16 Trenton, house as well as the house next door(18 Trenton), both have been lost. They were replaced by a brand new construction house sometime in 2000s. Luckily, 12 and 14 Trenton both still stand. They have seen alterations throughout the years, but retain their signature mansard roofs and they can both be restored to their beautiful original condition. This group of houses can make an interesting study on why older houses generally look eye pleasing.
Most people like classical architecture. It is evident in continuing popularity of ‘Colonial’ and similar styles. Even infamous ‘McMansions’, while usually being an eye burning concoction of various architectural styles, still get their inspiration from classical architecture. But what makes old houses look ‘right’ and why do people continue to look back to classical architecture? Very luckily, our neighborhood of Eagle Hill is an unique collection of great 19th century houses and we can answer that question just by looking at them.
Classical architectural ‘orders’ described by the Roman architect Vitruvius in the first century BC are deeply rooted in a proportion known as ‘Golden Ratio’. This proportion is ubiquitous in Nature and thus is visually appealing to us. All of 19th century architecture is based on classical architectural orders. Old time carpenters, masons and(of course) architects knew about the orders and the golden ratio very well. And that’s why their houses look so pleasing to us.
Let’s take another look at our lost forever 16 Trenton, East Boston, MA. This house is not grand or not particularly ornamented. It is even smaller than most East Boston houses. Stylewise, it is a pretty average Second Empire Italianate with a mansarde roof. The only ornamentations it has are typical Italianate double corbels under the roof cornice and somewhat fancy window trim. But this house looks very eye pleasing to us. Especially accompanied by it’s identical peers(likely developed at the same time by the same builder)
Let’s look at it in terms of a ‘Golden Ratio’ which roughly equals 1.618. If you measure the height of the house(I could only do it in a photo editor), it equals roughlt 1600 pixels(not including the mansarde) The width of the facade is about 1050 pixels. Their ratio is suspiciously close to 1.6 The mansarde breaks up the house nicely, so it doesn’t look oddly tall and narrow.
This experiment can be repeated with almost any house in Eagle Hill. 19th century builders left us with a great collection of beautiful buildings and its our duty to preserve and protect their heritage