Friday, October 15, 2010

Home for Frederick Greeley

You don;t need to look very long and hard at Joseph Silsbee's homes to see that the exhibit a great breadth of style and expression.  Within the Shingle Style alone, Silsbee's work spans a spectrum from buildings with Queen Anne Influence, Gothic Cottage, or as this home illustrates, Colonial Revival. This Dutch Colonial home was designed for surveyor, Frederick Greeley and still stands in an enclave of beautiful Shingle Style homes landscaped by O. C. Simonds.     
The variety of expression in the homes can be attributed to Silsbee's own design talent and his willingness to openly experiment with design motifs from almost any period of architectural history.  Another reason for this breadth of expression can be attributed to the immense talent of the draftsmen he employed in his office.  The illustration of the home above was drawn by architect Henry Fiddelke.  Fiddelke would go on to become a prolific Oak Park architect who, like his former employer, had no problem designing a wide variety of homes in a myriad of styles.            
The Greeley Home has been significantly altered but retains it's overall building form.  The modesty depicted in Fiddelke's drawing is deceptive, as is a view of the home from the street.  At first glance, it seems like a simple box-like home under a large gambrel roof.  With the exception of an over-sized arched window at the staircase, it seems to have little or no additional articulation.  The drawing also doesn't seem to accurately depict the home's large size, with living quarters planned on three stories.  The view from the lake-side of the building reveals some of the home's complexity.  A broad porch  extends east from the recess at the southeast corner of the home creating a distinct promontory.  The lake-side also features interesting features like the paired dormers at the center of the roof.  A two story bay on the opposite end of the home provides additional articulation on this facade further establishing its relation to the lake.
The years around 1888, when this home was designed, were some of the most prolific in Silsbee's office.  There are points in time when particular architects seemed to have a sort of magic happening in their offices.  This aptly describes Silsbee's office in the late 1880's.  One can only imagine what it would have been like to see Silsbee's Chicago office with a slate of employees including Elbert Wilcox, DeWitt Kennard, George MaherGeorge Elmslie, Frank Lloyd Wright, Henry Fiddelke and Harry Hale Waterman, to name a few.  Meanwhile, a similarly talented array of architects were working under Silsbee in his Buffalo office at precisely the same time.  One can only guess at what each of these designers brought to the buildings built in this period but it is certain that they each brought a unique flavor that only added to Silsbee's already creative designs.  

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