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Article: H. H. Richardson Home set to be demolished - Brookline, MA

Posted: Tue Dec 22, 2020 10:06 am
by DavidC

Re: Article: H. H. Richardson Home set to be demolished - Brookline, MA

Posted: Tue Dec 22, 2020 10:45 am
by jay
Oh man, that's sad. Not only a Richardson home, but the developer plans to knock down John Charles Olmsted's house as well... (John Olmsted was step-son of Olmsted Sr., and designed the Seattle Park system and a ton of projects in the Pacific Northwest, plus Druid Hills in Atlanta, among many other projects...)

Re: Article: H. H. Richardson Home set to be demolished - Brookline, MA

Posted: Tue Dec 22, 2020 11:05 am
by Roderick Grant
No matter how Richardson's own house rates with the other works he designed - and I couldn't find an image of it online - its demolition should not be considered. Richardson is a major figure in the history of architecture in America, and his own home should be as sacrosanct as Taliesin.

Re: Article: H. H. Richardson Home set to be demolished - Brookline, MA

Posted: Tue Dec 22, 2020 11:27 am
by SDR
Jay provides this aerial view.

Image

Re: Article: H. H. Richardson Home set to be demolished - Brookline, MA

Posted: Tue Dec 22, 2020 11:30 am
by Roderick Grant
A clear view from the street is not possible on Google.

(It would be interesting to know something about that massive edifice across the street.)

Re: Article: H. H. Richardson Home set to be demolished - Brookline, MA

Posted: Tue Dec 22, 2020 11:37 am
by SDR
Yes it would.

Here's what can be seen of 25 Cottage St on Google Street View. This is the house closest to the street, in the aerial view. Note that the article states the address as 25 Cottage, not 39. And it does not imply that the house was designed by the architect:

" In 1874, he rented the Brookline house from his friend Edward W. Hooper and established his office and library in the parlors on the first floor. "


Image


I am not one of those who waxes nostalgic when viewing the humble first (or last) home a famous person occupied---at least, one of no particular intrinsic architectural value and in which no evidence of the famous person remains. Richardson's legacy rests in the buildings he designed, not in the ones he occupied, as I see it.

S

Re: Article: H. H. Richardson Home set to be demolished - Brookline, MA

Posted: Tue Dec 22, 2020 11:45 am
by Roderick Grant
I would agree with that. I missed the notation.

Re: Article: H. H. Richardson Home set to be demolished - Brookline, MA

Posted: Tue Dec 22, 2020 12:07 pm
by jay
This area of Brookline has a history; Olmsted Sr.'s home "Fairsted" (also the office of the Olmsted Firm) is a quarter mile up the road. He was great friends with Richardson. One might say this neighborhood has a little-known history, which is now on its way to being erased... (Luckily Fairsted is owned by the National Park Service: https://www.nps.gov/frla/index.htm)

By the way, it's 3 houses at risk of being torn down... which is what I circled in the image posted above.

From the article that David linked:

Unfortunately, in November of 2020, the property and its neighbors at 39 Cottage and 222 Warren (the 1857 home of John Charles Olmsted) were acquired by a developer who quickly filed an application to demolish the Richardson House.

The Brookline Preservation Commission will hold a Demolition Delay hearing on December 29 to decide whether to impose an 18-month stay on demolition.

The Richardson House is a significant part of our collective cultural history and represents not just the legacy of Richardson as perhaps the most important architect in U.S. history, but the complex and interesting man and the family behind the legacy. It is the physical embodiment of the idea that greatness can be achieved by imperfect people, living and working together in borrowed houses.

Re: Article: H. H. Richardson Home set to be demolished - Brookline, MA

Posted: Tue Dec 22, 2020 12:45 pm
by jay
Here's a good article that discusses the Richardson and Olmsted friendship and professional relationship:
https://www.wned.org/television/wned-pr ... d-buffalo/
That both men settled in Brookline to live as neighbors might be, at least for me, the crux of the story of this 'Richardson house'. It is peculiar though that he chose not build his own home and instead rent one for 12 years.

Here is a photo of the "Richardson home and office" (25 Cottage) from the article:

"With national success under his belt, in 1874, Richardson moved to Brookline, Massachusetts, the wealthiest suburb in America. He was later joined there by Olmsted, whose home and office, Fairsted, bordered his friend’s property. The two men often collaborated on projects."

Image

Re: Article: H. H. Richardson Home set to be demolished - Brookline, MA

Posted: Wed Dec 23, 2020 11:26 am
by Roderick Grant
From what can be seen of the Richardson rental, it would seem to have been so alien to his own work that one might imagine it would have offended his sensitivity. Maybe he just couldn't afford to build? Or was too busy to take the time?

Re: Article: H. H. Richardson Home set to be demolished - Brookline, MA

Posted: Wed Dec 23, 2020 12:53 pm
by SDR
The cobbler's children go barefoot, it is said; maybe the cobbler does too ?

I am glad to know more about the relationship of Richardson and Olmsted, and of their settling in Brookline. My mother was raised in Newton Highlands, further out Boylston Street from Brookline and the city.

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Newto ... 71.2072321

Re: Article: H. H. Richardson Home set to be demolished - Brookline, MA

Posted: Wed Dec 23, 2020 5:30 pm
by jay
About Richardson's choice in style of his house rental....from the original article linked:
"Richardson intentionally chose to live and work outside of Boston in a “Jamaica planter’s” or West Indian style house that alludes to his youth spent on a sugar plantation in Louisiana."

Perhaps it's fair to say that Richardson mostly designed non-residential projects, and his massive buildings may not have aligned with his residential sensibilities....? Admittedly, I don't know much about his work or artistic philosophy.

The amount of projects the Olmsted Firm did in the greater Boston area––and Brookline itself––is just staggering. I'm sending some more images to SDR to post. Who knows how much of it still remains.... Some portion of these Olmsted projects were simple city lots with basic planting plans, drives, and short walking trails.

Here's an example of one of these small plans:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/olmsted_a ... 416608911/
(zoom in on the image for hi-res detail)

Seems to me that Brookline's history from this period should be preserved and celebrated... Again, not only is this Richardson's home under threat, but also John Charles Olmsted's... Here are all the plans they drew up for his house. Not particularly interesting plans, perhaps, but still seems like a home that shouldn't be demolished...for plenty of reasons.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/olmsted_a ... 4795764146

Re: Article: H. H. Richardson Home set to be demolished - Brookline, MA

Posted: Wed Dec 23, 2020 7:13 pm
by SDR
Visuals from Jay:

Image

Image

Re: Article: H. H. Richardson Home set to be demolished - Brookline, MA

Posted: Wed Dec 23, 2020 7:31 pm
by SDR
I could look at old architectural drawings all day; the wealth of contemporary detailing is priceless. (I've never seen drawers with hardwood wheels top and bottom, before.) But does anyone find it odd to see such drawings---for endless interior details, a furnace, stairs, laundry sinks---coming from a landscape architect ? There are a couple of sheets with plant-watering plumbing, and a plant room . . . but a whole house's worth of finish carpentry, including stairs, cabinetry, doorways including ones with elliptical arches . . .?

Perhaps Olmsted had an architecture division . . .

Here's my favorite piece of Richardson, one of several houses he designed: https://www.glessnerhouse.org/the-house

He did shingled houses in New England as well.

S

Re: Article: H. H. Richardson Home set to be demolished - Brookline, MA

Posted: Wed Dec 23, 2020 7:40 pm
by SDR