American Country House

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Combining a knowledge of architecture and a keen sense of history, Moss ( Biographical Dictionary of Philadelphia Architects, 1700-1930 ) here offers a thoroughly interesting study of the American country house. We're not talking cabins in the woods; these are extravagant edifices. The author begins by discussing the aristocratic Georgian residences of colonial Southern planters and the Greek revival plantations of the antebellum era. As railroads made cities more accessible, an American look evolved, producing the ``picturesque styling'' of buildings along New York State's Hudson River and the villas of Schuylkill. Such homes were viewed as a way of displaying wealth, and so grew in grandeur from the graceful Monticello and Mount Vernon to the ostentations of William Randolph Hearst's San Simeon estate. Using sketches and photos of exteriors and interiors, as well as his gift for anecdote, Moss does well by these most stately mansions, though a glossary would have been welcome. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Like its counterparts in England, the American country house calls to mind a large, architecturally distinctive residence, surrounded by farmland and/or gardens and buttressed by great family wealth over many generations. Unlike its English relation, however, the American country house had a shorter time in which to develop. Furthermore, given the nation's great geographical and ethnic diversity, it took on many different and intriguing forms. These three studies fill an important void in the understanding of this building type and the individuals responsible for its development. Each volume is meticulously researched, well written, and lavishly illustrated. While there are, by necessity, overlapping examples, the authors bring their own interests and biases to the subject, so that each book has its own particular organization and focus. Architectural historian Moss traces the history of the country house type, moving from its roots in 18th-century Virginia to the villas along the Schuylkill and Hudson rivers and finally to the great country estates in Florida and California. Included are such noted houses as Olana and Biltmore, as well as lesser known structures like Whitehall and Whitemarsh Hall. Architect Hewitt focuses on the largely forgotten group of architects who designed the houses and the building technology that influenced their design. He includes examples through 1940 and provides brief biographies of the architects discussed. English Country Life editor Aslet analyzes how the country house embodied strongly American qualities, focusing on the sometimes-frivolous activities of the estate owners, their families, and their friends. Examples from the Adirondacks and the Berkshires are included along with those from the Hudson Valley, California, and Florida. All three volumes make lively reading and should appeal to historian and layperson alike.-- H. Ward Jandl, National Park Svce., Washington, D.C.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805012484
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/15/1990
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 256

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