Styles of Homes

            The earliest buildings in Clinton were simple and utilitarian with use of native stone or wood.  Free of any stylistic embellishment, these buildings can best be described as utilitarian or vernacular.  After the pioneering period and except for modest buildings, most building design reflected the prevalent trends of the day.  The applied style dictated the form and appearance of the structures.

            Clinton apparently developed too late to reflect pure usage of styles popular in the east in the earlier half of the nineteenth century, such as Federal or Greek Revival.  The Moeszinger House at 242 Garfield (119) most closely resembles the Greek Revival Style.

            There is a house design that does appear rather frequently in Clinton, however, that shares some Federal and Greek Revival characteristic.  Typically, the house has a gable roof which is always non-pedimented and usually of low pitch.  A fan or circular window often is centered in the upper gable.  The house is commonly oriented with the narrow, gale façade toward the street.  This street façade usually has the front door to one side.  These buildings are often of brick and free of elaborate ornamental work except for wood soffit brackets at the roof eaves.  However, many rood eaves have been rebuilt, which clouds categorization of the style.  The buildings that do retain the original roof eaves have ornate soffit brackets which suggest a simplified interpretation of Italian Villa Style or Italianate influence.  The result is a historic building design that is transitional in style.  It appears often and with enough similarity in other local river towns (such as Muscatine, Iowa) to suggest an Upper Mississippi River style.  For the purposes of this book, such building design organization is simply called “vernacular” and is exhibited in the following houses: 

            Book I.D. No.   Address                                        Date

                        (30)                  535 10th Avenue South       1867

                        (32)                  550 10th Avenue South   c. 1858

                        (64)                  726 9th Avenue South    c. 1870

                        (99)                  2224 Garfield                    1875

                        (108)                1604 North 3rd Street     c. 1874 

            There are other trick buildings in Clinton that may be termed vernacular.  Several of these are without distinctive architectural style usage, but exhibit a simplicity of composition, massing, and material usage characteristic of German immigrant construction found before the Civil War in river cities such as St. Louis and Cincinnati.  Two of these houses are: (92) 2202 McKinley and (120) 109 25th Avenue.           

EGYPTIAN REVIVAL: A relatively obscure and exotic style, Egyptian Revival Style was adopted occasionally in the 1830’s and 1840’s in the east.  Although rarely found in Iowa, a small, frame house (128), built in 1869 in North Lyons at 92 28th Avenue North, is of Egyptian Revival Style.  Although not a good example, it nonetheless is characteristic of the style with window enframements that narrow upward on the front façade. 

GOTHIC REVIVAL:  Based upon medieval cathedral architecture with use of pointed arches and vertical emphasis, the Gothic Style had periodic revival in America.  The first of these resulted in several adaptations in Clinton.  These include:

Book I.D. No.   Address            Building and Date

(24)      316 South 4th Street            Sacred Heart Church, c. 1870

(50)      311 South 3rd Street       a church, c. 1858

(102)    2100 North 2nd Street            Grace Episcopal Church, 1856

(127)    2811 North 2nd Street            St. Irenaeus Church, 1865 

            Gothic Revival Style adaptation to wood construction resulted in a distinct appearance sometimes called Carpenter's Gothic.  The houses of this style in Clinton include: (104) 2203 North 2nd Street, built in 1869, and (110) 316 18th Avenue North (altered), built in 1853. 

ROMANESQUE REVIVAL:  The Romanesque Revival Style was based on Italian usage of the style and was almost exclusively adapted to ecclesiastical architecture.  It differed from the Gothic Revival Style mainly in the use of round-arched windows.  Clinton examples include (54) 620 South 4th Street, built in 1870 and rebuilt in 1888; and, (135) 2518 Pershing Boulevard (St. Boniface Hall), built in 1858.  (Pictured is a view, c. 1913, of the main building of Wartburg College.  The building (145), of Romanesque Style, still exists, but has been altered.)

ITALIAN VILLA:  A tower, usually to one side, is a typical feature of this style.  Generally, there are large porches and the roofs have soffit brackets.  Other detailing is similar to the Italianate Style.  An Italian Villa Style example in Clinton is (66) at 636 11th Avenue South, built in 1869. 

ITALIANATE:  Popular in America from about 1855 to 1880, the Italianate Style was based on provincial Italian farmhouse designs.  Typically, it has low-pitched roofs with wide eaves and soffit brackets.  Windows are arched or round-headed.  A popular style in Clinton, many buildings exhibit Italianate usage, including the following: 

            Book I.D. No.   Address                                                Date

                        (53)                  800-804 South 4th Street             1884

                        (116)                200 Main Avenue                                  1890

                        (150)                1718 North 10th Street               1871

                        (152)                1720 Main Avenue                    1870 

RENAISSANCE REVIVAL: Similar in appearance to the Italianate Style, the (Italian) Renaissance Revival Style had windows with pedimented heads or square-headed windows with hood holds.  The most important example in Clinton is (33) at 516-518 South 1st Street, c. 1855.  It is a commercial building of brick for the upper walls and cast iron for the storefront and window caps. (Pictured is a view, c. 1912, of Mrs. W. J. Young, Sr. mansion (now demolished), of eclectic design with influences of Neo-Classical and Renaissance Styles, to project an image of affluence.)

SECOND EMPIRE: Mainly characterized by the sloping-sided mansard roof, the buildings are usually tall and richly ornamented.  This short-lived fashion (c. 1860-1880) was based on the prestige of Napoleon 111 and the designs of his rebuilding of Paris.  The following are examples of the style in Clinton: 

            Book I.D. No.   Address                                                  Date

                        (31)                  540 10th Avenue South               c. 1870

                        (111)                1510 North 4th Street                 c. 1873

                        (148)                262 North Bluff Boulevard             1859 and 1869 

STICK STYLE: Usually associated with wood construction, the buildings of this style resemble Gothic Revival cottages because of the use of tall proportions, steep roofs, irregular massing, and “busy” details.  It is a highly American style with a concern for honest expression of the use of materials.  This expression is achieved through the use of exposed “stick: work and emphasis on texture and pattern.  They style was more common in the eastern states from 1870 to 1890.  A Clinton example, built in 1882, is (106) at 2234 Pershing Boulevard. 

QUEEN ANNE: A popular and commonly found style in Clinton is the Queen Anne Style.  It was named after the English queen, during whose reign the steeply pitched roofs of the style were popular.  Queen Anne Style characteristically has an irregular massing with projecting sections, irregular roof line with steep gables and dormers, prominent chimneys, and walls of a variety of materials and patterns, such as wood shingles—an American emphasis. (Pictured is a view, c. 1889, of the C. F. Curtis House (8), of Queen Anne Style.) Some Clinton examples are:     

            Book I.D. No.   Address                                       Date

                        (8)                    417 5th Avenue South    c. 1885

                        (9)                    420 5th Avenue South        1880

                        (15)                  430 7th Avenue South    c. 1886 

EASTLAKE: Similar to the Queen Anne and Stick Styles, the Eastlake Style differs by a distinctive type of ornamentation in wood.  The ornament was produced by using the chisel, gouge, and lathe.  Curved brackets and rows of spindles, especially on porches and gable fascias, were frequently used.  Good examples in Clinton are (93) at 2219 Garfield, built in 1888, and (109) at 1818 North 3rd Street, built in 1887. 

RICHARDSON ROMANESQUE: The forerunner of modern architectural design, this Romanesque Style was based on the use of arches and engineering simplicity of ancient Roman architecture.  It was popularized by Architect H. H. Richardson.  In the Romanesque Style. The building appearance is massive yet simple, and often uses Roman arches for window and door openings.  The style places an emphasis on the wall plane with honest use and expression of the materials employed.  The freedom of window placement permitted by the style adaptation allows more direct “form-to-function” relationship.  These two aspects—honesty of structural expression and closer relationship of exterior form to interior function—are its main links to more modern architectural design.  Examples in Clinton are: 

            Book I.D. No.   Address                                 Date

                        (37)                  721 South 2nd Street                       1912

                        (55)                  600 South 4th Street, old High School                  1888

                        (79)                  612 North 2nd Street, Court House                 1892-1897

                        (145)                1900 Glendale, Wartburg College             1893-1894

                        (149)                W. J. Young Tomb in Springdale Cemetery     1896 

ECLECTICISM: The borrowing of styles or stylistic elements from other times and cultures was prevalent in the nineteenth century.  Except for some notable and short-lived exceptions, eclectic design was rampant in the early twentieth century.  The man eclectic styles used or combined included: English Tudor, based upon Gothic buildings, in England from 1485 to 1603, with a chief characteristic of half-timber walls; Georgian or Colonial design, inspired by the colonial period in America; Classical Revival, based on Greek and Roman temples; and Mediterranean, based on Spanish and Italian vernacular construction.  The Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago, done in classically inspired architectural style, was a factor in the surging popularity of eclecticism.

            Another factor was the use of traditional European models, such as French palaces of Renaissance Style, as status symbols for design models.  These obvious images of wealth were selected by many architects and clients in the east as the inspiration for their architecture.  The easterners, who were the “taste-makers” of America, thus fostered an architectural sham that prevailed throughout the country.  There are numerous examples of eclecticism in Clinton and the best examples are included in this book. 

COMMERCIAL STYLE, SULLIVANESQUE, AND PRAIRIE SCHOOL: Prior to the 1880’s the architectural design approach in America had been the eclectic borrowing of styles from other countries, cultures, and periods.  In the 1880’s and 1890’s, a small group of enlightened midwestern architects formulated a “new architecture” that combined the advances in technology with a new and original design approach of simplicity and direct expression.  The designs were first applied to commercial buildings because of their utilitarian nature and the willingness of the clients to permit experimentation in the interest of economy and function.  The new architecture became known as the “Chicago School” or Commercial Style, and a leader of that movement was Louis Sullivan.

            The Commercial Style clearly exhibited the structural expression of skeletal framing.  This new structural method, made possible with the discovery and economical production of steel, used long-span beams and columns.  Sullivan designed with the skeletal frame but decorated the terra cotta cladding, a baked clay necessary to protect the steel from weather and fire.  Clinton’s Van Allen Building (1), designed by Sullivan and built in 1813-1915, located at 200 5th Avenue South, is an excellent example of this style. (Pictured is the Van Allen Building.)

            The use of terra cotta ornamentation derived from Sullivan models is called Sullivanesque.  Clinton has some other fine examples of this rare style.  They are: 

            Book I. D. No.  Address and/or Building                     Date

                        (42)                  512 South 2nd Street                      c. 1919

                        (45)                  402-406 South 2nd Street                          c. 1916

                        (81)                  501 North 2nd Street                         1917

                        (115)                Iowa State Savings Bank, 122 Main Avenue              1914 

            Good Clinton examples of the simplified Commercial Style are: the Wilson Building (3) at 217 5th Avenue South, built in 1912-1914 (pictured), and (43) at 503-511 South 2nd Street.

            Mainly because of the success and influence of the 1893 Columbia Exposition in Chicago, with its eclectic buildings, the trend of architectural design moved to eclecticism.  Thus, the more important building commissions were not available to the architectural designers of the Chicago School.  The architects who followed the modernistic Chicago School principles were forced to apply the new approach to domestic architecture and small, commercial commissions outside of Chicago.  Their designs were characterized by open plans, spaciousness, respect for (natural) materials, and ornamentation based on Sullivan’s principles.  Developed from the Chicago School or Commercial Style was a new movement known as the “Prairie School”, which pioneered modern architecture.

            The Prairie School movement’s acknowledged leader was Frank Lloyd Wright, a pupil of Louis Sullivan.  Other leaders were Purcell and Elmslie (former employees of Sullivan), as well as Walter Burley Griffin and Barry Byren, former employees of Wright.

            The struggling modern movement went into eclipse about 1917.  The new movement lost favor due to a combination of several factors.  These included: domination of the architectural scene by eclectic eastern architects and their powerful clients (who wanted readily identifiable symbols of wealth, such as French palace styles): World War 1; architectural training by formal education with academic emphasis on eclectic design; dispersal of practitioners of Prairie School design, such as Griffin; and, perhaps most of all, the adverse national publicity of Frank Lloyd Wright’s illicit love affairs and early personal tragedies.  Walter Burley Griffin moved to Australia and Frank Lloyd Wright went into a self-imposed “exile”, which hastened the wane of a modern design movement in America.  Modern architecture was resurrected only much later in the Twentieth century, and then, with impetus from Europe.  Paralleling this trend in Clinton was an architect who shared some of the philosophy and design approach of the Chicago modern movements, A. H. Morrell, who ceased the practice of architecture from 1917 to 1927.

            The Prairie School Style is illustrated in Clinton by some (although not good) examples, including: 

Book I.D. No.   Address            Date

(10)      431 5th Avenue South            1914-1915

(11)      503 5th Avenue South            1918

(59)      746 5th Avenue South            1909

(60)      823 5th Avenue South            1914

(65)      715 10th Avenue South            1914 

BUNGALOW MOVEMENT: The Bungalow Movement started on the west coast.  It was based on the earlier “break-with-tradition” work of the midwestern Prairie School movement and modified by regionally inspired innovations derived from Spanish and Japanese Cultures.  The style is characterized by simple lines, wide overhanging roofs (usually with exposed rafters rather than soffit enclosures), natural materials, and close association with nature.  (Pictured is a view, c. 1914, of the J. B. Carlton bungalow (71); John Morrell & Son, Architects.)

            The Bungalow Style was advocated by the same professional magazines and journals that had given exposure and promotion to the Prairie School Style.  However, with the cessation of publication or acquisition by other companies of these journals, the popularity of the Bungalow Style declined.  Architectural design eclecticism continued to prevail in the United Sates.

            The best examples of the bungalow Style in Clinton are included in this book.  These are: (68) 700 South Bluff Boulevard, built in 1917; (71) 1100 Woodland, built in 1910; and, (101) 2228 Roosevelt, built in 1926. 

ART DECO: The Art Deco Style was a relatively minor architectural style that developed in France and in this country in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s.  It was highly original, romantically inspired, and reactionary to eclectic design.  Its emphasis was on picturesque building massing and use of innovative ornamentation and related furnishing and graphics.  Examples in Clinton are: 

            Book I.D. No.   Address and/or Building                       Date

                        (2)                    201-211 5th Avenue South                 1930

                        (13)                  213 6th Avenue South                   1947

                        (63)                  751 2nd Avenue South, Washington School        1933

                        (75)                  Riverview Stadium                           1936 

WRIGHTIAN: Wrightian design is based on the later work of the famous American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.  During the course of Wright’s long career, his personal design style changed directions.  “Wrightian” is based on the principles of “organic” design; the stylistic interpretation usually stressed the horizontality of the building and use of natural materials.  There are several fine examples of this design approach in Clinton.  All were designed by Clinton Architect, Phil H. Feddersen, in the 1960’s. They are: (46) 308 South 2nd Street; (85) 405 Oakhurst Drive; and, (154) 3800 Lakewood Drive.


WOOD: an obvious factor in the art of building is the use of materials. It is logical that lumber and lumber-related industries have been a major force in Clinton and have dominated material usage for much of Clinton’s housing.  The easy availability of lumber and need for quickly and cheaply built housing, with little skilled labor, were chiefly responsible for most of the frame construction in Clinton.  Some of the lumber barons, for obvious promotional as well as economical reasons, built their mansions of wood (for example: The Joyce mansion (109) at 1818 North 3rd St.). 

NATIVE STONE: Along with the initial pioneer construction of log cabins were early buildings of stone, since it was readily available.  Three early structures survive to illustrate this stone vernacular construction.  They are: (70) 325 South Bluff Boulevard, built in 1837; (91) 2115 Grant Street, Stumbaugh & McPherson Warehouse, built c. 1845; and, (147) 850 South Bluff Boulevard, built in 1838.  In addition, the gothic Revival Style St. Irenaeus Catholic church (127) in Lyons was built in 1865 of local limestone. 

BRICK: The first brickyard in Clinton was started by Richard Price at 1st Avenue and 5th Street in 1859.  Brick was used for the more elegant residences in the city and was commonly used in downtown buildings.  Clinton adopted an early ordinance that required masonry exterior wells in downtown buildings.  This was probably done because of the Chicago Fire on 1871, and also the fear of fire spreading from the nearby lumber mills which periodically burned down and were rebuilt.  Builders and architects in Clinton made early use of brick veneer construction.  Brick exterior cladding was placed around a structure of frame stud walls and sheathing.  Many buildings which appear to be brick construction have a wood structure with a brick veneer.  For example, the George M. Curtis house (9). Built in 1880 at 420 5th Avenue South, and the Lamb House (now the YWCA, (19), on 8th Avenue South, were with brick veneer.

SOURCE: Department of Community Development, City of Clinton, Clinton, Iowa, An Architectural Heritage (1980)