Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Residence for Edward Erickson

Hopefully, for the handful of visitors that follow or stumble upon this blog, I have started to dispel a misconception that Silsbee's work declined in quality and that he dissappeared into oblivion a few years after the World's Columbian Exposition.  In fact, the trajectory of his career seems to follow national trends and he was able to continue adapting his design skills to a wide variety of styles.

In the mid 1900's, he begins experimenting with modest-looking wood, brick and stucco homes that seem inspired by Syracuse furniture maker Gustav Stickley.  Though he didn't exclusively practice in the Craftsman style, his homes in this idiom are unique and refined and no less remarkable than those he designed twenty years earlier.
In 1908, Silsbee received commissions for four known homes in Chicago's North Shore suburb of Highland Park.  Once a summer retreat, the small community was booming with a new train line and cultural amenities that made it an attractive commuter suburb.  This home is one of them and was built for banker Edward Erickson and his wife, Clara. 
The exterior of the home is clad in rough-hewn wood board siding.   Brackets beneath the windows, at the eaves and beneath the bay, and chamfered blocks at the corners all seem like stylized wood joinery details. This fine trim around the windows, at corners, and in the eave provide a refined contrast to the rest of the rough cladding.
The home is situated in a dramatic setting on a cliff overlooking a ravine and a public beach.  When notices appeared in contracting journals, the home was referred to as a "bungalow".  Though not the typical one-story structure typically associated with this name, the home would still have been considered as such because of it's modest appearance and low-hanging roof.  It has the appearance of a cottage rather than a grand estate.  A basement area is designed for boat storage and the grounds were laid out to take advantage of the natural setting.  It was to be Erickson's year-round home but unfortunately, he died the year it was finished and did not live in it very long. 
The interior of the home is laid out to take full advantage of the dramatic views.  The major living spaces are placed in the "front" facing the lake.  Here, the corners of the home are angled and have continuous windows offering more than one hundred and eighty degrees of views.  The entry, stair, and a small den are placed at the "back".  The interior is finished on all three floors with cypress.  The dramatic hall has vertical board and batten paneling and simple walls separating the stair from the main space.
Throughout the home, there are many medieval-inspired details.  Fireplaces are clad to have a vaguely Gothic or Baronial appearance and fine metal and tile work add to the Arts & Crafts character.
Silsbee's work in this style coincides with similar work that he and his son were doing in Syracuse at homes for family members in the Sedgwick suburb.  Perhaps it was son Ralph, a recent graduate of Princeton, who helped keep the office up to date stylistically.  It is also enticing to imagine that the elder Silsbee would have encountered Stickley or his Craftsman Workshops first-hand while visiting his former home town. 

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