BEFORE going into the subject of the merits of Dutch architecture it may be well to define the meaning of the term as it is commonly used. It refers not to the architecture of Holland, but to the style which was built up by the Dutch Colonists and which was developed not only by them but by the French Huguenots and the English who later settled amongst them. The houses are entirely different from those of Holland in material, in mass and in detail. Here the houses are built of stone or of stone in combination with plaster or clapboards, but brick was very sparingly employed, except for the chimneys and the enormous baking-ovens. In Holland, on the contrary, the architecture was one almost entirely of brick; stone was about as common as diamonds are here, and came in about the same size pieces. The most characteristic feature of our Colonial Dutch houses was the roof, and this again was of a new type. Here either a long low sloping roof was employed or the gambrel type, so beautifully handled that the terms "Dutch" and "gambrel" are synonymous.
The origin of this roof has been long a subject for dispute. It is purely an American development, without any European precedent, and its use must have arisen from some condition peculiar to this country. I believe this is to be found in the fact that two-story houses in Colonial days were heavily taxed, while one-story houses went free. The early designers therefore endeavored to evade the law by building a one-story house of two stories, and in order to cheaply and with a maximum of effect. Yet while stone for the ends and plaster for the front and rear was the usual method of construction, it was by no means the only one. Any or all of the materials above mentioned were used in the same house, and it is by no means uncommon to see four or even five in combination even in a very small buikb-ing; the charm of the free design which was the inevitable result cannot be approached in any more stereotyped architecture.
First floor plan, the home of St. G. Barber, Englewood, N. J. Aymar Embury, II, architect get the rooms in the second story as large as possible, the roof was given a wider overhang and sloped very steeply. But, since continuing the steep roof slopes on either side of the house up to their intersection would be excessively high, giving the house as seen from the end the shape of a stingy piece of pie, after the builders had run it up high enough to include the second story they covered over the intermediate spaces with as flat a roof as possible.
The wide overhangs, besides giving more space in the second floor, had) another valid reason. The gable ends were usually built of stone, since they were difficult to protect from the weather, but the front and rear walls, covered by the wide roof, could be covered with plaster much more.
Second floor plan, the home of St. G. Barber, Englewood, N. J.
Aymar Embury, II, architect.
The moldings and details employed were as individual as the design. We find many of the porch columns, for example, hexagonal or octagonal in shape and crowned with capitals the moldings of which are suggestive of both Greek and Gothic origin. Other bouses have the same varieties of Renaissance columns which were used by the designers of the New England and Southern Colonial. There was nothing forced, nothing strained anywhere apparent, and the result was the creation of an independent architectural style; and the only one which has been developed in the United States.
Aymar Embury, II, architect.
The home of Jerome C. Bull, Tuckahoe, N. Y.
The home of St. G. Barber, Englewood, N. J.
Aymar Embury, II, architect.
Mr. Jackson in his chapter on half-timber houses has well stated that the proper style to employ is that developed by the race which uses it, and he believes that we should therefore design our work following the English traditions. Yet the proportion of the American people whose ancestry is English is a comparatively small one, and English half-timber architecture is distinctly an importation in this country and not a development. Mr. Wallis, like Mr. Jackson, also insists that the native style is the one which absolutely must be employed- I thoroughly agree with both of them, and, if we are all three right, the style to use is Dutch or nothing.
Second Floor Plan The home of Jerome C. Bull, Tuckaboe, N. Y. Aymar Embury, II, architect.
Colonial architecture is formal while the half-timber work is informal; both have advantages, the former in its dignity, and the latter in its flexibility. The Dutch work has the advantages of both without the disadvantages of either. If the symmetry of the Colonial house is disturbed its agreeable qualities are lost, while the half-timber house executed symmetrically becomes dry and tiresome in the extreme. A house can be executed in any way you please in the Dutch style. The central mass of the house may be flanked with wings of equal size and similar fenestration, or the house may ramble about, following the slopes of the ground and avoiding big trees without any loss of charm. The first-story rooms can be high, square and simple, or they can be low and broken with deep-set windows, should that be the type desired, and the "company" rooms can be of one kind and the living-rooms of the other; and, best of all, both can be combined into a single and harmonious whole without a discordant note.
Dutch architecture, even in its most conventional form, is extremely individual. Its designers have left us so many precedents that in working in that style you never have the least feeling that you must go look it up in a book and find out if it was ever done in that way before. You are very sure that if it was never done, the only reason was because the Dutch did not happen to think of it.