Wisner House

Wisner House, at the Reeves-Reed Arboretum

This is the old Wisner House at the Reeves-Reed Arboretum in Summit.

Here’s what a nearby plaque had to say about it:

In the 1880s John Horner Wisner worked for his father’s New York export firm, Wisner and Company. Early in their marriage John and Isabella lived overseas in Shanghai, China and returned to live in New York City. In 1888, the Wisners followed the trend toward the separation of business and home life by moving the family to Summit to create an estated they named The Clearing. The Clearing was built and the land became a mark of cultural and social status.

The house was designed in 1889 by the architectural firm Babb, Cook, and Willard from New York City which also designed the Andrew Carnegie mansion, now the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York City. The home is representative of suburban, northeastern New Jersey architecture in the last decades of the 19th century. The home features a Palladian style center entry, an arched entrance hood in the style of an elaborate concave shell. While the home’s interiors suggest Victorian residential design influences with heavy details, overall the home is an example of early Colonial Revival design.

The house also exhibits Shingle style architectural details such as its shingle cladding and gable-ended dormers. This style of architecture is part of the Colonial Revival movement which evokes the colonial past as an expression of popular culture. The revival period became popular and connected to American design at the 1876 centennial of the American Revolution and is associated with a white, gentrified and elite social class. Rejecting the high ornamentation of Victorian style, the Shingle style evoked New England heritage with natural colors and wide porches translating to a strong connection between the home and the landscape. As a result the residence complimented rather than conflicted with the landscape.

Wisner House, c. 1900

(Wisner House, circa 1900)

Here are the Cliffs Notes, for people like me who don’t have the patience to read through all that muck:

  • Designed in 1889
  • Colonial Revival style
  • Associated with gentrified, elite, suburban, northeastern, late-1800s NJ

Boom. Done. Was that so hard?

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6 Responses to “Wisner House”

  1. The firm of Babb, Cook, and Willard shared office space with that of McKim, Mead, & White. The antisocial Babb was friend and often design mentor to McKim and White. This house was almsot certainly by him and in his Shingle Style, which in the 1880s was being done by both Babb & Cook and McKim, Mead, & White. By the turn of the century, Babb’s designs were considered old fashioned and Willard was brought in. Going full circle, the early 20th-century Andrew Carnegie Mansion, mentioned above by the firm, was actually influenced by McKim’s 1890s design for Columbia University. Both firms in later life distanced themselves from their earlier Shingle Style work, despite this work being considered by many modern architectural historians as their most original work.

  2. The firm of Babb, Cook, and Willard shared office space with that of McKim, Mead, & White. The antisocial Babb was friend and often design mentor to McKim and White. This house was almsot certainly by him and in his Shingle Style, which in the 1880s was being done by both Babb & Cook and McKim, Mead, & White. By the turn of the century, Babb’s designs were considered old fashioned and Willard was brought in. Going full circle, the early 20th-century Andrew Carnegie Mansion, mentioned above by the firm, was actually influenced by McKim’s 1890s design for Columbia University. Both firms in later life distanced themselves from their earlier Shingle Style work, despite this work being considered by many modern architectural historians as their most original work.
    Regarding your classification of “Colonial Revival style” and difference with the above term, the term “Shingle Style” was popularized by Vincent Scully in his book of that name. Both firms mentioned above seem to have refered to this style as “Modern Colonial.” It was as much influenced in the new appreciation of American Colonial architecture as it was derivative of the Queen Anne Revival / Arts & Crafts architectural style / movement mostly popularized by R Norman Shaw in England.

  3. I do not know if it’s just me or if everybody else encountering issues with your website. It looks like some of the written text within your content are running off the screen. Can someone else please comment and let me know if this is happening to them as well? This might be a issue with my internet browser because I’ve had this
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  4. I was curious if you ever thought of changing
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    Maybe you could space it out better?

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