Thursday, February 28, 2013

What's wrong with this picture?

Why is it so "ugly"?
While we lovingly assigned this moniker
to the Money Pit, it is actually a classic 
example of it's time. Built in 1917 of 
stucco and brick, the deep roof is set 
upon a low, flat plane. Quite modern 
and unique, it's surprising that a home
like this was designed and built in 
Lewistown, Montana during the height 
of World War One rationing. Proof that
it's owner, George Washington Cook 
was a educated man of means and power.
His residence reflected 
the height of fashion. 
In the early 20th century, the design of homes like ours was influenced by the Arts & Crafts work of British architects like Voysey and Ballie Scott. 

On the home front, American innovators 
like Frank Lloyd Wright also influenced 
the look and feel of residential design. 
Wealthy Americans started to build homes 
in this mode across the country. The look 
was purposefully new, bold, and massive. 
At the time they were chic statements of 
rebellion against the status quo. But as 
with most things "modern", they later
became what most considered passe'.
Unfashionable, white (grey) elephants.
Cold, gloomy, and "ugly".
Brick or stucco layered onto metal lath, set atop terra cotta tile block was considered "fireproof". Therefore anybody of means built in this manner well into the thirties. While these materials may seem somewhat brutal to todays eyes, they were the ultimate in modern construction. When you study the magazines of the period, these homes do not appear harsh or hulking. Rather they seem softer, charming, whimsical.
Something is missing.

Most of these homes are almost a century old. Quite remarkably, the stucco and brick have often survived intact. However many of the wooden decorative elements which added character are long gone. Those pergolas, porches, flower boxes, shutters, dados, columns, and trellises were either removed in the name of modernization or 
slowly rotted away.

Pergola Mania
Of all of those elements, the pergola was the most beloved. Inspired by the ruins of Pompeii (shown left), these rows of columns topped with trellis were considered de rigueur. 
Practically every home built during this period had some sort of pergola. Be it a porch, porte cochere, or garden structure.

The porch must go.
All who visit the money pit agree that this ramshackle "tack on" is wrong. Originally a large brick platform with a small patch of lawn sat in this spot. I'm all for restoration, but the house needs something else. A touch of softness, a decorative element.

We've got to do something to make this house look as fabulous outside as it is inside. So, we've decided to replace the porch with a proper pergola. Perfect for a house of our vintage. Now... where do I find  wisteria that will 
grow in Montana?