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Determining the Facts

Reading 3: The Architecture of the Kennard House

Thomas Kennard built his house in 1869 at a cost of about $14,000 ($1.64 million in early 21st century dollars.) Today it is the oldest existing house in the original plat of Lincoln. Architect John Keyes Winchell of Chicago designed it, and he prepared drawings and detailed written instructions for the builders. The house originally included a rear wing with a kitchen, dining room, and servants' quarters. Later owners removed that part of the house in 1923.

The architect and builders chose both local construction materials and materials from other areas of the country for the house. If you visit the Kennard House, you can still see the stones that make up the foundation. Made of sandstone, they were quarried from the banks of Antelope Creek, near the present location of the Lincoln Children's Zoo. Local clay was used in manufacturing the brick for the walls, but a mill working company outside of the state made the woodwork in the house. This company shipped the woodwork to Lincoln by wagon, as the railroad had not yet reached the new capital. A new manmade material called "Frear Stone" formed the arches above the windows which were shipped to Lincoln from the factory.

The Kennard House is an excellent example of the style of architecture called "Italianate." The word "Italianate" refers to types of early buildings found in Italy. This style was fashionable in the United States from about 1840-1885. The Kennard House displays the following characteristics of the Italianate style:

  • Low sloping roofs
  • Overhanging eaves (the edges of the roof) supported by pairs of decorative brackets
  • Narrow windows with arches
  • Porches with railings on the roof
  • Cupola (a short tower on the roof)


Questions for Reading 3

1) In what architectural style did Thomas Kennard build his house? Where did the inspiration for that style come from? What are the main characteristics of the style? Why do you think Kennard might have chosen this style?

2) Do you think that Kennard's house was a typical house in Lincoln at that time? Why or why not? Why do you think Kennard wanted to build a house like this in Lincoln? (Refer back to Reading 1, if necessary)

3) Where did the materials used to build Kennard's house come from? What might have determined whether builders could use local materials or not?

 

Reading 3 was based on information in A Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia and Lee McAlester.

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