looking for info about this type of house

benjohnsonFebruary 24, 2010

My wife and I just purchased this home. The records state that it was built in 1910, but a friend remarked that the lines match that of his 1890s home. I had someone look at the windows for preservation - he took a look in the basement and felt that the front part of the house was built using 1890s techniques. I'm wondering if anyone has information about this style. Would you just call it a farmhouse? Any ideas as to the age by looks alone? Any thoughts you have are most welcome...

Here's a link to a photo: http://i175.photobucket.com/albums/w159/benthere-donethat/3691345.jpg

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
benjohnson
    Bookmark   February 24, 2010 at 9:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
alexia10

I am not an expert but I did spend a considerable amount trying to date my house so I can tell you what I learned. Just from the "style" of the house you can not get a date, just a period. My house according to style and building clues was dated 1890 to 1910 and it ended up being 1903. Do you have any clues in the inside? Original anything? Plumbing fixtures such as sinks, toilets and bathtubs often have date stamps. Also do not forget that some houses were built a certain year and then "rebuilt" some time later so some of the structures are older than the rest of the house.
Did you think of tracing your deed? That's always a great resource. Also, some towns still have files with the original building permits. Does your town have a historical society, club? If yes, pay them a visit you will be surprised of what they might have.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2010 at 10:11PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
sombreuil_mongrel

Judging by the cornice work, it looks a bit older than 1890; more like 1860-70.
Casey

    Bookmark   February 24, 2010 at 10:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Billl

You are sure to get a lot of guesses by posting a photo on the internet, but there is no possible way to tell how old a house is by just looking at it. The info you will get is "this style was popular in blah,blah,blah time period".

In most of the US, housing styles underwent a major change around the turn of the century. In the mid 1800's, very ornate styles were popular. By the early 1900's, much more straight forward buildings gained popularity. Of course, just like now, different people had different tastes. Someone could have easily added details that were popular in 1860 to a house built in 1890 or 1910.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2010 at 9:09AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
sombreuil_mongrel

The one part you got right was "blah, blah, blah".
Cast your bread upon the waters, and you just might get the ear of a preservationist with decades of experience in historic architecture, building technology, and historic woodwork. Someone conversant enough in architectural styles and descriptions to be qualified to write NatReg applications.
So, speak for yourself Mr. Blah, blah, blah.
Casey

    Bookmark   February 25, 2010 at 10:44AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Billl

"Judging by the cornice work, it looks a bit older than 1890; more like 1860-70. "

If you think you can date a house from an exterior picture, then there isn't much hope arguing with you. Anyone with a lick of sense knows that is impossible. The best you are going to do is make a guess-and not a very good one at that.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2010 at 12:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
palimpsest

Do you think the cornice, window headings and porch columns could have been beefed up in one of the revival periods? This looks like a plain house with detailing tacked on, and the proportions are a bit funny to the details. The cornice seems like the Italianate cornice of the post-Civil war period, but it also has a 20th c. Colonial revival feel to it--its not tall like a lot of Italianate.

The basement appears to be that unit block with the faux stone sculpting on the one face--that is turn of the century to my knowledge.

I would be curious to know if there are newer houses in the neighborhood with this mix of Colonial Revival-esque details. Maybe the owners at one point were keeping up with the neighbors...Colonial Revival showed up in some areas around the turn of the 20th c. and then was also popular for the decade before the Sesqicentennial as well. So I wonder if this house started out a little plainer and someone added the cake icing later, or if its a vernacular house that got built during one of the Colonial Revivals and they just added the trim details. (?)

    Bookmark   February 25, 2010 at 4:20PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
calliope

That faux-stone sculpting is a type of cinder block, intended to look as if someone went to the expense of building with cut stone. My guess is it is not a facer block, but what the foundation was built of. That in itself should help you date when the foundation was lain. We have some homes here older than their foundations, I owned a very old cottage moved and set on a new foundation, but it's a good indicator. I can tell you with some certainty that the period when these blocks were most popular were circa 1900-1920.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2010 at 6:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
powermuffin

Instead of guessing, check out your local library for address books, your county/city government for water records and the clerk and recorder for property owners. Unless records are missing, you should get a pretty good idea of when it was built. Our house was not listed in the address book for 1904, but was listed in the 1914 book. We then checked the water records and found that the water was turned on in 1908, so that is probably when the house was built.
Diane

    Bookmark   February 25, 2010 at 6:27PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
palimpsest

That type of block was also used to build entire kit houses as were sold by Sears Roebuck around the turn of the century.

There are a number of houses on the street I was raised that have basements of this block, and they are all from the immediate post WWII era, so the molds may have been in use much later in some regions than others.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2010 at 6:43PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
calliope

That's true, but it does make dates earlier than 1900 seem unlikely, since that is when this technique was evolved. You can pretty much assume any house with an original cinder block foundation is at least early 20th century.

I'm really curious what one would call an '1890' technique. My last house was a little farmhouse built in 1890. There wasn't anything particularly unusual about it as far as farmhouses go where you could nail it to that year or even decade. Most don't have original plumbing because the facilities were outside. And many didn't even have electric until the rural electrification act after FDR. OTOH, homes built in town often had main water, phones, and main gas and electric. So, guessing their age dependent on stamps on plumbing or central heat units, or wiring can be very off-base.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2010 at 10:05PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
benjohnson

Thanks to you all for your thoughts. I'm certainly not an expert - the contractor felt that the way the joists are mortised into the beam was an 1890s technique - but it's only that way in the front part of the house. The inside of the foundation is cement blocks and it seems that as rooms were built on, the foundation was changed too - the front part is a couple of feet lower than the rear - so it's hard to say what is what.

I've been in touch with the historical society - and after we finish the work and move in, I'll have time to try to track it down. I'm interested in the 'proper' way to fix it up and feel that the age of the house would speak to that. But when all is said and done, it doesn't seem that there are many 'rules' - it's just an old farmhouse...

    Bookmark   February 26, 2010 at 12:24AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
alexia10

I was actually lucky to find quiet a lot of clues in my 1903 house. On the other hand my house has never been remodeled or changed and it is not that old (I mean compared to the 1800's houses). I have the original cast iron tubs stamped 1901 and 1902. The toilet (high tank) is stamped with the name of a company that was formed in year 1900. The bricks in the fireplaces are stamped with the name of a company that formed 1895. I do not want to put the whole list by my home had a lot of stamps all traced between 1900 and 1905. So, for me, that was a pretty good clue. It was not just one item but all together that pointed to the same date. Architecturally speaking I could be anyway from 1890 to 1910. Later when I was able to trace the paperwork I found the original building permit and the old maps and it was 1903.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2010 at 8:31AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
sombreuil_mongrel

This is a house documented as built between 1862 and 1866, which has the very same cornice shape and pedimented window hood theme, and obviously the same general massing. The particular tipoff, which is hard to see unless you have a well-trained eye, is that the eaves soffit board is not horizontal, but follows the rake of the rafter. This detail is very period-specific when mated to the pedimented "territorial-style" window trim and the frieze details. It's a simplified Italianate.

Casey

    Bookmark   February 26, 2010 at 10:05AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Billl

The neighborhood I live in has several italianate homes. None of them were built in the italianate period. The neighborhood was an up and coming middle class neighborhood built between 1907 with fillin happening through the 1920's. Many of the original homes were inspired by more established nearby neighborhoods and we ended up with a mix of older styles alongside colonial revival's and craftsmen etc.

Style cannot give you a date. Materials often can give you a maximum age - eg a technology didn't exist until x year. Some details can give you a maximum age. However, once a technology or style exists, people can use those things well after their peak in popularity. If you have documentation that your home was built in 1910, then that is the best you are ever going to get. Proof is always better than guesses.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2010 at 10:24AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
palimpsest

Casey, do you think then if the house was much older that it was moved off its original foundation? What do you think of that porch? That heavy column looks to be Greek Revivalish to me, which is older still. Thats why I was wondering if it was a house that was built about the time the homeowner thought with older detailing (?)

With regards to style, I think region and factors such as urban/town/rural location can affect dates.

In the small, relatively isolated (up to about WWII) town I grew up in, the houses were log with the occasional stone Bavarian-influenced vernacular houses were built up until the Civil War, and when the town started to prosper, current American architecture started to show up, but the styles were a decade or two behind what was happening in Pittsburgh (~125 miles away) or Philadelphia (~250 miles), with some Italianate -Gothic eclectics being built all the way into the 1890s. Then there are a couple of Italianate influenced houses built in the twenties...clearly not the Civil War Italianate, but elements of it in a different scale.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2010 at 11:15AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
calliope

I had documentation that my 1900 Victorian was built in 1930 too. The tax office automatically tacked that age onto every home it had previously listed as just "older". LOL.

Oftentimes the information for real estate tax purposes comes from the assessor who simply asks, as he makes his rounds, "do you know when this house was built?" So, you have to look at what document you have and how reliable it may or may not be.

I was able to date my house within ten years, but it took me twenty years to nail it. You have to cross-check it from all sorts of directions at once to see if they all jive. Interviewing relatives of the last known previous owners is a start. I was able to come upon a photographic proof from two different people, one of whom coughed up pictures taken during the Civil War of her ancestor standing in front of this house, and it was obviously not new then. I found it also in local history books. Had previous owners over for cake and coffee who lived here as children. Made notes of the elderly people who stopped by about gathering water here at our spring for the one-roomed schoolhouse down the road, and did a genealogical history on some of the previous owners, as well as tracing property transfers and deeds. Then comparing it to building details. The saw cuts, the nails, etc.

"Style cannot give you a date. Materials often can give you a maximum age - eg a technology didn't exist until x year." Exactly. They are all clues and 'rule outs'. Seldom do they stand alone as proof.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2010 at 7:14PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
slateberry51

Oh wow. If there was a "best of" for this forum, I would nominate this thread. You got almost all the stars, and a great mystery.

I guess its selfish to ask you to continue to elaborate just for me. "...follows the rake of the rafter." Now I'm going to have a car accident, because now when I go out driving, I'll be looking for that! But I didn't have one two years ago, when I was on the lookout for good sticking patterns for a demilune window I was adding to my son's train room. So I guess there's hope.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2010 at 7:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
igloochic

You actually did get an expert opinion here (Casey is an expert) and were given examples (I thought of that house too when I saw this one Casey) :o)

there are several homes in my town with that same blocking for the foundation. they were all redone. In fact my water tower (1889 build which is confirmed) has similar blocks inside the building. The outside stone was left alone when they reworked the foundation way back in the 20's and again in the 60's.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2010 at 1:24PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Stripper for stripper-resistant paint?
I'm having a tough time removing multiple layers of...
dilettante_gw
stone house
Do any of you out there own a real stone house? Not...
seydoux
Stair striping and refinishing advice
I ve been stripping and refinishing my stairs in my...
marleeOLDHouse
White Cedar Shingles: Best price?
Hi all, My wife and I are gearing up to restore the...
dmatlosz
Strip flooring with unusual cross section
(Cross posted from Flooring forum) I'm renovating a...
ferretbee
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™