant history and theory of architecture. These are Italianate concepts being presented under a “Queen Anne” style. Comstock tells us in his preface to Modern Architectural Designs and Details that “present styles, while bearing many characteristics of their prototypes, do not adhere strictly to any of them. Thus, is what is known as the Queen Anne (of the present day) is frequently introduced classic features,” which is exactly what we see with the porch frieze and simplified lambrequins. He also tells us that some, if not many, of the designs in pattern books of the later 19th century were the work of “moonlighting draftsmen.”
UPDATE: While reflecting on the lambrequins, and noticing more and more this feature on wood porches I pass, I took a peek back through my photos from Venice from last year. Sure enough, one of the first snapshots had captured this design feature still in use today…
and below you can see the motif repeated on our porches…