Colonial Revival Eclipses Queen Anne

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Colonial Revival Eclipses Queen Anne

The Colonial Revival style, which began in Philadelphia in 1876, blossomed into a movement and continued into the 20th century. The style was echoed there 22 years later with the 1898 restoration of Independence Hall. By then the style had taken root in Alameda, as evidenced by the beauty on Paru Street.

Left: Bell-and-brass-foundry scion W. T. Garrett Jr. invested $16,000 of his inheritance in this stately Colonial Revival home on Union Street at Clinton Avenue. D. F. Oliver later purchased and enlarged the home. Right: Joseph Mallon hired A.W. Pattiani to build this Colonial Revival gem for his family. Pattiani’s design elements included a Palladian-like dormer with Classic elements — a pediment, swags and pillars
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America Looks to Colonial Past for Inspiration

Dennis Evanosky

Like the Queen Anne style, Colonial Revival first appeared at the Centennial Exhibition of 1876 in Philadelphia. Queen Anne turned America’s attention to Great Britain, while Colonial Revival focused on this country’s colonial past.

In the 1890s, the residents of Alameda witnessed a pair of stately Colonial Revival-style homes rising up in today’s Gold Coast neighborhood. Joseph A. Leonard was building the first as an investment property for William Thompson (W.T.) Garratt Jr., the scion and heir of the turn-of-the-century bell-and-brass foundry owner William Thompson (W.T.) Garratt Sr.

When the senior Garratt died Jan. 14, 1890, he left $200,000 — a sizable sum in those days — to his 21-year-old son. The young man decided to invest $16,000 of his inheritance in the speculative real estate market in Alameda. He bought property at Union Street and Clinton Avenue, then just a block from San Francisco Bay.

He then hired noted San Francisco architect Fuller Claflin to design and Leonard to build the home. Alameda Museum curator George Gunn says that Claflin was staying just a few blocks away on Paru Street with his sister-in-law, Mrs. A.H. Ward. Perhaps the Moorish villa that Claflin had designed for the Wards there had impressed Garratt and led to his granting Claflin the commission.

In 1895, A.W. Pattiani & Company built a home on Grand Street for Joseph Mallon and his wife, Teresa. This home shows how well the architect and builder understood the first Victorian-era style fully rooted in American soil. Pattiani built the home as a “Classic Box.” A Palladian-like dormer with Classic elements — a pediment, swags and pillars — draws the eye to the home’s hipped roof. Pattiani added dentil-like supports at the cornice line. He then repeated the pillared theme on the home’s second-story windows.

Pilasters set off each corner of the home’s façade. Pattiani replicated the pilasters at the large front window and the front door. Bay windows — a carryover from the Italianate, Stick and Queen Anne styles — hint at the Victorian era when the home was built.

In designing these homes both Claflin and Pattiani had turned to a style that harkened back to colonial America and one that saw a revival with the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. This celebration of America’s 100th birthday inspired a new interest in domestic architecture. Many of the buildings designed for the exposition were based on historically significant colonial designs.

At the same time movements were afoot to restore Boston’s Old South Church and George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon. A series of articles that focused on New England’s early architecture appeared in American Architect and Harpers. The publicity helped spread its popularity throughout the country.

Charles McKim, William Rutherford Mead and Stanford White — who soon formed the prominent architectural firm McKim, Mead and White — toured New England’s historic towns. “They put their field notes to good use, drawing on first-hand knowledge of architectural details and forms to produce buildings which, while totally original, rang true to an earlier design spirit,” say James C. Massey and Shirley Maxwell in an article they wrote for Old House Journal. “Even more importantly, they published books of their drawings, spreading the Colonial Revival message across the nation.”

Some credit the architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White with launching the style, which in the early phase remained the exclusive domain of their wealthy clients. The firm borrowed heavily from early American architecture. They combined various Colonial styles and contemporary elements.

Generally, the Colonial Revival house is larger than its Colonial counterpart — this can certainly be said of the Garratt Mansion — and some of the individual elements are exaggerated or out of proportion with other parts of the house.

Early Colonial styles called Georgian and Adams — for British kings George I, II and III and for architects Robert and James Adams respectively — were prevalent in the New England colonies and formed the backbone of the revival. Some architects faithfully returned to the Georgian and Adams styles. They designed Colonial Revival homes with such historical accuracy that they are difficult to distinguish from the original houses. Characteristics of the Colonial Revival style include a large portico entrance, a hipped roof, dormers, Palladian windows and decorative elements like swags and urns.