Saturday, August 13, 2011

Residence for Frederick Watson

In the late 1880's, J. L. Silsbee was very popular for a particular style of home and he designed many of them that are scattered around the country.  This was the Shingle Style "suburban villa".  Unlike those that he designed for clients in his home-city, Chicago, many of the homes that are located outside the city still survive.  I have already written about one of these, a home for Judge James Shaw.  Two more of these are in Dixon, Illinois; both built for very prominent citizens.  
In 1889, Silsbee was commissioned by shoe manufacturer Fred Watson to design a home along the Rock River.  The home features a long sweeping roof line punctuated by symmetrically arranged dormers.  The base of the home is a multi-colored face of "tapestry brick".  It is a modest yet beautifully sited home that, because of the sweeping roof line and brick work, seems to hug the earth.  Initially, the the ground floor of the home was open across the front, providing a long porch from which to view the river.  A later enclosing addition is conspicuous and denotes how difficult it is to match this complex brick at any point after a home's initial construction.     
The home originally was an L-shaped plan with a single wing extending to the back of the home.  A two-story garage addition as been added to this in recent years.   The roof line at the rear is irregular with porte-cochere, dormers and a small round window that pokes from the roof line.
Watson was a first-generation financial success, working his way up from a news boy on the railroad to owning the Watson-Plummer Shoe Company.  He became a prominent man in the community and was known nation-wide within the shoe and leather business.  He lived in this home most of his life, moving to Chicago in 1910 after the death of his wife.  He soon remarried but passed away himself in 1913.        

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