Montgomery Tudor Revival – Our English Roots

No influence was more broadly felt, nor more expertly executed, in Montgomery than that of the Tudor Revival. These houses draw their inspiration from English domestic architecture of Medieval times. Calling the style Tudor brings to mind the Tudors and their larger-than-life personalities, giving the style a romantic and memorable name.

In the United States, fashionable architecture firms like McKim, Mead, and White designed the first of these English-inspired houses in New England in the late 19th century. Often built as country estates, the rambling form worked for difficult sites, allowed for carefully chosen views and separated formal from service spaces. These houses presented a warmer, more domestic feel than many styles popular at the time. For a place of retreat, they offer a place with a feeling of repose. This contrasts with the classical styles, whose formality may seem constraining.

Like the rest of the eclectic revivals, the growth of formal architectural education helped spread the Tudor Revival along with the other academic styles. Women’s magazines and house plan books also popularized the style. Usually more casual in their balance, Tudor Revival style homes are often built to resemble buildings that have grown through time, like their English inspirations. Other characteristics of the style include a long gable roof with intersecting gables, exposed half-timbering in the gables, banks of casement (roll-out) windows with small panes of glass, a substantial chimney often with chimney pots and heavy planked doors with iron hinges. Cladding is varied, even on the same building, with brick and stone being popular. Stucco is also popular in Montgomery and there are even examples with wood siding.

There are examples of Tudor Revival houses from all of Montgomery’s architects of the period, none better than those examples by Frank Lockwood and his son, Frank, Jr. I hadn’t been in Montgomery two weeks before I had heard the Lockwood name five or six times. I finally asked someone who he was. After the, “You aren’t from around here, are you?” look, I got the explanation about how valued Lockwood’s Tudor Revival houses are in our neighborhood, and some suggestions of houses I might want to notice.

I was sent first to Thomas Avenue to look at the first house on the left. It would be as at home on Long Island as it is here. First, there is a long gable roof with the ridge parallel to the street. It is relieved with dormers and gables. The most substantial one sweeps to the ground and contains the entrance. The huge doorway has limestone short-and-long work and, overhead, a projecting overstory bay with heavy brackets for support. In the peak, false half-timbered “crucks” have the spaces in between filled with brick, rather than the much more common stucco. In true half-timbering, where the timbers you see comprise the frame of the house, curved “crucks” were made from sections of the tree where the branches join the trunk, so that they were naturally curved. Half-timbering on these revival houses is decorative and often described as false because it is not structural.

The little projecting overstory above the door was likely meant to provide some protection from the rain for someone standing at the door. This might have worked in the British Isles, where the rain doesn’t usually come in buckets, as it does here.

Building on the idea that this kind of house might have grown over time, the front facade has a variety of dormers, both hip and gable, and both ends of the house have bays that are not flush with the front facade, as though they could have been additions. The automobile has been recognized here as part of regular household equipment, with an arched drive through to the rear yard which also separates the service wing from the rest of the house. Handsomely designed with only the best materials, and beautifully maintained, this house can only get better with time.

The window to the left of the entry must provide light to a stair rising from the entry hall.

If you continue down Thomas Avenue at least to Glen Grattan, you will see too many examples to photograph and describe. I love the boulevard-like street here, with its wide median. The neighborhood uses it for walking and jogging both early morning and late evening. Alas, this summer has started off so hot that the neighbors are likely out in the wee hours to get any exercise in at all.

I am a little sad to lose the front porch as a social space, which provides a good transition between public and private space. I do appreciate the level of detail, however, that is packed into this small entry piece.

One can get a pretty good idea about twentieth century domestic architecture if you only know three streets in Montgomery: Thomas Avenue, Perry Street and Gilmer Avenue. So, let’s head to Gilmer via Fairview Avenue. Since you’ll likely have to stop at the light at Fairview and Norman Bridge, look right at the old Brewbaker House and its companion next door, in the northwest corner of the intersection. Continue on Gilmer Street but go slowly after you turn because the next neighborhood landmark is just three houses in on the right.

Beautifully sited on a sweep of a lawn, this is one of the most interesting houses in Midtown. First, it is not a rambling house, but a substantial block of gray stucco, with the short-and-long work of brick. And what a chimney! Soaring straight up on the left, it has a substantial slope on the right, and is crowned with two enormous octagonal stacks of brick. Notice how bricks peek through the stucco, as though the stucco had failed and the bricks were showing from underneath. Is this a fake deterioration? Shed dormers on either side of the chimney give a little more room to two large windows.

The entry is understated but welcoming. The tiny porch with a shed roof is hardly more substantial than a stoop, but is packed with detail. First, the slate roof is beautifully weathered, covering a substantial plank doorway which has wrought iron hinges and leaded glass. I like the way the doorway is highlighted with a darker color between the two lines of irregular brick coursing that surrounds it. Two tiny windows flank the door. Above, three windows of leaded glass complete the composition. This is another house on my maintenance honor roll.

The Tudors and their English influence are not confined to substantial houses. Next time we’ll cover the English Cottage Style and take a look at the new Tudors.

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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