Robert W. Shoppell was one of many successful plan book publishers in the late nineteenth century. Surviving houses built from the mail-order plans he sold through his New York-based Co-operative Building Plan Association can be found throughout the country. In addition to his design No. 216, he offered a very similar plan numbered 344. The two houses differ in that their roof lines — at least on the main facade — are not the same: No. 216 reads as a story and a half while No. 344 appears as a full two-story house.
I suspect that Shoppell published other versions of these designs or that his plans were “borrowed” and slightly altered by competing plan book publishers. The following two examples — one in Abilene, Kansas, and another in suburban Chicago, Illinois — each have an angled chimney (reflecting the octagonal shape of the parlor) and appear to have been built from the same plans. When compared to each other, the two houses offer powerful evidence of the value of retaining architectural integrity.
The house in Abilene appears to be a hybrid of plans 216 and 344. The plan as built may have its own distinct design number, but if so I’m not aware of it.
Shoppell’s design No. 216 as it appears in one of his plan books. Note that the angled chimney is to the left of the tower-like room in the attic; the houses shown below were built in reverse of this plan. Image source: archive.org
The house seen above as built in Abilene, Kansas. The porch was remodeled in the early twentieth century to reflect prevailing Colonial Revival tastes, but the rest of the exterior remains substantially intact. Note the angle of the chimney is like that shown in the first illustration above, but on the opposite side. Image courtesy of Google Street View.
The double doors at left differ from published plans I’ve seen and may be an early alteration.
The bay window seen here is shown at the ground floor level in both design No. 216 and No. 344.
In the 1880’s, S. E. Gross was busy hustling real estate in the Chicago burbs… this is the cover of one of his catalogs promoting his new suburb, Grossdale, presumably named after himself. Today the close-in suburb is known as Brookfield. Image source: archive.org
This is an illustration from the catalog Gross published; it illustrates many fine buildings in his development including this house which appears to be Shoppell’s design No. 216. Fortunately, the location is given and the house still survives. Though an angled chimney is shown, there is now fireplace in the parlor. The chimneys shown on the plan do not appear to be angled. Hmmm…. Image source: archive.org
Here it is — the same house as it looks today. Replacement siding, a remodled porch and other alterations (including corner boards) have significantly altered the character of the house. But its still recognizable! It retains an angled chimney (not seen, at right) suggesting a parlor fireplace. Image courtesy Google Street View.
Shoppell’s design No. 216 has a parlor fireplace and angled chimney. Image source: archive.org
Shoppell’s design No. 344 has no fireplace in the parlor. Image source: archive.org
This illustration from the catalog promoting the town of Grossdale best matches the houses in Abilene. The artistry differs from illustrations in the Shoppell publications which I have seen, however. Could this be a rip-off of his work or is it more likely that it is just another of Shoppell’s own variations? Let me know what you think (or know)! Image source: archive.org
Very cool finds! I have mixed feelings about the design. It’s unique and interesting, but it kind of feels like it’s a tower and a house battling for dominance, and the tower is winning. Or rather, it’s a mashup of an Octagon house with more traditional gabled Queen Anne.
I’m not sure if the huge Colonial Revival porch on the first helps balance the massing, or makes it worse. It’s certainly a classy porch, though!
In any case, the extant KS example looks so much better than one here in IL, clad in shiny plastic with the sad little fretwork bits clinging to the plain, square porch columns.
The tower is definitely winning on both houses! So many Queen Annes have had Colonial Revival porch makeovers like the one seen on the first house that, if this house were mine, I would have no qualms about removing it and replicating the original porch. Since ample documentation of the original design exists, there would be no worries about getting it right. The corner brackets on the porch of the second house are indeed sad; its amazing how bland this house is without its original detailing.
Yes, too many people think adding back some “fancy” details is always an improvement, or that anything “fancy” is Victorian or Queen Anne. There’s a classy little Craftsman Bungalow down our street with a small gable roof projecting above the front stoop, supported on sturdy and handsome Craftsman wall brackets. Someone has since added turned columns at the front corners, with Queen Anne fretwork fan brackets where it meets the roof. All of this on a roof meant to be cantilevered off the wall. I’m sure someone thought they were dressing it up, but it looks ridiculous! It’s a far cry from the more extreme cases of if that you’ve posted, though.
AAH! I know that house in Brookfield! Had no idea it was from a plan book. Actually I never heard of Shoppell until your post!
For some reason Shoppell is not as well-remembered as some of his contemporaries, but there has been a lot written about him and many of his publications have been reprinted. I’d guess that you might find a lot of his stuff in Chicagoland when you are out and about… here is a link to some of his reprints on Amazon. Happy hunting!
I am thrilled to find this post! I own one of these beautiful old homes in Gloucester MA
You are indeed fortunate — these houses typically have beautiful interiors!