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Nov. 12, 2019 | Tuesday
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Arch-i-text: Yes, it's a Regency design
St Mark's Rectory is an example of Regency design.

From last week’s visit with one of the earliest Regency houses in NOTL, let’s jump to a couple of the last interpretations of this style.

Regency designers had always drawn their inspiration from medieval country houses, but for John Nash (architect to King George IV) there was something special about rural Italian or Tuscan country homes and villas.

His inclination to creatively combine aspects of the Neo-classical with elements drawn from Tuscan houses established a thread within the Regency school that eventually developed into a distinct sub-style.

Possibly the most well-known Canadian example of the Tuscan Regency is Bellevue, the home of Sir John A. Macdonald in Kingston.

Built in 1838, this L-shaped asymmetrical design is anchored around a tower which (sans its ornamentation) could easily be mistaken for a medieval Italian watchtower. In fact, Bellevue can be described as a portrait of the Regency picturesque, which would very comfortably fit in the rural Tuscan landscape.

Twenty years later, Niagara-on-the-Lake got its own Tuscan Villa in St. Mark’s Rectory.

Retaining the same L-shaped form, this home reflects two decades of design evolution from the days of Bellevue’s build. Brick had replaced stucco as the cladding of choice and all horizontal elements were downplayed in order to emphasize and draw the eye up the vertical lines.

It was proportionally taller with soaring tower and chimneys. The form’s early simplicity had been replaced by more ornate decoration heralding the infant Italianate style (paired semi-circular windows, round-headed French doors on the Juliet balconies, etc.) which can be seen even on this somewhat modestly embellished case.

During the same two decades, Regency architects had taken the eight-sided structure found in many period gardens and transformed it into a house design.

Spurred by O.S. Fowler’s 1849 publication “A Home for All,” the octagon form enjoyed popularity among avant-garde and open-minded buyers between 1850 and 1880.

While it is true the octagon form provides more actual square footage than a square house of the same dimensions, the challenge of interior design precluded broad acceptance, making it a rare Regency form.

Today, most have been lost through the passage of time. However, our backyard is fortunate to have a nearly pristine survivor.

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