Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Lindens

The oldest house in DC is not the White House, and interestingly enough, did not start life out in 'the district' but rather north of Boston! The Lindens (also known as the King Hooper House) was originally built in 1754 as a Georgian styled country retreat in Danvers, Massachusetts. The house was dismantled and moved to Kalorama in 1934 by George and Miriam Morris who bought the house for $14,000 and had it moved to showcase their collection of early American furniture.
The key architect from Colonial Williamsburg's restoration, Walter Macomber, was hired to oversee the rebuilding with some revisions: noteably a concrete and steel foundation and a small addition to accomodate modern plumbing. The house retains its' original name, based on the Linden trees that lined the driveway back in Massachusetts. I love the colonial fence which surrounds the large property and the lush plantings: but where are the linden trees!
Read more about the property's history at the Washington Post or the NPS.
Photos taken with my new camera which I will review later this week -not too shabby!


Fargerike Dagny said...

That's a beautiful house! Does it have a rooftop terrace or is the fence for security/decorative reasons?

And while I was reading about the house, I was wondering where you got the picture from, it definitely looks professional!

The Down East Dilettante said...

LOL, by coincidence, I've been working on a series of four posts about great New England houses that have had dramatic moves, and this is one of them (LOL, now I'll have to wait and save this one for last). I remember reading somewhere that Mrs. Morris was so anxious to be authentic that there were no real lamps, just electrified candles, and that she kept the phones inside 18th century boxes...oh my.

P.Gaye Tapp at Little Augury said...

I love linden trees especially an allee and I adore the fencing. will follow up with the Post. pgt

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Dagny, thats a traditional Georgian feature -i've heard them called widow walks and things -but it's just a decorative railing -not a roof deck, which is unfortunate as the view from there would be spectacular!
LA, nothing beats a good allee!

Blayne Macauley said...

What a beautiful home! I loved the history lesson, and I agree, your pictures are "not too shabby!" I am so happy to have found your blog. I'll be back soon.


Kwana said...

What a beautiful house and amazing bringing it all the way to Washington.

Karena said...

Thank you for sharing, cannot wait to see the inside images!

ArchitectDesign™ said...

No inside images unfortunately,karena. It's a private home and I haven't been inside.

The Down East Dilettante said...

Wonderful picture. By coincidence, this house is one that I am working on for a series of posts about great New England houses that traveled.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

I can't wait to read more about it, Down East!!!

Room Temperature said...

I remember seeing black-&-white halftone photos of the beautiful interior of this house in old books on Colonial architecture--the name "King" Hooper tends to stick in the brain--but I don't recall ever before seeing a large view of the facade before, and I've gotta say, now that I do see it, it's very odd.

Since this house is older than the White House, the alternating pediments on the dormers & the engaged columns & pediment obviously didn't come from there, but probably from the same engraving in James Gibbs' Book of Architecture that suggested the identical treatment to James Hoban as he was designing the White House. What's interesting, though, is how the result of Hoban's cribbing was strong, sober & elegant, and how the facade of Hooper's house--and from what I read online, it's pretty much 'his' design, since there's no architect's name attached to the place--has a clumsy, almost cartoonish feel, one that comes from the pointy, squeezed-up pediment, surroundless door & the weird way the center window busts right through the achitrave. In the 1750s, these stylistic touches might have been considered Mannerist throwbacks, and in the 1980s, they would have been hyped as tongue-in-cheek Post-Modern playfulness, but to me, they're just plain awkward-looking, evidence of someone who's not quite up to the job going for fancified elegance without really understanding how to achieve such an effect. They remind me of a couplet of Alexander Pope's:

Such labour'd nothings, in so strange a style,
Amaze th' learn'd, and make the learned smile

All I know is when I looked at the photo on my monitor, the weirdly attenuated proportions of the center temple-block made me think for a moment that my screen resolution was messed up, and it reminded me of the way that, when I was little, the local TV station used to squeeze Widescreen movies into a 4:3 format to fit onto the teensy TV screens of the era, making all the people look like walking Giacomettis. Oddest of all is the way that the gussied-up front of the house looks like it's from a totally different building than the unpretentious, broadly proportioned & very handsome gambrel ends, where nobody was trying to show off. If Donald "King" Trump had lived in Eighteenth Century Danvers, this would have been his house.

Moral: Hire a Registered Architect.

debra @ 5th and state said...

love that home and it's witness to history.

the landscape designer in me would love to see lindens again, an underused tree here in the midwest.

cannot wait to hear about your camera, an essential to a good blog, your photo's are so crisp. mine are dismal.

ps; my next post will have an exterior make-over giveaway and am looking for submissions. please pass some on if any of your friends/readers need help. no doubt your home is fantastic. LOVE your blog

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Your archtitectural assessment is interesting and I agree with it for the most part. The house is not 'correct', mostly due to its age I feel: very few houses then (or now even) are 'correct'. However, in this neighborhood, it's a commanding presence at a corner / triangular HUGE lot, rising tall above the other houses. The simplicity of it and light color compared to it's brick and stone stately neighbors is a breath of fresh air. I wish I had captured that better with a further-out street view.
Also, most new england houses had and have a 'dressed' front with plain sides. It is rare that you find a house, in any style, that continues a full level of detail on all 4 sides. Many houses in new england have a clad & painted front with shingled sides and rear.
This is a strange house, an 'incorrect' house, but I will disagree with you and say that I do like it for being quirky and appreciate it for that fact. Most of all it is unique because of its age and history -which is what I appreciated more than the aesthetics and why I was intrigued by the house.
Thanks for your interesting and thought-provoking comment as always!!

The Down East Dilettante said...

Magnaverde, the carpenter/builders who put up these houses in teh 18th century often didn't follow the rules exactly, and the quirky proportions are, to me, part of the charm, and the American-ness of these buildings. When the first round of architects, like McKim, Mead, and White and Peabody and Sterns started adapting early American forms into the designs that later became known as shingle style and colonial revival, they often turned to these quirkier examples for their inspiration. The Lindens, as it happens, is one of the most copied 18th century houses around, almost as much as Mt. Vernon, Westover, and Homewood, probably the top three.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

DED, I had passed this house a bunch of times (including this past weekend when I took these pictures), and was actually looking up the house across the street by Paul Cret for a post in a book I have on Washington architecture and ran across the Lindens. I had no idea the house was a. so old or b. had such a fascinating history! I was so excited I hurredly wrote the post and went back to the pictures I had taken. You never know what you'll find!

Room Temperature said...

Stefan, I'm definitely with you on the appreciation for a building with age & history on its side, totally apart from its aesthetics, so even though this was probably done with a perfectly straight face & its variances from classic Georgian norms demonstrate less Hooper's attempt to put his own individual spin on the specific forms than they do a lack of understanding of those forms, it's still an interesting historical document just as it is and therefore worthy of preservation, and in the very same way that the Donald's penthouse is a fascinating historical document of its time. One of my instructors in design school used to say "You can learn just as much from an ugly room as a beautiful room. Maybe more", so I'm not one of those who thinks that only things that meet certain aesthetic expectations are worthy of presaervation. Certainly, the last thing I'd want to happen is for someone to come along & "correct" the very things that make this place so remarkable. It's like that China export figure of Benjamin Franlin whose pedestal says, in fancy script letters, "Washington."

And here in Chicago, in the lobby of the Auditorium Hotel, one of Louis Sullivan's beautifully ornamented arches runs into a wall before it ever meets the plinth that was suppost to support it. it. Oops. Somebody forgot to measure!

When they were doing some restoration in that area a while back, somobody suggested "correcting" that little flaw. I said leave it alone. It's a teaching tool, and a reminder that A) nobody's perfect and B) bad things happen to everybody.

BTW, Chicago is full of handsome buildings with beautiful carved limestone fronts--quoins, consoles, columns, balconies, garlands, pediments, the whole kaboodle--that stop dead at the corner & drop any architectural pretense, with the side walls finished in cheap, blotchy common brick. Most of them, of course, were built in expectation that another building would go up inches away & with the prefectrly logical belief that there was no point wasting money on materials that would never be seen, but some of these false-front buildings sit on prominent corner lots with their bare brick sides & backs exposed for all the world to see, like a hospital patient wandering the corridors in a gown two sizes too small. I never go past without thinking of the Veneerings in Dombey & Son.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

No, I agree with you that it's not textbook-it was just the 'why' and not the 'how' that I was talking about. I still appreciate the aesthetics but to each his own! I guess it's the crude man's Georgian? haha
I often think of Vegas when I think of the 'front / side' phenomenon we're speaking of. These glittering facades on the casinos and then when you walk around the corner -it's painted CMU block and looks like a parking garage! So ya, it's like -why even bother?
I've never understood the history behind the New England houses though, where the sides were just as exposed as the front, yet only the front was 'dressed'. Chicago, as you stated, makes sense -as many were built side to side.
Yes - the perfect reason to hire an architect to consider all of these factors: Not just the views from within but from without!

The Down East Dilettante said...

Stefan, there is a house in the town where I live that was owned by a carpenter-builder in the 1840's. A handsome substantial white clapboard house with Greek Revival trim. He used one of Asher Benjamin's pattern books for his details, which are handsome, if slightly naively done. The gable end facing the village as you come up the street is a full pediment. The opposite gable, on the uphill side, does not have a pediment, but merely a regular gable end. People weren't going to see it as much, so he didn't go to the expense. I passed that house, nearly next door to my grandparent's, for many years before I realized it. Now it makes me smile every time.

lady jicky said...

This is one beautiful house and I too love the fencing.
Just one linden tree wouldn't hurt would it! LOL

Things That Inspire said...

What a spectacular house! I learn so much from your blog. I am obsessed with the Cret designed house now, thanks to you. I think I need to bite the bullet and do a slate roof, thanks to seeing the large picture version of the house!

Gregory Piccini said...


Janet said...

Well, I am a little late to the discussion on this one. As DED pointed out, there were few (if any) trained architects in early 18th-century America. Frequently the only thing builders had to go on were old English pattern books. So perversely, this house is "textbook". Some of my favorite American houses are those that are fundamentally "incorrect" (I am thinking, Mount Vernon, for one).