Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lookalikes

Just after I wrote the post about 207 Meetinghouse Lane, I discovered two other houses that look just like it.

First, one Saturday while out perusing garage/yard sales (a great way to tour historic architecture), I came across 187 Meetinghouse Lane, just two doors west of #205. Huh. Almost an identical twin, except that its porch hasn’t been altered, the panes in the triangular window are slightly different, and the second story window over the first floor bay window projection has been replace over the years. #187 also has a few rows of scalloped shingles in the front gable end, whereas #207 seems to have had its shingles either replaced or covered over with new shingles at some point.

Then, on my way home one day, I passed a house I have passed a hundred times: 180 Halsey Street. But for the first time I noticed it was just like those two houses on Meetinghouse Lane. Huh. This one however, is the mirror image of the first two, and also has its front porch intact. But like the others, some of its details have also changed over the years.

Some of you are probably saying, “So what? There are lots of “lookalike” (even facsimile) houses in the Village.” And you would be right. But I can’t help imagining that the builder of all these houses may have been the same person, and if one of the owners, or their neighbors, knows who built one of these houses, they probably know who built the others too. That would be interesting to know, at least to me.

But yes, the same design for a house is often built repeatedly, even way back when, and especially today.

The earliest surviving house in Southampton Village is a salt box, which was the form of most of the East End’s earliest surviving homes. There are also a significant amount of Sear’s kit houses (sold as “Sears Modern Homes” on the East End. Over 70,000 of these were sold in North America between 1908 and 1940. Shipped via railroad boxcars, these kits included all the materials needed to build a house. Many were assembled by the new homeowner and friends, relatives, and neighbors, in a fashion similar to the traditional barn-raisings of farming families.” (wikipedia)

Even today we can find volume after volume of house plan books sold at Barnes & Noble and Home Depot alike. I even remember a client from back when I worked as an architect that came to the office and asked us to build them a house just like they found on page x of a catalog they had, except with a few tweaks of their own.

It wasn’t always, and still isn’t, that architects are behind the construction of every structure. While I believe good architects are beneficial to every construction project, it’s true that many people disagree
and feel that costs can be saved without them. But if many of the Village’s most gorgeous and historic homes didn’t have an architect behind them, then the quality of builders in those days must really have been extraordinary and inspiring to say the least.

The first American architect was Benjamin Latrobe. “Benjamin Henry Boneval Latrobe (May 1, 1764 – September 3, 1820) was a British-born American neoclassical architect best known for his design of the United States Capitol, along with his work on the Baltimore Basilica, the first Roman Catholic Cathedral in the United States. Latrobe was one of the first formally-trained, professional architects in the United States, drawing influences from his travels in Italy, as well as British and French Neoclassical architects such as Claude Nicolas Ledoux." (wikipedia)

I think I’ll start a series of ‘Lookalike’ posts, as a sort of quasi-study of architectural prototypes both here in the Village and elsewhere in the Hamptons. I guess that make this post “Lookalikes #1.”

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