Although most houses built in Oakwood in the mid-Victorian period were built in North Carolina vernacular styles, a few were built in the high styles that were fashionable nationwide, most notably the Italianate and Second Empire styles.
The Italianate style, also known as “Tuscan Revival” or “Bracketed,” was inspired by the villas of Tuscany. It came info fashion in America around 1845, and was still popular when Oakwood’s earliest houses were being built, after the Civil War. The most distinguishing features of the Italianate style were shallow-pitched roofs with deep eaves, supported by large and elaborate brackets, and arched windows, often paired, with elaborate frames. Recessed front doors and bay windows were also typical.
The most characteristic Italianate houses were of stone or stucco and had a cupola on top; Raleigh has one such house: Montfort Hall at 308 S. Boylan Ave. Another fine example of the Italianate style is 407 N. Blount St.; it has a square shape, which is also typical. The Oakwood Inn at 411 N. Bloodworth St. is one of Oakwood’s best examples; it has a square shape, and large coupled brackets under the eaves of the main roof. 513 Polk St. has Italianate window frames and large brackets under the eaves of the porch and bay window. Oakwood’s other Italianate houses feature North Carolina vernacular forms combined with Italianate details: 800 N. Bloodworth is a classic North Carolina triple-A house, but with wonderful Italianate windows and a recessed door, and bay windows on both sides. 504 N. Person St. is a typical Raleigh side-hall plan house, but with Italianate brackets, a recessed door, and a bay window. 601 N. Bloodworth is another a North Carolina triple-A house, but with arched windows, and brackets under the porch eaves, both of Italianate inspiration.
But what of the elaborate porch woodwork on these homes? You will not see anything like it on any villa in Tuscany, and the purest Italianate houses such as Montfort Hall have more Classically-inspired details. Why, it is none other than the “Chamfered Victorian” style of woodwork, introduced in last month’s column. It is an American invention and was used freely on the finer houses of this period, be they mid-Victorian vernacular, Italianate or Second Empire. It is characterized by chamfered square columns, usually with elaborate molding and/or lateral brackets. Also typical are the heavy turned balusters. This sort of woodwork beautifully complements the brackets and window frames on Italianate houses.