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The League Of Nations Freakshow Deluxe

Come on in, the sepulchre’s fine.

Between the period from just before the Civil War up until the”Gay Nineties,” there was a bunch of what are termed exotic revivals. They were lesser known than the other Romantic Revival house styles we mentioned earlier like Greek, Italianate, and Gothic, but they were even more odd and exuberant and weird and strange and fantastic. I call them the League Of Nations Freakshow Deluxe.

Egyptian had a little flurry. The front door on the business shown at the top of the page is in Philadelphia. The style was suited mostly to public buildings, and since most of the buildings it’s patterned after were tombs and toys for Tuts, it has a strange sort of funereal vibe. It had a bit of reignited interest around WW2, as well, when many public building in America integrated the motifs. Here’s a VA hospital in Marion, Illinois in the style. I’m sure you’ve seen some Post Offices that look like this too:
Never really caught on. Hey, how about”Oriental:”

That’s a store in Butte, Montana. Oriental in this instance basically encompasses anything east of Crete. It had lots of polychrome stuff and odd shapes all mish-mashed together. Sometimes the only vestiges of this sort of thing will be little touches like this reverse ogee window over this doorway in Pennsylvania. It’s based on the “Onion” shaped roof of the east:

Oh heck, let’s get a real onion shaped roof. Here’s one from 1891, in St Louis:

They probably would have called that “Turkish” It was a mess, and became a mess of a mess in the picture. Of course you could go Swiss:


The Swiss Chalet had a big re-revival later on in the twentieth century, too, as the preferred crummy second house in the mountains. You’d find them often at the seashore, too, which is as visually disturbing as licking stamps in a sort of Imhotep’s Post Office Tomb ever was.

These places could get plenty palatial. Look at this magnificent dustcatcher, Painter Frederic Church’s house on the Hudson. He called it Olana:

He referred to it as “Persian,” but that doesn’t really do it justice. The vernacular of the period would have termed it “Moorish.” It’s everything thrown at the Oriental wall, and it all seemed to stick. The carpets don’t fly, but they look like they ought to.

The same Architect that did a lot of the Marble Palaces for magnates in Newport, Rhode Island, Richard Morris Hunt, signed the plans, but it’s really Church’s doodling and tinkering writ large. The decoration is so dense as to look borderline insane to the modern eye. How would you like to eat in the dining room, made “cozy” with a fire in this fireplace:

Church was born rich, made a lot of money from his art, and still almost bankrupted himself building his house. How very American the Moorish style cottage is.

Day: April 23, 2007

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