Editor's Letter: Case of the Missing Piazza
In OHJ’s June 2017 issue, this photo of an unfortunate Midwest Victorian ran on the “Remuddling” page. We speculated that the boxy addition took the place of a piazza, or porch. Because there’s no apparent entry door, some correspondents thought that this is the back of the building. But the placement of the campanile (tower) suggests that this is the house’s front elevation.
Mistero risolto! The sender of the photo, Kathy, later followed up with the engraving above, writing: “Here’s the drawing I was searching for, showing the pink house as it originally looked.” With an unusual combination of Gothic Revival and Italianate elements, the Romantic-era house was formal in the manner of an Italian Villa, with an elevated piano nobile, or principal floor. The porch spanned the width of the façade. Kathy confirms that the “addition” was made during the house’s conversion to five one-bedroom apartments. (We’re still scratching our heads about the disappearance of an entry door, what with all those tenants.)
“Remuddling” premiered in OHJ in October 1981 and has been a highly popular feature ever since. There have been objections, for sure, starting with my own mom, who called it “mean.” Objectors have stood up for the property rights of owners. (To which I counter, What people do to the outside of their homes is a very visible matter of public record, and so subject to commentary.) One person even quietly championed insensitive remodeling because it liberates architectural elements to be salvaged by those with a restoration mindset.
Other readers love the feature, calling it instructive. “It’s everything on one page,” wrote one reader: “comedy in the ridiculous things done to houses, drama (‘what will happen next?’), and sociology as we see what people do to the artifacts of previous generations.”
Please keep sending “Remuddling” photos. I’ll take “Unmuddlings,” too, where the After photo shows a happy ending. Grazie!
~Patricia Poore, Editorial Director of Old House Journal
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