AFTER POWER-WASHING this old house, I developed a new appreciation for its front porch. I’m talking major ornamentation here. It’s got columns. And capitals. And corbels. And that’s just the Cs! There are brackets and arches, too. Would you like an intimate look at these Victorian details? Good. Because this morning I photographed all of them for you.
Disclaimer #1. I relied on Wikipedia to identify most of the architectural features of my front porch. (If I’ve misidentified any of these, feel free to correct me.)
Disclaimer #2. I did not personally power-wash the house. I rented the machine, along with someone half my age to use it. I pointed, and he washed.
Disclaimer #3. This photo gallery will probably bore the hell out of you.
At least, I think they are acanthus leaves.
True confession: I’ve lived in this house for 11 years, but only today did I notice these brackets.
Who’s responsible for these highfalutin details? That would Mr. Charles Wild. Around 1866, Charles inherited the handsome Federal house that his father, Nathan, built in 1826. Obviously Charles had loads of cash and a taste for the opulent, for he gave the old place a grand, Victorian makeover, both inside and out. He also added a very formal wing to the house, which I now use as a Music Room.
When I get the chance, I’ll scan a sketch of this house from 1840 (pre-Victorianization). Meanwhile, here’s a drawing from 1878. The shuttered windows and canvas awnings indicate the sketch was drawn during summertime. Nowadays, trees in the front yard tower over the house, and produce abundant shade.
The house stayed in the Wild family from 1826 until 1975. That means my partner and I are only the fifth owners of the joint.
According to Janice Wild, Nathan’s great-great granddaughter, Charles and his descendants — right up until 1975 — employed a large, full-time household staff. And no wonder! There were columns, capitals, brackets, and corbels to clean!
Of course, a grand front porch needs an equally-grand entrance for the house. The mahogany double doors from Charles’ time are still here, along with their bronze hardware. On my to-do list is the complete restoration of these doors. As for the bronze doorknobs and escutcheons, my savvy friend Michael recommends burnishing these with fine-grade steel wool. This way I can remove much of the tarnish without removing the century-old patina. I’ll gladly walk you through these restoration jobs when I tackle them this fall.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed our brief time on the porch. I should have served you lemonade during your visit. Lemonade with, perhaps, a little vodka (for medicinal purposes) mixed in.
And here’s another thought. I’d like to consult with Charles Wild via Ouija board. I’d like to ask him if he intended his architectural elements to be painted a different color than that of the clapboard siding. From my own research, and that of a local historian, the house and its accoutrements have always been painted white. And the shutters have always been painted green. Except for the very brief blue period in the early 1980s. The blue color was almost immediately returned to white.
Are you fascinated with old houses, too? Talk to me in the comments field below. As always, an angel gets his or her wings whenever someone posts a comment or clicks the “like” button here.
Meanwhile, don’t miss anything at A Garden for the House…sign up for Kevin’s weekly email updates.