Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Miller Rock House & Tudor Architecture

After graduate school, I resided for a short time in Dallas, Georgia, a small, distant suburb of Atlanta. In this tiny, historic community ~ known best as the location of Pickett's Mill, of Civil War fame ~ I quickly became enamored with this wonderful, stone Tudor Cottage. It was for sale at the time ~ regrettably at a price too steep for a unemployed, recent college graduate. It sits at the northern edge of the historic main strip in Dallas, where Confederate Avenue becomes Cartersville Highway. Its neighbor to the north is Dallas Cemetery. The house was built in 1939 and though I have not yet learned the architect responsible for it, I am a big admirer. 

The Miller Rock House is a pristine example of a Tudor Revival residence. Initially reserved for grand residences, in the 1930s, this style became immensely popular as construction methods made the use of materials (like this stone veneer) simpler and more affordable. Brick and stone examples of this type can be found throughout the Atlanta area, stemming from this period between the World Wars. 

There is contention over the name for this style, which has led to the use of several different names (depending on your chosen architectural bible). The common term Tudor Revival is a bit of a misnomer, since the architectural forms and styles predate the Tudors and more closely reflect late-medieval forms in England. Attempts to correct this misnomer have produced names like English Cottage Revival and English Vernacular Revival. If you hear any of those names, it is this style being referenced. 

The name "controversy" has little bearing on the consistency of the architectural features of this style ~ and the Miller Rock House just about has it all. An asymmetrical facade is typical of this style, as is the massive facade chimney with an accentuated niche (bearing a bronze plaque with the building's name, in this example ~ shown at left). A massive, front-facing gable is a defining characteristic, often with a steep pitch and rakes of differing lengths (one extending closer to the ground ~ known, to the amusement of all, as a catslide). Windows vary, but frequently appear tall and narrow, in pairs or groups. Doors vary greatly with this style of architecture, but rounded doors are fairly common, as are batten doors. The entry to this residence is crowned by a coursed-stone arch with a prominent keystone, which stands out in stark contrast from the uncoursed stone walls; this is common in many houses of this style with brick or stone veneers. These houses frequently appear with an enclosed sunroom to one side, as with the Miller Rock House; this was often an open porch that was later enclosed, which is likely to have been the case here. This house also features decorative rafter tails and faux knee braces along the roof line. And check out the bead pointing ~ it has been meticulously maintained. 

These architectural revivals are fascinating trends and emulation has always been our style in the United States. We just can't get enough of that all-you-can-eat architectural buffet that is Europe. Colonial architecture leading up to the revolution was a celebration of all things British (hence, the names Georgian and Adam). Once the yoke of England was tossed, American architects flooded our cities with Greek and Roman architecture, celebrating the ideals of Athenian democracy and the Great Republic. Over time, Americans tired of these Eurocentric themes and sought a uniquely American form. Ironically, that form was the Gothic Revival of A.J. Downing, which, together with his Mediterranean exotics, revolutionized American architecture just as Victorian influence from England carried a host of unique styles that pervaded popular fashion, design, and architecture (in many regards, to this day). As the 20th century began, suddenly the old colonial and classical styles emerged again. It's an endless cycle of rediscovery. Put into this context, the Tudor style is really another stage in a grand, American tradition. 

The prevailing explanation for the sudden and widespread emergence of the Tudor style after WWI (and then again, associated with the simpler, mass produced American Small House after WWII) is the admiration of similar quaint cottages by American soldiers abroad. You could say this architectural style was a favorite souvenir of our returning veterans. The imitation doesn't stop at the front door either. These properties are often landscaped with English gardens, abundant with flowers, decorative shrubs, winding, brick or stone-paved pathways, and crawling with English Ivy (that most accursed, aesthetically-pleasing plant). Architecturally speaking, they're just fun

And yes... I still want this house. ~MK.


  1. I live in Paulding County, where this house resides & I once toured the home when it was on the market. It is lovely inside as well, and includes a charming wall niche for the telephone and small French doors that open to the stairwell leading to the second floor master (which was in need of updating.)It was my understanding, from the realtor (who knew the previous occupants) that during the time when this house was built, there was a traveling carpenter, who would, for the price of room & board, build you a fine house from local rocks. She said he was an alcoholic, so he required drinking money be included, but he went from town to town building homes like this one. She also told us that the previous owner had been the mayor of the city. It is a beautiful house, inside and out!

    1. That's fascinating! I will have to see what I can learn about this drunken mystery builder. Thanks for sharing!