Appearing in the 1886 edition of Shoppell’s Modern Houses, Design No. 580 is a massive house with a central stair hall and wide, asymmetrical, façade. While many of the plans offered by Robert W. Shoppell’s Co-Operative Building Plan Association of New York were decidedly Queen Anne in style, many Shingle style options could also be found — including this one.
A surviving example of the design, neglected for many years, stands today at 179 Montford Avenue in Asheville, North Carolina. Happily, it has recently found new stewards who are in the process of restoring it. Dr. Eric Halvorson and his wife Rebecca have taken on the challenge of preserving the fascinating house which, as an example of the work produced by Shoppell, is important both locally and nationally. Dr. Halvorson has kindly shared photos of the house taken prior to the start of work. Unless noted otherwise, all photos were taken by him.
Unusual for its placement on its relatively narrow urban lot, the house is known in its neighborhood as the “Sideways House”. What was intended to be a side elevation now faces the street, while the intended front faces the neighboring house. It is a beautiful design, and rare in that it thankfully retains a great deal of originality.
That is a really great house. Interesting that they changed the orientation, and shoved it in sideways. The front door is really great – it is wonderful it survives. It is interesting that it is paired, which I tend to think of as an older Victorian convention, but then has what I would almost think of as colonial revival detailing in the design of the window lights. I am also a sucker for the built in bells – I really like those. This must have been a pretty progressive house when built! Sounds like this couple has a really fun project on their hands!
The front doors really are intriguing! And the old-style door bell, as you mention, is just icing on the cake. Those things are LOUD and will work even when the power is out! This will be an amazing house upon completion.
My first thought upon finishing your post is what are the penalties for not destroying the phone directory which is technically the property of Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph?
What I wouldn’t give to spend a couple of hours poking about this house… So many curiosities… So many questions… When was this last occupied (I see what looks like a digital thermostat in the dining room). What is the kitchen like? I am assuming one of the upstairs bedrooms was converted to a bathroom? And that spa shower!!! I absolutely LOVE our Speakman showerhead, you can’t tell it is low flow at all. I noticed the dining room is larger than the parlor, which was becoming a popular trend as the newly monied middle and upper middle class people were entertaining with dinner parties, something quite rare when our house was built (without a dining room at all) in 1852.
As a general statement, it seems that including square footage of a house in promotional catalogs and flyers was pretty much unheard of until after WWII. They would list how many rooms, note that they were spacious, include the dimensions of rooms on a floorpan, but never give the total square feet. Now square footage is a key factor in people’s home search.
Good point about the square footage! I hadn’t really ever thought about that before but you’re right — it simply wasn’t an issue in the past. At least the phone book doesn’t state “under penalty of law” like the tags of new mattresses do! The phone book was so small back then that there is a string in the corner that you could hang it from. It would be fun to go back in time… and stay there. Having an old house is the next best thing.
Hi. The house looked like it hadn’t been lived in for many years when we bought it. There were receipts from the 1960s on the floor, old nicknacks everywhere. But in fact an elderly woman had lived there until recently. A minimum of repairs were done to keep things going but a major water leak had destroyed the 1950s kitchen. Indeed the dining room is larger than the living room. We moved the kitchen to the back of the house so it spills into the lovely back yard, and therefore the DR will become the LR and vice versa.
At some point I’ll post all my before, during, and after photos with all the stories at http://www.179montfordave.com but it’s not up yet.
We’ve had a ton of fun discovering the history of the house, hidden gems in the walls, etc. My favorite is a small painted wooden bowling pin from a child’s toy bowling set. We are way over budget and it’s taken longer than expected. As expected…
Eric H (owner)
Thank you for the additional information! It will be fun to look at the photos chronicling your renovation when they are posted — it will be a dramatic transformation. Unfortunately, I’ve never heard of such a project that was completed early and under budget… it sadly never happens that way. Thanks for saving this place and sharing it with us! The end result will be worth the frustration.
So turning houses sideways is rare?
Turning a house sideways is not rare, but it is more unusual in some places than in others. In central Kansas there are a number of houses built by Germans who settled in the area which have their entrances at the side of the lot — they are known locally as “shy houses” and were built that way intentionally.
While many houses built from plan book designs are turned to better fit their lots, the concept works better with some designs than others. I’d be very surprised if other examples of Shoppell’s Design No. 580 were built with their impressive fronts turned away from the street.
That’s a great house. Thanks to you and the new owners for sharing it with us!
There is a Dutch Colonial in our neighborhood that is built sideways on a narrow, deep lot. It looks even more unusual than this one, because they have such a clear symmetry and focal entrance at the front (now side). I often wonder as I walk by how the decision was made.
On the other hand, our home (Italian Renaissance Revival, but for purpose of picturing proportion, essentially the same layout as a Colonial) was built in the “normal” orientation (with the wide, symmetric front facing the street), on a narrow lot. It left a mere 7′ from the side wall to property line for the driveway. Thankfully our neighbors in that side have not considered a fence, as it would limit us to compact cars and motorcycles!
Fortunately Shoppell’s No. 580 has a good-looking gabled side, so this house can get away with a sideways orientation better than a lot of plan book houses.
I’ve seen more Dutch Colonials turned sideways than probably any other style, and they always stick out as looking slightly odd. Here’s an Aladdin kit house with the intended front door opening to the driveway at the current side of the house — what was intended as a side porch now serves as the main entry.
And another one that was probably designed with the entry at the gable end, but it still looks odd to me (especially the flanking porches).
I hope you are able to stay friendly with the neighbors!
The one with the porch on the end is interesting. I wonder how the interior is configured, since usually it would be a sunroom or family room? I suppose not much unlike other home floorplans where you enter through the living room to the stairs on the opposite site.
Here’s the one in our neighborhood. You can see it in street view. It’s a rather handsome house:
The example you link to is begging for a larger lot. It is a handsome house, but feels like it has been shoehorned onto its site. Who wants to look at their neighbor’s side door and driveway when opening the front door?
I actually lived in such a house while in grade school, but our house was on a corner lot so it worked better. We had little in the way of a front yard and absolutely no back yard, but a generous side yard. The other three corners had houses which faced the narrow end of their lots. Here’s a link to how it used to look. I was disappointed to see that it recently got an HGTV-inspired paint job! Here’s a link to its page in a Garlinghouse plan book.
How old is the neighboring house? Perhaps they owned the lot facing the front elevation when the house was built.
I used to live in an apartment in what was once a victorian mansion. The house had all sorts of bay windows and large picture windows facing the neighbors’ houses. I then came upon an old picture showing the house as the only one on the entire block when built. Most of the neighboring houses were close in age.
Several ideas have come up to explain why this is the only sideways house in the neighborhood.
Perhaps they planned a cross street in front of the house but then changed that plan after it was built?
Perhaps the lot was once a long lot extending from the front of the house to the next cross street?
Perhaps they thought the side was more interesting?
The row of houses on the east side of Montford Avenue between Chestnut and Culhowee streets were some of the first built in the “development” and early maps show the lots as they are today. No long lot, no cross street. A popular reprint of a 1912 map shows the home with its neighbors.
My theory is that Capt Davis bought the land, purchased the mail order plans, gave them to Milton Harding (builder), abd soon thereafter Milton knocked on George’s door and said “Houston we have a problem” (or the 1890 equivalent). The house wouldn’t fit on the narrow lot facing the street as it was too wide. Thankfully the side is interesting enough to face the street!
We honestly never saw the front elevation until our architect rendered the house. There was too much shrub overgrowth in the side yard. So for us, the side is still the front…
I agree with you that it’s usually the large-ish Dutch Colonials that are turned. In the Chicago area, the lots were so narrow there was no other way to accommodate those models.
Thanks for sharing this beautiful house! I can’t wait to see what the new owners do with it. Do you know how long it was vacant?
It was not vacant, it was just in very poor condition with a lot of old clutter around.
Sideways-facing Dutch colonials are all over the place in the Philadelphia area. Whole streets’ worth of them in some places, and almost always with a porch or sunroom on the street-facing side. In my parents’ neighborhood there are 2 even though it was still rural in the 1930’s when the houses were built. But weirder than the sideways facing houses is one that was built on a corner lot with 2 front doors: the more attractive side of the house is on the rear and a formal walkway leads up to the patio from the narrow frontage, while the “back” door is near the garage but has a covered porch.
The narrow lot sizes in most cities no doubt facilitated the fact but you’re right; the Philadelphia area seems to have more than its share of sideways-facing Dutch Colonials. It took me like less than a minute to find this street scene!
here’s another even weirder one: a row of (formerly) handsome second empire twins designed with big double doors facing the side. Many of them have doors where the walkout windows once were, but a few have added awkward little bump-outs to make the original door location street facing: https://goo.gl/maps/bQ4jgaLhFVwPCRu97
And here’s one that a friend of mine bought: http://www.passyunkpost.com/2013/11/01/sophilly-spotlight-foreclosed-el-barto-edition/
Wow, the level of destructive remodeling on those houses is depressing. I actually don’t want to see what they used to look like.