About Site


Homes of the 1870s
Written May 19, 2002 (photos taken October 15, 2001)

Near my hometown of Richwood, Ohio, in the years after the Civil War, many new homes were constructed using a distinctive style.

Some were built on farms, many in Delaware County.  Some were built in towns like Prospect or Ostrander.  Most are still in use, although some have been modified with new siding and other modern improvements.

From my limited knowledge of architecture, I'd have to classify the style as a local variant of Italianate Victorian.  It's a thrifty, plain version of that style, lacking most of the ornamentation that one finds on Italianate Victorian mansions.  I've looked for this version in other regions but have rarely found it, except for a few houses in Denver.  It reminds me of home.

Here's a good example, built in 1875 at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and North Sandusky Street in the nearby city of Delaware, Ohio.

All these houses have hipped roofs, but this roof is unusually steep and is further augmented by dormer windows.  I presume that these features are modern additions, as is the sheltered entry on the left.

However, most of the other typical features are here:  red-brick construction, at least one porch, at least one octagonal bay two stories high.  The tall windows are all the same size, consisting of two double-hung panes and capped top and bottom with sandstone lintels and sills.  The generous vertical dimensions allow for 12-foot ceilings in the rooms inside.

Continuing south on Sandusky Street, one finds four variations on the theme in just the next block!

Whoever the builder was, it seems that he never built two houses exactly the same, but each house had to have a bay.

Sometimes the windows are flanked by painted shutters.  Shutters are rare enough to lead me to suspect that the original houses did not have them (certainly not on the bays, where there's no room for shutters beside the last window).  But they do make a severely plain facade more attractive.

Sometimes, as was also the case in the last example, the bay turns out to be rectangular instead of octagonal.

Sometimes there are multiple porches, often with railings for both the first and second stories.

Here's a smaller version at the end of the block, only two windows wide instead of three.


Taking a closer look at some of the details, we observe that in this small house, the lintels above the windows are simple rectangular slabs.

The neighbors have fancier lintels.  And along their roof's edge, the eaves are supported by decorative brackets placed between the windows.

The house next door features double brackets.  Above them you can see the low-pitched roof, made of metal (as the original roofs probably were) and painted.

The fancy woodwork on the porch was the height of fashion in the 1870s.


Like the brownstones of New York City, these boxy Italianate Victorians may not be particularly beautiful.  However, they are evocative of the part of Ohio where I grew up.




Back to Top
More DesignMore Design