brucemore architecture detail

I was so pleased to find some beautiful Victorian architecture in the middle of Iowa- Cedar Rapids to be exact.  A small city I had never heard of before my visit, but one remarkably full of art and design.  Cedar Rapids was home to Grant Wood (painter of American Gothic) for many years.

The city was also home to many a wealthy meatpacker and oatmeal maker back in the 19th Century.  One of these titans of industry decided to build the “grandest house west of Chicago” in 1884.  Actually, his wife decided to.  The titan died after falling down a shaft in his own factory and she required a home for her six small children.

The home she built was named Brucemore.  Designed by a Chicago architect, it is an excellent example of the late Victorian Queen Anne style with distinct Eastlake or Aesthetic Movement elements (the more artistic, bohemian, and the newest of the Victorian variants).

The overall exterior shape is fairly mundane and blocky to be considered high Queen Anne-

queen anne victorian

brucemore exterior

A classic example of the Queen Anne is the Carson Mansion in California.  You can see how playful and elaborate the detailing and overall shape of the building is.  Queen Anne is known for an abundance of turrets, towers and overhangs.

queen anne california

Another great example is the Hornibrook House which shows the rounded elements often present in the Queen Anne as well:

hornibrook mansion queen anne

So Brucemore might pale a bit on the first impression, however, the detailing on the exterior was positively enchanting!  And this is where the Aesthetic Movement or Eastlake style comes in.  These styles, closely related, looked to Exoticism and the East, in particular Japan and the Middle East, for inspiration.  There is a lot of flat, graphic decorative work in the styles.

Here is a great example of this type of decoration from the period in Eastlake style furniture:


And in architecture by Frank Furness.  Here is his great Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts:

penn academy of fine arts exterior detail

penn academy of fine arts

penn academy of fine arts ex detail

penn academy of fine arts detail

And here you see some of the wonderfully creative variations on the Aesthetic Movement that the Chicago architect arrived at on Brucemore:

queen anne detail

queen anne circles


aesthetic movement detail


And I was particularly pleased to see some sunflowers, one of the very popular motifs of the Aesthetic Movement very closely associated with Oscar Wilde:


It was such fun visiting this home, and I would recommend it for anyone passing through Iowa!


2 comment(s)

Interesting! Sunflowers also remind me of William Morris — which begs the question: how to differentiate between eastlake, arts and crafts, aesthetic movement, and art nouveau?

Absolutely… all these are tied together very closely. Although I believe the sunflower was first associated with the Aesthetic Movement which informed the Arts & Crafts and then finally Art Nouveau!

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