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Styles: Part II


Colonial Revival

The Colonial Revival style was a stylistic trend that emerged in the 1880s from the East Coast. After three-quarters of a century of European-inspired revivals, the Colonial Revival was the first architectural movement to explicitly celebrate its American origins by referencing colonial-era building and design traditions. The style originally germinated in the patriotic fervor that followed the 1876 Centennial, emerging as a reaction to what was perceived to be the excessive qualities of the British-derived Queen Anne style. The nascent style did not truly take off until the nationally prominent firm of McKim, Mead & White began systematically studying the eighteenth-century Colonial period Federal and Georgian architecture of Newport Rhode Island. They took what they learned from native building traditions and began designing large summer homes that incorporated Georgian, Federal and even First Period proportions and detailing. One of the best early examples of the style is the H. A. C. Taylor House in Newport, Rhode Island, which was designed in 1884 by McKim, Mead & White. During the early 1890s style began to sweep seaside New England resort communities including Newport, Rhode Island; Rockport, Massachusetts and Cape Elizabeth, Maine, largely due to the work of firms such as McKim, Mead & White, Peabody & Stearns, John Calvin Stevens and others.

Despite the remoteness of California from New England, the Colonial Revival became popular in San Francisco and the rest of California between 1895 and 1910, partly due to the New England origins of many of the state's leading families. Perhaps the popularity of the style in San Francisco was also an extreme reaction of the newest generation of architects against San Francisco's overblown Victorian confections of the Gilded Age. What ever its origins, the work of recently arrived architects from New England, New York, and Chicago, including Willis Polk and others, frequently recalled the chaste First Period houses of Salem or Ipswich, Massachusetts or the grand Georgian Revival of Newport. Although the style first took hold in the City's wealthier neighborhoods such as Pacific Heights, the style was not confined to homes for the rich. Much of the destroyed residential fabric of San Francisco replaced after 1906 was rebuilt in the simple, elegant and flexible vocabulary of the Colonial Revival. Throughout North Beach, Russian Hill, South of Market and the northern half of the Mission District solid streetscapes of Classical/Colonial Revival flats with bold modillioned cornices and porticos can be found.

The characteristics of the freestanding Colonial Revival dwelling typically consist of a rectangular plan and massing, with the long side facing the street. The single-family dwelling on a large lot is typically capped by a gabled or hipped roof. The facades are often three or five bays in width and the openings are arranged symmetrically, with the entrance located in the center bay. Prominent architectural features, including classically detailed porticos supported by fluted columns, Palladian windows, dormers, shutters and large classically detailed cornices, rounded out the design. Frequently plaster moldings in the form of cartouches, swags, wreaths or garlands highlight the center of the gables or the spandrel panels. The urban rowhouse version typically encountered in densely populated districts of San Francisco does not depart significantly in plan or massing from the standard San Francisco rowhouse prototype. Their Colonial Revival appearance is usually simply the result of applied ornament, including prominent porticos, applied corner pilasters, clapboard siding and plaster garlands or cartouches.

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Eastern Shingle Style/First Bay Region Tradition

Similar to the Colonial Revival style, the Eastern Single Style had its origins in the work of East Coast architectural firms such as McKim, Mead & White and John Calvin Stevens. Similar to the Colonial Revival, the Eastern Shingle Style was based upon the early Colonial-era architecture of coastal New England, particularly the early seventeenth-century post-mediaeval houses of Essex and Plymouth Counties, Massachusetts and Newport, Rhode Island. Also similar to the Colonial style, the Eastern Shingle style was initially popularized in the design of large summer residences of New England and Long Island, such as Peabody & Stearn's Kragsyde, in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts. Gradually the influence of the resort style diffused through the country to many different regions and economic classes.

The First Bay Region Tradition is a Northern Californian regional variant of the Eastern Shingle Style that flourished in San Francisco between 1895 and 1917. Less a formal style than it is an aesthetic derived from the tenets of the Arts and Crafts movement, the First Bay Region Tradition came into existence through the work of architects including Albert Schweinfurth, Ernest Coxhead, Willis Polk, Julia Morgan and Bernard Maybeck. The Church of the New Jerusalem, designed by A. C. Schweinfurth in 1894 and located in Presidio Heights, is widely recognized as being one of the first manifestations of this tradition in the Bay Area. Throughout the 1890s and especially after the 1906 earthquake, concentrations of First Bay Region Tradition dwellings emerged in the East Bay, particularly in the Oakland and Berkeley Hills. Nonetheless, there are good examples of the Bay Region Tradition in San Francisco, particularly on Russian Hill, and in Pacific Heights and Presidio Heights, particularly Willis Polk's own residence at the crest of Russian Hill of 1892.

Alternately called Shingle Style or First Bay Region Tradition, examples of this style are difficult to categorize. The overriding characteristic of this style is an emphasis upon simplicity, structural honesty, natural materials and craftsmanship, which was manifested in exposed rafter and purlin ends, stained wood trim shingle cladding and picturesque and asymmetrical massing and articulation. Heavily influenced by the teachings of Ruskin, Morris, Emerson and Thoreau, Bay Region Tradition architects avoided fashionable and meaningless ornament and instead embraced honesty of expression and craftsmanship. The influence of Frank Lloyd Wright's early Oak Park and Prairie School work can also be discerned in the work of the architects who worked in the Bay Region Tradition.

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Classical Revival

Classical Revival is a style name that refers to buildings deriving their character from a variety of sources: ancient Greece, ancient Rome, and the Renaissance and Baroque periods of Italy. There have been two Classical Revival periods in the United States. The first, in the early 19th century (examples include Monticello and the U. S. Capitol), is not particularly relevant to San Francisco’s history. The second Classical Revival period in this country began principally during the 1890s, and remained a strong force in American architecture into the mid-1920s. The discussion below pertains to this second period.

Sometimes Classical Revival buildings were modeled after ancient and Renaissance buildings with particular care for historical accuracy, but more often classical vocabulary such as columns, arches, entablatures, pediments, and rinceaux was adapted to buildings serving modern needs. Most dramatically, classical ornament was applied to thousands of steel frame office buildings across the United States during the 1890s-1920s. While the proportions of office buildings necessarily deviated from the proportions of a Roman temple, a sincere attempt was made to give these modern Classical buildings harmonious proportions and compositions that were in the spirit of the originals. Tall office buildings, for instance, were typically designed with boldly rusticated lower stories, relatively plain middle stories, and decorated upper stories with cornices; these corresponding to the base, shaft, and capital of a classical column.

For residential buildings in San Francisco, flats and apartments were built to fit available lot sizes, sometimes as narrow as eighteen feet; and varied in height from two stories to skyscrapers; but were clothed with classical ornament that was intended to give a cachet to the property. The feeling imparted might be one of repose, if ornament was restrained; or animated, if ornament was intense; but dignity, formality, and beauty were the larger goals. The style was a reaction against the picturesque quality of earlier Victorian styles such as Eastlake and Queen Anne.

This second Classical Revival in the United States was principally founded by the New York architects McKim, Mead, and White, who designed the earliest major examples during the 1880s. The style reached an early crescendo with the Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago, planned by Daniel Burnham. Burnham and his contributing architects specified a Classical Revival style and matching cornice lines for all of the fair’s major buildings. The “White City,” as it was nicknamed, was so beautiful and impressive it set the tone for American architecture for the next three decades. Indeed, it inspired the City Beautiful Movement of the 1900s and 1910s, which largely revolved around the Classical Revival style and Beaux Arts planning principles.

In San Francisco, the Classical Revival style had an early beginning, one that preceded the 1893 Chicago Exposition. It was the Hibernia Bank, designed in 1889 by Albert Pissis. Largely because of the popularity of this bank design, Classical Revival became the choice for nearly all of San Francisco’s major commercial buildings, and for houses in wealthier neighborhoods, during the 1890s.

Other early proponents of classicism in San Francisco were A. Page Brown, Willis Polk, and Ernest Coxhead. Surviving examples by these architects include the Richard E. Queen residence at 2212 Sacramento Street (Brown, 1895); the George Gibbs house at 2622 Jackson Street, of carved stone with a portico modeled after the Temple of Vesta in Italy (Polk, 1894-1895); and the McFarland house at 400 Clayton (Coxhead, 1895).

The style filtered down to other architects who had long been practitioners of Victorian styles but were quick to adapt to changing tastes. A small but charming example by Emil John can be found at 3249 Jackson (1895). In the Alamo Square area, a set of flats by Julius Krafft stands at 1401-1403 McAllister (1895). Another set of flats by Shea and Shea at 1241-1243 Fulton (1894) features a rounded bay and narrow porch. This type of building became extremely common in San Francisco, and for many years was known as an “Edwardian,” for the British monarch who succeeded Victoria. This term is now considered inappropriate, because many other historical styles were also common at the time, including Craftsman, Mission Revival, and Chateauesque. This type of building – stacked flats on a narrow lot, with a simple Classical cornice and a round or slant-sided bay window – is better considered as a vernacular version of Classical Revival.

For residences, flats, and apartments, the Classical Revival style predominated in San Francisco through World War I; afterward, these buildings were usually designed in Mediterranean and Spanish Colonial Revival styles. So many Classical Revival buildings were built during the style’s long heyday that numerous examples can still be found in almost every neighborhood in the eastern half of San Francisco.


Craftsman Style

The Craftsman Style flourished in the Bay Area from the late 1890s until 1920. Although the sources of the style were English, particularly the work of English Arts and Crafts Movement architects M. H. Baillie Scott and Charles F. A. Voysey, the architectural forms developed in the United States diverged from their English prototypes. Feeding off the same roots as the Eastern Shingle Style/First Bay Region Tradition, the Craftsman style emerged in California as a style particularly well suited to housing for the middle and working classes. However the Craftsman style reached achieved its zenith in Southern California after 1900, particularly in the work of the brothers Greene & Greene of Pasadena whose handcrafted Blacker and Gamble Houses graced the pages of national publications such as Craftsman magazine. The Craftsman style as expressed in California was a regional response to various indigenous factors including the Mediterranean climate, prevalence of easily worked redwood and acceptance of Japanese building traditions. Also similar to the Bay Region Tradition, the Craftsman style was less an applied mode of decoration than it was an overall philosophy that embraced the replacement of the traditional compartmentalized American house with an informal, open-plan dwelling that honestly expressed the building materials and methods used in its construction.

In Northern California the Craftsman Style was conflated with the contemporary First Bay Region Tradition. However, in the Bay Area the Craftsman can be distinguished as a style primarily manifesting itself in working-and-middle-class tracts in the rapidly growing streetcar suburbs of Oakland and Berkeley. The "California Bungalow," as it came to be known in the national architectural press, was never as widespread in San Francisco as in other urban communities in the state, such as Oakland, Los Angeles and San Diego. This was due in part to perennially high real estate values, narrow lots and less-than-ideal climactic conditions. This is not to say that the California Bungalow did not materialize in San Francisco; several notable developments in the southern part of the City, such as Mission Terrace and Westwood Park, advertised inexpensive bungalows for the upwardly mobile masses. The residential tract of Westwood Park, on the south slope of Mt. Davidson, remains the most notable concentration of single-story California Bungalows in San Francisco, although here too the traditional prototype has been modified to suit San Francisco's climate with stucco siding and no sleeping porches.

Despite the high cost of land and narrow lots that excluded the traditional California Bungalow from large parts of the City, a local variation of the San Francisco rowhouse emerged that incorporated Craftsman detailing. This variety of Craftsman home became particularly widespread in the Inner Sunset and Inner Richmond, where large, two-and-three-story flats and single-family dwellings appeared. A section of the Inner Sunset, bounded by Lincoln, Kirkham, Arguello and 19th Avenue, is dominated by these imposing Craftsman style residences with chamfered beam ends and exposed rafter ends supporting the broad, overhanging roofs. Other typical Craftsman detailing such as clinker brick porch columns and chimneys added to the overall Craftsman effect. The interiors of both the single-story and two-story Craftsman rowhouse in San Francisco are "symphonies in wood," with different stains used to produce a variety of effects on the redwood wainscoting, mantle, box beams and casings. The interiors, which tended to be less formal in terms of organization than their Victorian predecessors, featured other typical Craftsman detailing, such as clinker brick fireplaces, wrought iron light fixtures and art glass windows.

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English Tudor Revival "Jacobethan"

The English medieval revival mode has been known by many different names following its introduction to the United States around 1900. The term "Jacobethan" was coined by architectural historian Henry Russell Hitchcock to define one particular period revival that appropriated architectural elements and proportions from the hybrid Medieval/Renaissance architecture of England during the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I. Popularized as a style for upper-middle-class housing in England during the 1890s, the style served largely the same purpose in suburban areas of the United States. Affluent streetcar suburbs developed in most large eastern and Midwestern cities feature developments of "Stockbroker Tudors" on large verdant lots.

As realized in California during its brief period of popularity, the English Tudor Revival often evoked the mood of a Hollywood fairytale cottage, particularly in Southern California. In San Francisco the style tended to reach a higher level of accuracy, frequently emulating the informal picturesque cottages of the Cotswolds or the half-timbered dwellings of East Anglia. The signature elements of the English Tudor Revival dwelling include informal plans and massing; steeply pitched cross-gabled roofs and dormers (often clad in slate); pointed arch windows with leaded muntins, tall faceted chimneys and brick, stucco and/or hand-adzed half timbering. The overall effect is that of picturesque informality and age. Due to its expense, picturesque styles such as the English Tudor Revival were used almost exclusively in the design of high-end single-family housing, particularly in affluent tracts developed in the 1910s and 1920s such as Forest Hill or St. Francis Wood. Nonetheless, as with all generalizations, there are sure to be exceptions and an excellent cluster of middle-class rowhouses at California Street and Second Avenue, designed by John Cotter Pelton in 1895.

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