ARCHITECTURE OF THE TUDORS IN AMERICA'S METROPOLIS
MR. REGINALD De KOVEN'S RECENT ADDITION TO PARK AVENUE
By SAMUEL HOWE Click HERE for background music.
It is perfectly natural that New York should be among the first favored to receive tangible evidence that our citizens have discovered so much pleasure in this form of architectural expression as to undertake to build for themselves after that style. In other words, the New Yorker is no longer content to import merely bric-a-brac, furniture, costumes, dramas and opinion upon philosophical subjects, the architecture of France and of Italy but he is now reaching out and striving to understand the architecture of the Great Fatherland. There is much more enlightened attitude of mind in this regard than that which obtained years ago. Americans—the best of them—feel instinctively that a man’s personality and character is reflected within the walls of his house. He is therefore taking the thing seriously as no longer something to be toyed with, a mere frivolous fashion of the hour.
Mr. De Koven’s recent addition to Park Avenue, New York, is an acceptable evidence of the potency and adaptability of England’s Tudor to American needs. Both the temper and the spirit of this flexible style as well as the inches and the material is here seen. The ingenuity of the architect in selecting local materials and making mighty good use of them is obvious. In a whimsical manner he has induced the everyday clay of a neighboring state to accept a brick form and a rich color. He has so bonded the masonry as to make, as it were, a rich low toned mosaic, very much after the fashion of the ancient halls of England when first they built with bricks of the Netherlands, making much of the black headed, diagonal courses. This brick work appears between the big windows, bringing into prominence the balustrading parapet, the columns flanking the entrance, the family coat of arms above and the English imported metal easements, for without these little vanities, where would the style be? It is indeed a human period, flexible in a degree, hence much of its charm, much of its stimulating force to a flexible people. “You can do things with the architecture of the Tudors."
Truly the house is serious in plan, well centered, well balanced, well arranged, well built, well and thoughtfully decorated, conscientious and consistent in idea. Every visitor to the house is attracted by the liberality and directness of the plan. The second floor is practically one room, a great hall, gallery, the “center of things,” the soul of the place. It is reached by a staircase which is stately and altogether well worth while. It is built of chestnut after the fashion of the Knole house, Kent, which dates from the time of the dissolution of the monasteries.Whatever Horace Walpole thought and ventured to say regarding Knole, it is, architecturally, a great staircase, and if the architect of the De Koven house had simply contented himself with taking this ancient hall as a model, he would be entitled to our thanks, for he has at once laid aside and neutralized many local prejudices. Here is freely shown the addition of enamel to hard wood. Every foot of the wall surface is made interesting by subtle subdivision and by skillful addition of enamel in two shades of warm gray. Architectural motifs are here handled very much as the designer makes drawings for tapestry cartoons. The projecting lozenge shaped panels of the arabesque strap ornament are floated with dull black enamel. The hand-rail treads and risers of the stairs retain their natural color.
The staircase is lighted by a huge window very much after the fashion of those which look upon Park Avenue and is enriched by the addition of painted glass, some of which has been recently made and some which was made before the days of King George. The staircase is wide and liberal, its scale is big; its outline, in spite of all the enrichment, has a certain majesty of its own.
|Great Hall - south end - residence of Reginald De Koven Esq., New York City. John Russell Pope, Architect.|
As a general rule our mind instinctively pictures some old English manor placed in the midst of a great park at the mention of Tudor architecture. Space and suitable landscape surroundings almost seem an essential setting. Yet in this house of Mr. DeKoven, John Russell Pope, the architect, has well proved the adaptability of this style of architecture for city uses. The end.
HENRY LOUIS REGINALD DEKOVEN was born in 1859 in Middletown, Connecticut. His father moved the family to England in 1872, where Reginald later attended St. John's College at Oxford University. He studied singing and musical composition in several countries on the continent before returning to America. He was a prolific composer of operettas and operas. He was also a conductor, and a music critic in Chicago and New York. In 1902 he created the Philharmonic Orchestra of Washington, which he managed until 1904. His best-known operetta was Robin Hood, and amongst his compositions was "Oh Promise Me". He died in 1920 in Chicago.
On the ground floor, a pair of engaged Doric columns flank the entrance arch in an applied triumphal arch design that incorporates a large crest in its attic and bridges the recess between the two bays. The blank wall above contains a shell niche with an urn inside and a cornice above supported by scroll brackets. A relief panel with a musician, probably DeKoven, sits above this cornice. The third floor consists of three equal stone-mullioned windows, each divided into six sections. The building edges and window openings are all defined by irregular light-colored stone quoins that contrast with the red brick. The wide building cornice is topped by brick piers and stone balustrades concealing the fourth floor servants' spaces.
The plan of the house is almost a perfect square, as it occupies two lots. It is divided in half by a structural wall parallel to the street that organizes the levels into a series of front and back rooms.
The second floor consisted of three major rooms: the drawing room that extended across the whole front of the house, the stair hall, and the library. Reception rooms for men and women opened to either side, as was customary in the day. The center opening from the hall was on axis with the beginning flight of the stair, which rose in a large square volume enclosed by arches. The dining room, which occupied a rear corner, was the last major space on the ground floor.
|Vestibule - residence of Reginald De Koven Esq., New York City. John Russell Pope, Architect.|
On the ground floor, a short flight of steps led to an octagonal reception hall.
|Ladies Reception Room; woodwork adapted to frame a set of paintings brought from one of the old Chateaux of France - residence of Reginald De Koven Esq., New York City. John Russell Pope, Architect.|
To decorate the ladies' reception room, Louis XV panels that incorporated 18th-century paintings by Belgian artists were taken from a house in Utrecht. Opposite, the men's smoking room was finished with darker tones of blue and gold in the late 17th-century English style of Christopher Wren.
|Men's Reception Room, treated in wood paneling painted after the manner of the green rooms of the time of Christopher Wren - residence of Reginald De Koven Esq., New York City. John Russell Pope, Architect.|
|The spacious emptiness of Reginald De Koven's music room is of itself an inspiration to people in the themes drawn from the piano. Country Life 1920.|
The Jacobean drawing room was lit by two enormous bay windows, whose small leaded panels incorporated stained glass crests. The walls were paneled with a lozenge motif that complemented the geometrical strapwork of the ceiling. Opposite the window wall, the two entrances were accentuated by stone portals with full entablatures over the paired doors. Each side wall had a distinctive treatment.
The south wall had a minstrel's gallery above an arcade with paired columns and an elaborately carved railing with lions at the piers.
|Again a strong note of Elizabethan feeling appears in the great stairway - residence of Reginald De Koven Esq., New York City. John Russell Pope, Architect.|
|At head of grand staircase - residence of Reginald De Koven Esq., New York City. John Russell Pope, Architect.|
The monumental stair was directly inspired by the great stair at Knole in Kent. The detailing on the stair was a very literal interpretation of the raised strapwork and geometrical patterning of the original, including the arches that separated the stair from the halls.
The library was designed in an earlier Tudor style. The bookshelves that held 4,000 volumes reached two-thirds up the walls to a border of tooled Spanish leather extending to the ceiling.
|Elizabethan and Jacobean details are noticeable in the fireplace of library.|
Its smaller fireplace had an elaborate oak overmantel with niches to either side of a large crest. According to an article in The New York Sun(1917), the upstairs bedrooms were no less ornate, being "furnished with costly woods, and hung in silk or French cretonnes, all reflecting luxurious surroundings at every turn." Although the house still stands, the facade and interiors had been substantially altered following the conversion of the residence into eleven apartments in 1945. Click HERE to see apartment 1BCD for rent at $16,650 a month. HERE to see rental and sales history(photos) for 1025 Park Avenue.
Click HERE to see at wikimapia with a Bing Streetside link. HERE to read the New York City Landmark Preservation Commission designation report.
|Reginald De Koven House - 104 Bellevue Place - Chicago, Illinois.|