Identify the architectural style of my house?

thenarrowsApril 28, 2010

We closed on our first house a month ago. It's not old by the standards of this forum, but it's not 'new' by any means. It was built right after WWII (the building permit shows it was completed in 1946) in the east part of Tacoma.

It's fairly unique, and although I've been looking I have yet to see anything quite like it in the city. There are definitely brick structures from the period with similar cues and layout, but usually quite a bit smaller.

Anyway. Take a look.

I apologize in advance for the satellite dish apparently intentionally placed in the worst possible location. And for the grease on the lens.

I'd post pictures of the inside, but it's pretty bad, acres of ancient, rotting carpet and faded and scratched paint. Actually, I've seen much worse, but it's kind of sad in it's current condition. The interior is quite spare and functional, really. Lots of plastered arches and thick, solid walls.

Any input? Of the close to 50 houses we looked at in the past seven months, this is the only one I can't drop into a neat, tidy category. Maybe that's why we fell for it so hard.

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Looks like a brick mason turned a cape into a semi tudor. What you have there is a capetudor!

    Bookmark   April 29, 2010 at 3:25AM
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It'sNeo-Eclectic. Ahead of its time!

(Though I doubt the original builder was thinking backshed railings for the front porch. Let alone the likely contra code risers.) That "picture window" , too, looks like a later "improvement".

    Bookmark   April 29, 2010 at 9:00AM
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There's a major bit of Craftsman style, too, in the clinker bricks.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2010 at 9:04AM
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Yeah, the front railings are ridiculous. I am wondering what the originals looked like. The mounting points for the posts are set into the concrete, and keep the posts an inch or so above the surface, which is a very good idea in this part of the world.

The enormous window in the living room is a typical PNW feature. You'd be surprised how many older homes have simply massive panes of glass, sometimes almost entire walls. We lived in a vacation type cabin from the 1920s when we first moved here that was almost entirely glazed on one side:

Yes, it was single glazed. Yes, it was impossible to heat.

If the 'picture window' in our house is a later addition, it's impossible to tell. The brickwork around it is in the same condition (weathering, etc) as the other windows, although there was some awful 're-pointing' done that needs to be repaired with appropriate mortar instead of... something I can't identify. There has also been some excellent repair work to the mortar in other places that was done correctly. The window is, thankfully, double glazed, but the panes are quite close together.

I asked around here and the best answer I got was 'brick Tudor bungalow'. I didn't realize the clinker bricks were a Arts and Crafts touch. Neat!

    Bookmark   April 29, 2010 at 11:43AM
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With the original windows, it may have been one of those houses from the early middle part of the 20th Century that gets called Romantic Revival. Although those seem to have a curvy roof somewhere, look a little more cottagey. The plate glass could have originally been a french door effect, and the electrical fixtures would have been the orange bulbed candle style or craftsman fixtures with a vaguely medieval look.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2010 at 3:01PM
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Giant picture windows inserted into older houses are definitely par for the course in the PNW. I've lived in a number of rentals in which the picture windows were the only non-wavy windows in the house. Now, I know old house aficianados do love their wavy glass, but the glass here in the boondocks of the Pacific Northwest was *really* wavy. Heresy though it may be, I have to admit that I do rather enjoy having at least one window to look out of that actually shows me the outside, rather than a grotesquely distorted kaleidoscope version thereof.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2010 at 4:32PM
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Wow, interesting. Shape and brick look like 1920s or so Tudor. But big picture window, cement on bottom, and railings look like later alterations and additions. Any idea when construction started? Also, what's the inside floor plan? If it has a proper dining room and only one original bathroom, it's more likely to be a pre-war.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2010 at 9:55AM
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Here's the original permit:

Am I correct in assuming that there should be plans on file somewhere? The permit does make this seem plausible.

Interesting document.

No, it is unlikely that the stairs were added. The entry area is all reinforced concrete and is structurally integrated into the house. The surface finish of the concrete is different. There is a furnace room attached to the side of the house / opening off the basement that has the same type of finish. The railings don't look right though.

Yes, there is a lot of strange grout or possibly even caulking between the house and the stairs, I'm not sure what someone was trying to do there.

Inside, looking from living room through the dining room:

Kitchen, dining room is on right:

A better view of the side:

That skylight in the upstairs bath has to be an alteration.

The basement and some of the bearing walls down there are all reinforced concrete. It's almost like a bunker in places. This is looking upward at the underside of the front entrance:

Yes, the roof, walls, and floor of that little (well, 9 by 6) room are all reinforced concrete. The forms for the doorway were partially left in place: instant door-jamb!

    Bookmark   April 30, 2010 at 12:49PM
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Looks like Craftsmen and Tudor with a PNW twist to it. Whatever it is you've got a lovely diamond in the rough, enjoy it!

    Bookmark   April 30, 2010 at 1:23PM
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I would say it's a very late example of an American Tudor or a very early example of an American Neo-Tudor of the "minimal traditional" detailing style favored by builders during the post-war housing boom.

It might be called European eclectic/romantic/nostalgic/reminiscent if it had more authentic English or French detailing.

The prominent steep-roofed front facing gable and the the odd formal apse-like bay would eliminate it as a Craftsman Style house.

A few detailing modifications would make it a more convincing Tudor.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2010 at 12:20PM
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Just a question to those who know, I'm curious about the railings being wood. I would imagine wrought iron as a more likely material for railings or fencing with this style home. I know PNW, but is the railing redwood? Readily available?

    Bookmark   May 2, 2010 at 7:41PM
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I would agree that wrought iron would look far more appropriate, and wouldn't stick out like a sore thumb as the wood ones do now.

The railings that are on there now are pressure treated pine. Looks like they were replaced at the same time as the deck, so 10 years ago at most. Since the base plates for the bottom of the posts are set into the concrete, I am fairly certain that the railings were originally wood (at least whenever the stairs were poured) but likely not as ugly and simplistic as they are now.

I've thought about making my own wrought iron pieces, but there are so many other things to do first it will probably be years before I get to it.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2010 at 5:29PM
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Oh, my gosh! What a gem! I wish I lived next door! I'd be over there helping you every weekend.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2010 at 10:31PM
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Wow! Thanks! Well, right now I'm putting in a six foot cedar fence behind the house / between us and the neighbors, and there's a chain link fence there already that has to come out. While most of the posts are set in concrete in dirt (easy) some of them are set into concrete poured into holes jack-hammered out of a concrete pad that is there for some reason, possibly even the foundation for a structure that is no longer there. So, yeah, those posts are going to be difficult to deal with. I may just cut them off slightly below the pad surface and cover them with concrete.

Come over any time, there's lots to do. :)

I need to take some more pictures of some of the more interesting details of the property. There's a lot of walkways and retaining walls that are just completely buried in ivy and overgrowth.

I appreciate the kind comments. I think we were very lucky to escape the banality of much of the more modern structures we looked at. Yes, I have a great deal of work ahead of me, including a radiant heating system install before next winter, but I'm enjoying every bit of it.

Ok, tearing out chain link fence with 20 years of overgrowth entwined with and growing through it is a little painful. Satisfying, ultimately, but it hasn't been easy.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2010 at 12:33PM
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I hope you are taking before and during and after shots?
It will be a good record for yourself, and very satisfying to see how far you come.

When I moved in here, a derelict cement block garage had the roof and rafters imploded with about 5 years of leaves and tree debris from several hurricanes. It took a lot to clear that out. I now envision it with a Lexan roof as a greenhouse and place for an Endless Pool. The exterior was thinly stuccoed over so it matches our stucco cottage.

You never know what you will find when you begin digging for treasure!

    Bookmark   May 7, 2010 at 3:16PM
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Looks to me like the original builder was influenced by the prewar storybook style houses. original porch railings could likely have been wrought iron.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 7:40PM
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