Habitat: The Work of Architect William Draper Brinckloe

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I have a particular fondness for the “Period” style of American architecture from the early twentieth century. Partly as a reaction to the previous elaborate Victorian style, these Period homes were compact, with space plans defined by separate rooms according to function. Designs were inspired by English Tudor, Colonial Revival, French Colonial, Spanish Colonial, Bungalow and Craftsman styles. Two of my favorite Period houses in Easton’s Historic District are a bungalow on Washington Street and a Dutch colonial on S. Harrison Street.  After some research, I discovered they were designed by the same architect, William Draper Brinckloe, who lived to Easton from 1911 until his death in 1933. He was also an author of two books, “The Small Home” and “The Volunteer Firemen”. In his book “The Small Home” he mentions that he is designing a small bungalow for his family which became known as the “Dutch Cottage” on Harrison Street.

“A Small Home” is out of print but through the Easton Library’s loan program, I obtained a copy that was invaluable to me in my research. Brinckloe discusses sixteen categories of planning and building a house and includes plans and perspectives of sixty of his charming designs. I chuckled when I saw rooms on several plans named “sewing room” as my sewing skills are limited to sewing buttons or fixing hems!  As a veteran of many home makeovers, his chapter on “Making Over the Old Home” had a simple rule “Do as little tearing out as possible; remodel by building on new work, rather than by changing old” and my architectural practice has endeavored to adhere to that rule. I then wryly read his comment that he “…specialized on remodeling to some extent; and I have probably done more of it than my brother architects”. Little did he know that today all but one of Easton’s architectural firms have women principals.

åBrinckloe also designed several commercial projects, including renovations to the landmark Stewart Building that the Prager Group has updated to become the Jewel in the Crown of Federal Street. Brinckloe’s design for the brick building near the corner of Dover and Aurora Streets is simply delightful.  Red brick with accents of white banding between the lower floor windows and the arched transoms, the recessed archway that is an open vestibule to the French entry door beyond, three single windows that step up in tune to the stairway and two pairs of four window units create a lively façade. I especially liked how the white lintel band created a small open transom for the vestibule beyond. The wall above the stairwell rises above the parapet and is crowned with an arched top that steps down to the adjacent roof.  The second floor windows are covered by a deep shingled roof overhang and enhanced by window boxes below.

In addition to Brinckloe’s designs for the Washington and Harrison Street residences, Aurora Street has a row of his Period designs across from Idlewild Park.  When I was active in real estate, I showed the irresistible red brick bungalow with a tile roof. The roofline flares at the front elevation and a wide shed dormer creates space for a second floor.  I loved the symmetry of the front elevation with two pairs of shed roof dormer windows that were centered over the front door below and the end windows that were centered over the wide bay windows below that are tucked under the wide soffit.  The exquisite one-story semicircular bay wing on the right of the house is surrounded by continuous windows for sunlight and views of the park.`

The other Aurora Street bungalows are equally charming with their brick facades and the variety of roof styles that create a delightful streetscape. One house has a hipped roof with two dormer windows and a front porch gable flanked by two pairs of windows.  The center and each end of the elliptical window headers are accented in white to match the façade’s white quoins. Another house has lighter brick with white quoins and two shed dormers in its tile roof. The third house has a gambrel roof, double window dormers above an asymmetrical façade of a triple window bay with quoins, front door and double window. The fourth house is a lovely elongated façade of light brick with white quoins, the entry porch at one side, a wide shed dormer that meets the front wall of the main floor below and a single window wing at the end.

I was very fortunate to have tours of both the Washington Street bungalow and the Harrison Street “Dutch Cottage” that Brinckloe once called home. The Washington Street bungalow is the last illustration of his book. Brinckloe wrote that “the living room is particularly attractive with its curved ingle-nook bordered by bookshelves” and it has remained so. I absolutely love the front elevation with its gable front, deep eave broken by an “eyebrow” to mark the front door, the deep wrap-around porch with its wide, flared columns, the hipped roof wing next to the gable with a triple window-a perfect example of proportion and style that has been lovingly maintained by its current owners.  

Brinckloe’s “Dutch Cottage” residence is set back and angled from the street for privacy. A weathered wood fence along the street frontage is broken by a curved brick path that leads to a gate in the fence. After a short walk through the landscape you cross over a bridge where a stream once bisected the property. You arrive at the two-story gambrel roofed cottage that is sited parallel to the dry stream bed for maximum privacy from the street. The exterior walls are painted dark gray that disappear into the landscape and the crisp white multipaned windows, trim and pale brown shutters are appealing accents.  The front door opens to a view of the stairs that split at the landing in two directions. The dining room has a fireplace with a surround of Delft tiles and an arched niche above for family photographs. One bedroom is tucked under the eaves with a triple window dormer for sunlight.

Brinckloe’s home will be featured in the first Fall Spy House Tour of Homes on Sunday October 6th.  Homes will be designed by architects and interior designers  in a celebration of Talbot County’s great architectural heritage, past and present. Stay tuned to the Spy for more information.

Many thanks to the owners of the Washington Street and S. Harrison Street residences who graciously welcomed me into their homes and shared their photographs.

I am indebted to my friend, the artist Carol Minarick, for leading me to the work of this gifted architect of an earlier generation.  I am also grateful to the architect Charles Goebel for his help during my research.

Exterior Photography by Ted Mueller, tedmuellerphotography@gmail.com, 443-955-2490

Spy House of the Week is an ongoing series that selects a different home each week. The Spy’s Habitat editor Jennifer Martella makes these selections based exclusively on her experience as a architect.

Jennifer Martella has pursued her dual careers in architecture and real estate since she moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004. Her award winning work has ranged from revitalization projects to a collaboration with the Maya Lin Studio for the Children’s Defense Fund’s corporate retreat in her home state of Tennessee.

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Letters to Editor

  1. Lois J Harrison says

    Jennifer, I used to own the wonderful Washington Street home and have more information about the architect to share with you. Please email me and I’ll provide you with my phone #. Thanks for the great article and photos.

    • Jennifer Martella says

      Dear Lois
      Thx so much for writing- my phone number is 410-253-1100. I will be out of the country until 6-26 and I look forward to talking with you.
      Thx for being a Spy reader!
      Jenn

  2. Julia Moncure Brinckloe says

    I am elated to find this wonderful, rich article because William Draper Brinckloe was my grandfather! I will cherish and add it to the provenance I’m collecting on his creative, productive life.

    Brinckloe was also a prolific inventor and wrote numerous articles that appeared in home, farm, craftsman and garden magazines. He created the Volunteer Fire Department of Easton and with the support of his Wife Anna Moncure Brinckloe, contributed much to the spirit and life of the town and surrounding community. Thank you, thank you!

    With immense gratitude,
    Julia Moncure Brinckloe

    • Jennifer Martells says

      Dear Julia
      I am delighted to hear from you! You made my day!I so admire your grandfather’s work. I did know about his other accomplishments but with my limited Spy space I chose to focus on his wonderful architectural legacy.
      Do you live in Talbot County? I would love to meet you as I am very interested in writing a book about this most talented and prolific architect. My email is jenn@chestertownspy.com
      Jenn Martella

  3. Richard Skinner says

    Dear Ms. Martella (who is better known in our household as the Italian-wine person): Thank you for this and your other contributions to the Spy, all of which grant a reader of the Spy a reprieve from our currently nasty national politics. Your introduction to Brinckloe is especially welcomed as it reminds us that we are fortunate to live in a place that has deep historical roots and attracted (and still attracts) a rich variety of artists and craftspersons. Just as valuable was your insight about women heading up all but one of Easton’s architectural firms.

    Out of self-interest, I am curious to know if renovation of more modest dwellings built around the turn of the 19th and early 20th centuries and renovated by Brinckloe or other local architects has produced a portfolio of work worthy of your research? My sense is that the area is home to houses that were originally built for the lower-end of the real estate market but then purchased and renovated and remain today. Having grown up in Savannah, Georgia, I watched as what were once horse barns and “stick” row houses of the 19th and 20th centuries were literally born anew by the genius of architects who saw in the everyday houses of the past the bones from which to bring to life something at once useful and beautiful, albeit modest.

    • Jennifer Martella says

      Ciao Richard
      Thx so much for your kind words- I am thinking in writing a book about his work and the topuc you raised appeals to me too. Will keep you posted- in Switzerland this week as part of the Adopt an Alp contest winners

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