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Index by Medium

Tudor Style

I wrote a few weeks ago about the eclecticism present in twentieth century housing styles. I also mentioned that the mainstream style during the first half of the century was Colonial Revival. The eclecticism comes in the form of peripheral "eddies" to this mainstream, styles not popular enough to make much of a dent in the overwhelming preference for Colonial Revival, but by the same token, the choice of many upper and upper-middle class owners who eschewed the Colonial Revival perhaps because it was mainstream. I mentioned last week the slightly grander cousin to Colonial Revival called Neo-classicism. And this week, spiralling off much further afield on the opposite side of the Colonial Revival mainstream, we want to talk about what came to be known as Tudor.

Like the Queen Anne style, Tudor is something of a misnomer used more because that era in English history is fairly familiar. Like the term "Victorian," Tudor denotes much more an historic period that a style of architecture. The fact is, the predominant architectural style of the Tudor period was Jacobean. Technically we should therefore call the Tudor style Jacobean Revival. At the very least we might call it Tudor Revival, though in fact, in England at least, Tudor has been such a popular building style for so long no "revival" would be needed. However in this country, call it Tudor or Jacobean, the style would date back to the 1600s and was popular only because of its simplicity of construction. It was quickly replaced by the contemporary English Adam style of the time once colonial builders were able to handle the rather more complex masonry and carpentry that style demanded.

Whatever we call it, the style's most distinctive feature is its exposed timbers interspersed with stucco. In twentieth century manifestations, the timbers are often dark brown, the stucco purest white; but in England particularly and even somewhat in this country, the stucco may be off-white, tan, or (in Britain) brightly painted in a rainbow of hues. Coupled with this is the generous use of both brick and stone masonry, often in the same structure with no attempt to disguise "built on" additions whether in fact or imitative. Roofs are steep, usually slate, chimneys tall, windows grouped and plentiful, decorative details, florid over a geometric base. Arches often decorate entries while porches are rare. Windows are rectangular, often in one and two-storied bays with small leaded panes of glass in diamond shapes. The basic arrangements of rooms and exterior masses is almost always asymmetrical.

With some notable geographic exceptions, this country has always looked to England for its domestic architectural models. This is largely because, even well into this past century, those with the money to afford an architect were usually of English descent. Their lifestyle fantasies, not surprisingly therefore, centred upon English literary models. The first Tudor/Jacobean examples began appearing in this country about 1890 and were often quite pure copies of their English counterparts. As the twentieth century dawned, the style became popular as a simple, inexpensive alternative to Colonial Revival because it was something of a veneer or mask that could be cheaply applied to nearly any type housing construction. Brick and stone could be laid up as a veneer, followed by half-timbers and lathe for the stucco. Roofs tended to be a little steeper than might be found on Colonial Revival homes, but other than that, it was only slightly more difficult to make a home look "Tudor" than "Colonial." The style continued in popularity up through the 1920s and 30s. After the Second World War, with the demand for rapid, plentiful, economical housing, it faded fast in that it was none of these. In today's eclectic mix of housing styles, Tudor is limited mostly to larger homes in that its masonry masses and wealth of stylistic details do not lend itself easily to homes on a more modest scale.

contributed by Lane, Jim

25 September 2000


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