Varied Maintenance c. 1900

While recently unpacking boxes of stuff, I was struck by the number of antique photos I have which show buildings or houses which are in disrepair or in need of paint.  Another demonstrates that even during the Victorian era, some people struggled with painting houses in an attractive, coordinated manner… the problem is certainly not new.  Here are three old photos which all reflect on the past in their own interesting way:


Clearly in need of some fresh paint and shutter repair, this house appears to have been built around 1800 with a porch update from around 1860.  Someone was clearly fond of the house to have it photographed in less-than-optimal condition.  It appears that someone had started painting the porch but never finished.


Though faded, this visually quirky Queen Anne style house appears to be in good condition.  The paint is likely the original finish after 15 years or more of weathering.


Though the photo is black and white, it is plain to see that the distribution of colors (whatever they were) was haphazard and not especially well-planned.  Sashes in 3 of the windows are painted a light color while they are painted a dark color in the fourth.  The corner boards are painted a dark color yet support a frieze in the gable which appears to be the same light color as the siding.  The two porches are very different, yet each has had details picked out in a starkly contrasting manner which emphasize their differences further.  Appearing to be recently painted, this house is proof that people made bad aesthetic decisions more than 100 years ago, too!






3 Responses to Varied Maintenance c. 1900

  1. Yes, a nice reminder that everything in the past was not done perfectly.

    In the Victorian age and beyond, it was probably even more difficult than today to match existing styles and features when adding to or restoring a home. The styles changed just as rapidly as today, but the typical homeowner had none of the steady base of restoration suppliers, or the internet that today allows them to be so accessible and reach such a broad audience. In a typical midwestern town, you would have been limited to hardware stocked at local stores in the current trends, or catalog orders from suppliers who focused on large production of the contemporary fashion for new construction and remodeling. For anyone restoring something from a past era, our current economy is a pretty good time.

    • While we do indeed have a plethora of options for materials (paired with the convenience of the internet), we do not have the skilled craftsmen of the past. The knowledge base is shrinking – and that applies to homeowners as well as tradesmen and laborers. It’s great to have options for materials, but without know-how or an understanding of context the integrity of our historic building stock will continue to be compromised. The compromises are just more decorative today than in the past. I hope that people will take a greater interest in architectural integrity in the future.

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