I’ve been somewhat focused on plants recently, tending to ignore what all those plants surround: namely, the house.  This will be a quick introduction to what should be many, many posts.

To an architectural historian the house presents a bit of a puzzle.  Like every other classification scheme dreamed by man, architectural styles promptly sprout exceptions to fly away on, Esperanza is one of those exceptions.  In North America, the vast majority of houses are built in one go, or, when there are additions, they either remain as smaller, distinct parts or are built to match.  In Europe, where building sites have been occupied for much longer, rambling houses with wings for each century occur more frequently; and not infrequently these wings are as large as the original, or larger.  Consequently, dealing with multiple styles in one building is more common than in North America.  Generally, North American historians* try to place a house in one style: Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Federal, Mission, Dutch, 2nd Empire, etc.  Sometimes these categories are suspiciously large, usually amended by the word ‘vernacular’ or ‘folk’; and some styles, such as Queen Anne or the wonderfully accurately named Victorian Eclectic style, are by their own nature more flexible. 

Esperanza succeeds in being both European and American.  By European standards it is, of course, young and quickly built: 1790*-1893.  By American standards it rambled, with no less than five major additions and modifications.  We have the center section: built in 1790-1810 as a bog-standard New England colonial farmhouse; then comes a nearly complete remodel and expansion circa 1830 in the Greek Revival style which adds a kitchen extension*; then in the 1870’s doubling the house’s size with the south wing by re-using an old post and beam barn that is disguised as Victorian; at the same time, the original house’s facade gets reworked with a late Victorian eclectic style porch and associated room; finally, the entire facade is re-worked and the house again doubles in size as the 1893 north ell is created in an early expression of the Shingle Style.  While modifications continue to occur after this, they are largely cosmetic repairs and not reworkings.

Perhaps the most ephemeral of the lot is the Victorian, 1870’s, facade additions as they were superficial and removed in 1893; though the porch room with its round, stained glass window, remains one of the house’s most recognizable features.  However, it is no longer part of a Victorian porch.

Ironically, the house is classified on the tax card as Queen Anne, while the National Register of Historic Places classifies it as Shingle Style.  But it really doesn’t quite fit that either; because if you look at it hard enough, there is that rock-solid colonial/Greek Revival…

* It is less the historian’s fault and more the form’s fault: if the thrice-blessed, computer generated form only allows one to check off a single style…the tyranny of the form!

*1790 or 1810? It depends on who you talk to and whose evidence you believe. 

*It is possible that there was a fire, but it didn’t burn to the ground.

*Think gingerbread.