Is My Home a Craftsman? Victorian?

LaurieJune 16, 2012

My home was built in 1915, and is in northern New Jersey. It is a one-of-a-kind home in the neighborhood, built of terracotta block with stucco over. As far as I know, there isn't a single home anywhere nearby which was built in this manner.

Also, for the most part, it has definite Craftsman influences such as a stone foundation and chimney, lots of chestnut woodwork in the interior, a "moon" shaped window in the basement (which you can't see due to the huge bushes out front), the deep porch, etc. The porch columns are tapered.

However, it also has touches of Victorian influence - the bowed windows in the dining room and main bedroom, what is left of original hardware seems to be more in that style, there is detailed molding on the plaster walls which does not seem Craftsman (although could have been added later), there are very detailed plaster friezes in the fireplace and living room wall which are "romantic" in nature (sort of Roman or Greek, one of a man playing lyre serenading a couple and the other of warriors at battle). The fireplace is original brick and could go either way - unadorned, very simple.

I've had several opinions on the style. I work in architecture and for the most part the people I've worked with say "Craftsman". I also had an historical expert say it's mostly Craftsman as well, but, with influences of other styles (Foursquare, Bungalow, Victorian, Mission, etc.).

There have been some changes made to it over the years - that much I can tell. The back of the house had a very small addition put on over the basement crawlspace which added to the main bathroom on the 2nd floor and added a powder room the the 1st floor with a Butler's Pantry/large closet kind of area where the old back door had been. There also used to be another door to the upstairs porch in the 3rd small bedroom, which was closed up (we discovered it during renovations), which made sense since the upstairs facade isn't symmetrical but unfortunately we didn't have the money to put in another door so we left that as is.

Anyway, here's some photos. We've done a LOT of work on it since we took possession 2 years ago and still have a ways to go but, it's getting there. It was a wreck - I used to joke it was the haunted house on the block. The previous owner had neglected it pretty much the entire 30 years he was here. Everything was falling apart and it turned out to be way more work that it appeared to repair.

The landscaping work we did on the sides and back area helped incredibly as did painting the house recently. The back patio area consisted of a "jungle" of weed trees, ivy, underground yellow jacket hives, a buried old slate patio, and an old cracked concrete walkway - it was horrible. Still working on the front walkway plantings - recently put in a bunch of roses :)

Not sure if I made the right decision purchasing it but too late, and love the house anyway - so here we are lol.

Anyway, would love to hear your opinions on the home. Thanks!

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Best to say that it's a regional variation of Craftsman. As you understand it's a bit beyond the foursquare idea because it's more ornately fenestrated and sits on a wide lot. Foursquares were thought up to take the best advantage of smaller, narrower (cheaper) building lots in the t-of-c inner suburban developments.
The round fieldstone masonry is ubiquitous in northern NJ and upstate NY, so that's another regional variation, and seen on a lot of craftsman/bungalow homes (like one my parents had in the 50's in Montvale NJ).
The most un-craftsman-y thing is the shallow cornice overhang.
Your best bet is to locate old photos and see if any details have been altered that would put a more craftsman or more Colonial Revival direction to it.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2012 at 12:07PM
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Thanks for responding sombreuil.

Yes, the lot it's on was actually much larger originally. The home to the right of it, sits on a lot which was part of this home's at one time. We have a small sliver of it still - our lot is comprised currently of 3 lots - one of which is so small as to be nearly nothing at all, just runs pretty much along the neighbors fence line and in back of my garage (in fact, I think her fence, may be partially on my lot - but it was done even before they moved in so I'm not going to make a fuss over a few inches).

When I was first looking at the house, it was listed as a "colonial" which was obviously incorrect from a layout standpoint being as the floor plan is not symmetrical.'

I really need to get over to our Buildings Department and see if they have any photos on file. I've had some luck with neighbors as far as the history of the home (a couple have lived here many years, and are elderly) but nobody has mentioned to me that the house has undergone any renovations in a time period that they recall (not in the last 50-60 years anyway). We also found some photos in the house of prior owners, but unfortunately none of the house itself.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2012 at 3:36PM
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Nice house - photos of interior?

Pillars, stonework and front porch put it squarely in Craftsman territory.

It may have some 4-square influence - it was such a livable layout that it became ubiquitous regardless of the other style influences. You can have 4-square Art Deco, Craftsman, and even Spanish Colonial ... one is layout, the other is trimmings.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2012 at 5:33PM
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Sivyaleah, I'd have to say Craftsman, and that a couple things are really throwing it off: the railing on the top of the porch is certainly a later addition--it's just too tall.
The other is that I seriously think surgery was done on your overhangs--I'd bet a milliion bucks that you had box gutters originally, and they were removed in favor of more modern k-style gutters. Such alterations will remove at least one foot off of the cornice overhang--my house still has it's box gutters, and my neighbor across the street (essentially a foursquare very like mine) has had hers removed at some point in the past...her overhangs are about half the depth of mine, perhaps a tad less. Whether it's illusion or not, the base of my hipped roof looks like it has a bit of a flare to it...while hers doesn't--due to the presence of the box guttering.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2012 at 9:52PM
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Lazy - I do have interiors - I'll dig some out later on today (hopefully will remember!).

Columbusguy - that's a shame about the gutters, especially since I recently had them replaced as the old (replaced?) ones were in awful condition, falling off the house and causing water infiltration into the basement. Seeing as you said that, now it makes sense that they were. They were not attached properly at all, and the contractor was somewhat puzzled about how they were put on in the first place. I mean, they were kind of just hanging there on hooks.

He said it was a haphazard kind of job and he had to actually build new fascias for the new ones. Which wasn't surprising considering the overall condition of the home.

I also was sure the porch railing was not original by a long shot. It just looks too rough and basic. I'd like to replace it at some point but not now. It's in decent condition, sturdy at least, and we just had the floor of the balcony repaired for leaks to the porch. My bigger concern is trying to find a material for the floor of the porch itself, as it only is a torch down and it's terribly unattractive to look at from the bedroom you access it from. The contractor is trying to come up with a solution for that (wood slat decking most likely).

Anyway, had I known the gutter situation, perhaps I may have found someone more adept at recreating a more original look for the home, although my money at this point isn't holding out too well. As everyone knows these homes are a labor of love! I purchased the home for $225K, and have already spent another $200K over that to renovate - much on safety issues (electrical, plumbing, water remediation, new windows, and even the kitchen remodel goes under that category as it was not usable in the condition I got it in). So much more still needs to be done (the main bathroom is falling apart daily but it all works - it's a cosmetic issue) but nothing right now which is really pressing so I'm at a much needed lull for a while other than minor things, like light fixtures.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2012 at 6:39AM
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    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 11:03AM
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Praire had been mentioned as an influence as well.

It really does seem to be all over the place. I seriously need to get over to the D.O.B. here and see if there is any info on it but I suspect there probably won't be much, if anything. I had tried Sanborne already and came up with nothing.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 3:43PM
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I say definitely Craftsman. Someone added the railing, but it reminds me of four square styling.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2012 at 7:42PM
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From a site on foursquares, it said that Frank Lloyd Wright had a big influence on the concept of a foursquare; I hope this isn't true, as I truly hate his style and overblown ego. :) From the more than twenty five plan books I've been in, many designers used the style, and they predated him, so how could he claim credit?

As you might surmise, I also hate the Bauhaus style and all its modern successors....

I really don't think FW had a great influence since he eschewed all the earlier styles...and most every foursquare I've seen takes liberally from all of them--my own is heavily Classical, both Greek and Etruscan, and with some Art Nouveau thrown in.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2012 at 10:17PM
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