The Tudors, Season Two

In June I wrote about the Tudor Revival and some of Montgomery’s larger showcase Tudor homes. As promised, this post is about the not-so-huge Tudor houses. Along with bungalows, these houses represent the prosperity of the 1920’s, and form the bulk of the pre-World War II residential neighborhoods in Montgomery and across the south. Indeed, looking at what’s being built in some of the newer neighborhoods around town and in our neighborhoods, I’d say our obsession with all things British has not faded.

You can see how thickly the real thatch builds up around the dormers and at the edges of the roof on this cottage, where it is sheared back at an angle. Sadly, I took this photo from my car, there being nowhere to pull off, plus it was a typical dreary English day.

First, let’s head for the streets that run south of Fairview between Norman Bridge Road and Cloverdale Road to see the variety of Tudor houses. These are not huge houses, but good, solid houses for regular folk. Although they generally lack the rambling overall plan of the Thomas Avenue mansions, they still provide a wealth of Tudor detail: steep roofs, casement windows, half-timbering, false thatched roofs, planked doors, and massive chimneys.  I’m sure I’m not the only person around here who grew up in such a house.

A nice house by any standard, but the false-thatching— with its thick rolled edges—really give this house an English look.

Notice the thick roll on the edge of the roof on this house on Lexington, called false-thatching. It was meant to mimic the thick bundles of thatch that might grace a house on an English cottage, as in the first picture. When this house was built, shingles textured to look like thatch were available, so that roll looked especially authentic. Alas, these shingles are not available today. Also note the steeply pitched roof with the end of the gable clipped off, sometimes called “jerkin-headed,” and the half-timbered entry porch peeking out from behind the crepe myrtle. False-thatching is pretty rare across the country but there are several examples in Montgomery. Look on the west side of Norman Bridge Road before Edgemont for a couple of additional examples.

Magnolias shade the yard, but Tudor defines the house. Note the tapestry brick in a half-round above the paired windows on the right.

Also on Lexington, south Alabama meets the south of England in this great cottage. It is framed by huge, limbed-up southern magnolia trees in the front yard. I love the way this gable comes down into make the recessed entry. Notice those heavy timber and wood “crucks” that frame the porch and the tiny buttress to the left that helps our eye stop the slide of the roof structure to the ground. Since the house faces full west, I am sure those magnolia trees help the house stay cooler in the southern summer.

If this house were stucco, we could pass it off as an English cottage, mostly because of the colorful garden out front.

Once I got started on Lexington, I couldn’t stop. This cottage could almost be an English cottage. In England, I mean.  The round top entry arch recalls the Romanesque roots of many early English cottages. The way the brick in this arched entry is pulled out and in recalls a style that zig-zags around many such openings on the Damp Isle. The cottage garden in front completes the image.

Tipsy of drunkard brickwork and a handsome chimney help this small house make a big style statement.

On McDonough, the tipsy mason has been at work. This English cottage-style home has all the style of Thomas Avenue in a small package. Looking for all the world like you or I might have laid up the brick coursing on this home, this decorative style is meant to make us think careless repairs have been made over the years.  Nothing could be further from the truth. This is hard to do! The stately chimney on this house is especially handsome, with the scale, the pulling out of the bricks in relief in a random fashion, and the well-proportioned and detailed stack all bringing charm and style to the front elevation. This house, although appearing small, has especially well-proportioned living spaces allowed by the very deep lot. There is an almost identical house just off Mulberry behind Jackson Hospital.

This house defies tradition by not facing the street, but the orientation opens the house to a fine terrace, a space the owners seem to be using for living as well as entry.

In newer houses, we find designers and architects looking both at our own 1920s models for inspiration while  looking back to the original British models for form and detail. This house on Augusta Place recalls the 1920s in a more modern house, with the steeply pitched roof and intersecting volumes of the 20s houses, but a garage right up front. While I don’t usually like (for all its usefulness) the huge scale a front-facing garage gives a house, this one works because the vine-covered trellis over the doors. It’s just the right embellishment.

The loss of a huge tree last year opens up the west façade of the Perry Street house, but it allows us to clearly see the house. Notice the scale of the chimney and the chimney pots, not all matching -- in a very English way.

The firm of McAlpine- Tankersley is at the forefront of architects looking directly to English and Scottish examples for inspiration.  Using examples from Charles Rennie McIntosh, Edwin Lutyens (pronounced Lutchens), or one of the many associates of William Morris, McAlpine’s office often blows out walls we might expect to be solid with bay windows, or opens up entire walls with glass, as you can see in the picture above. In this house on the corner of Perry and Felder, we still get the steeply pitched roof with the gable end sweeping down to the ground. The real stucco gives color and texture to the wall.  Like the best of well-designed homes, the relationship of indoor and outdoor spaces is carefully worked out, and what you see in the landscape is as carefully designed as the home. This is not a house plopped into a square of green grass.

McAlpine-Tankersley’s work often draws on 19th century examples such as Standen, shown here, by William Morris colleague Phillip Webb. I love the richness of the brickwork, the variations in the planes of the façade, and of course, the vines in rich fall color. Although in a rural setting, the house is only a few miles from Gatwick Airport.

The level of detail, the informality and home-like quality, and the air of respectability they give  have made a place in residential architecture for the Tudor style even today. When I peek over the wall into the new houses being built on the grounds of the old Standard Club, I see that even in the newest houses in our neighborhood are recalling our English roots.

Elizabeth Ann Brown has lived in and loved Montgomery’s Garden District for more than twenty years. She holds a Bachelor of Architecture and a masters degree in Community Planning from Auburn University. Her hobbies include pursuit of the ultimate chicken salad sandwich, bicycling, and working on her old house, a 1913 bungalow.

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