Monday, March 29, 2010

1740 N Sedgwick

Built in 1882, 1740 N Sedgwick is a fine example of the Italianate style of architecture that was very popular in Chicago, as well as much the rest of the US, in the late 19th century.  From all outward appearances it seems to have been especially well maintained, despite its nearly 130 years of age.

Within Old Town there quite a number of Italianate homes, most of which fit two broad categories as either front gabled roofs or townhouses.  These styles are most common on narrow city lots, which are found throughout Chicago.

1740 N Sedgwick fits the first category as it is a front gabled, 2-story residence.  Both styles are typified by ornate cornices detailing, often including corbels and dentils.  It is especially common for the corbels to come in pairs, as we see in this home.  In addition, many of the Italianate homes feature prominent, pedimented and/or bracketed windows and door frames, however this particular specimen lacks this feature.  The windows are normally tall and narrow, while the sashes are commonly single or double paned.  Italianate doors commonly have large narrow panes, mimicking the proportions of the windows.  From their pristine quality, it safe to assume that the doors of this home have been replaced at least once before, though the current doors are fitting for the style of the home. [1]

At some point during its history the brick of this home was painted its present gray color.  I note this first because, in general, I believe this practice should be avoided, and second, because I believe that if you are going to paint brick, this is good example of how it should be done.  There are simply far too many brick homes that have been ruined through the careless painting of some inexperienced owner or painter for me to recommend it.  You've probably seen them,with thick chunks of discolored latex paint flaking off of their surfaces around Chicago.  Brick is made of fired clay and is permeable to water, so normally sealing with chemicals or painting is not required and these can cause problems.  Sealing the brick in any fashion can trap moisture inside the wall.  Anyhow, the natural beauty of the brick is usually the most attractive, undoctored state for a brick masonry wall. This wall was painted with a properly bonded elastomeric paint.  Elastomeric paints are able to expand and contract without tearing or cracking, allowing it to withstand the stresses of seasonal weather changes.

I really enjoy the finely crafted wall sconces on either side the entryway.  These provide a nice floral accent to the formality of the rest of the structure.  The tinge of rust coloration on the fixtures plays excellently off the deep walnut color of the front door.  At the same time, the single candle bulb is reminiscent of historic kerosene oil lamps that were common at the time of this homes construction.

[1] My source of education on home styles is primarily from "A Field Guide to American Houses" by Virginia & Lee McAllester, a definitive and much heralded resource on the nuts and bolts of the many styles of American homes, an excellent reference.

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