Chronology

  • 1830-1880 (Blumenson)
  • 1830-1880 (Foster)
  • 1845-1870 (Baker)
  • 1837-1860 (Roth)
Detroit, Michigan.

Description

John Nash designed Cronkhill in 1802. Other Italianate houses based on the vernacular styles of northern Italy soon followed. They became increasingly popular in England of of course soon caught on tin the United States. (Baker, 76)

Before the end of the second decade of the 19th century, Italian villas were appearing in the company of the Gothic and Grecian residences in the design books, and by the 1830’s the Italian Villa had become the preponderant non-Gothic style of the Picturesque movement. (Whiffen, 71)

Andrew Jackson Downing was the great proponent of the style. In Victorian Cottage Residences, published in 1842, Downing wrote, “an Italian villa may recall, to one familiar with Italy and art, by its bold roof lines, its campanile and its shady balconies, the classic beauty of that fair and smiling land.” He also suggested that the “irregular” villa, through its “variety,” would evoke in “persons who have cultivated an architectural taste… a great preference to design capable of awakening more strongly emotions of the beautiful or picturesque, as well as the useful or convenient.” (Baker, 76)

The irregular massing of the Gothic Revival continued with the Italian Village and came to dominate American taste in house design in the mid-19th century. Though often grouped with Italianate, Italian Villa is a more rural style, while the former is more symmetrical and better suited to suburban building lots. Both, however, were inspired by the Renaissance villas and manors on the hilly, irregular ground of northern Italy (Foster, 246).

The Italian Villa had an “irregular outline from every point of view,” according to Samuel Sloan in The Model Architect (1852), a noted house plan book. Sloan notes that the style “speaks of the inhabitant as a man of wealth… as a person of educated and refined tastes… who, accustomed to all the ease and luxury of a city life, is now enjoying the more pure and elevating pleasures of the country.” Even so, Italian Villa was enthusiastically adopted by all levels of American society. Brackets and double windows (but not campaniles) were part of even modest midwestern farmhouses (Foster, 248)

The campanile (tower), though not always present, tends to define this style, but its principal characteristic is the irregular structure enclosing an open, relaxed floor plan. Seen by some as a transition from the Gothic Revival to the Italinate Style, Italian Villa is clearly its own style, with roots easily traced to Italy rather than to medieval churches. (Foster, 248)

The Italian Villa style was inspired by the buildings in the painted landscapes of the French Romanticists Lorrain and Poussin. (Baker, 76)

Occasionally the Italian Villa style was employed for buildings other than houses, good examples being the City Hall at Utica, New York (1852, Upjohn), and Calvert Street Station at Baltimore, (1855 ca., C.R. Niernsee). (Whiffen, 72)

Saginaw, Michigan.

Leading Examples

Cronkhill (1802, John Nash), Attingham Park, Shropshire. (Baker, 76)

Bishop Doane House (1837, John Notman), Burlington, New Jersey. (Whiffen, 71)

Edward King House (1845, Richard Upjohn), 35 King Street, Newport, Rhode Island. (Howe, 206)

John Pitkin Norton House (1849, Henry Austin), New Haven, Connecticut. (Foster, 246) A looking-glass version of a design published by Downing. (Whiffen, 72)

Italinate villa (1850’s), Guilford, Connecticut.

Morse-Libby House (1859-63), 109 Danforth Street, Portland, Maine. (Foster, 249)

Old Carlisle Home, near Marion, Alabama. (Blumenson, 35)

Glossary

Sources Cited