Tudor Revival meeting in South Minneapolis
Last month, on July 21, Molly McCartney led a tour of the Nokomis Knoll Historic District, that section of South Minneapolis close to the old streetcar lines where houses were built in the 1920s and ’30s. One of the most interesting and popular styles of that period was the Tudor Revival.
The Roaring Twenties saw prosperous times for the upper and middle classes in Minneapolis. Perhaps the best book to read to get a flavor of the period and a sense of that history is “Babbit” by Sinclair Lewis. George F. Babbit believed that boosterism, a belief that American capitalism would provide prosperity for everyone, was the best antidote to communism. Lewis was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1930, probably in recognition of the value of this book.
Speaking of George F. Babbit, the Nobel Committee said, “[Babbit] is the ideal American popular hero of the middle class. The relativity of business morals as well as private rules of conduct is for him an accepted article of faith, and without hesitation he considers it God’s purpose that man should work, increase his income, and enjoy modern improvements.”
Although nominally about a town in Ohio, the novel is based on Lewis’ experiences in Minneapolis, and the real estate developments that he watches most closely are probably those around 52nd and Bloomington.
Stephen Hong, in “Houses in Minneapolis,” says, “The English Tudor style emerged in the 1890s as an English throwback. This style tried to mimic the English countryside with decorative half-timbers set in stucco that goes back to the 1400s. Here in our country, this style is called the American Tudor Revival. These houses mimic the style of the English Tudors with the half timbering on the outside.
“The most recognizable hallmarks of this style are the decorative half-timbers set into the stucco and the prominent fireplace. The exposed half timbers are usually found only on the second floor and mostly only on the front facing gable. They often frame the windows and are usually symmetrical. Sometimes the second story front gable will protrude over the first floor, and in this case, there is normally a scalloped-edge detail to go along with the gable. The timbers are usually a dark color set on the white or other light-colored stucco.
Meanwhile, the roof is usually very steep with front-facing gables. A roof pitch of 16/12 or more is not unheard of—that means that the roof has a 16-inch rise over a 12-inch run.
Another common feature of this style is a little archway attached to the house under which one would walk to the front or side doors. South Minneapolis Tudors often include stonework that frame the front door, the steps, and accent the chimney. Windows are usually 6/6 (six over six) or 6/1 (six over one), or less-commonly, 3/1. More traditional windows are likely to be diamond shaped.
“Some of the more distinctive characteristics of the interiors include: flagstone surround on the fireplace, archways between rooms, single panel doors usually stained dark, lack of wood built-ins commonly found in the craftsman homes.
“Bathroom: In the typical Tudor in our area, the bathroom has tiled walls in either pastel colors, or pastel and black. These tiles extend to the floor as well. The tub area may have an arched soffet to separate the space from the rest of the room.
“Living room and dining room: The living room fireplace is usually flanked by a pair of sconces. Traditionally, the sconces would have hammered brass or copper backplates with free-swinging pendants. However, since many of the local Tudors were built in the Art Deco period, they often times contain slipper shade sconces which was a signature of that era. There are many distinctive features of a Tudor living room, such as vaulted ceilings with decorative timbers, built-in nooks and arched doorways. These are features not always included, but pretty typical of larger Tudors. Large Tudors also may include dining rooms with wood paneling and a box-beam ceiling.
“Walls: Plaster walls are common throughout the house, adding a solid feel to the structure. There are common textures that were embedded into the plaster.
Arches: The theme of interior decorating in Tudors is arches. There are archways, arched doors, arched windows, and even arched fireplaces. The archways can even be peaked for an added visual twist. Typically, a little arched window in the living room will be a small replica of the door, which is also arched. The fireplace is made of some kind of stone—flagstone, fieldstone, and limestone are common materials used. The arch can be set in stucco, more stone, or just the wall itself. The subtle arch motif enhances the cohesiveness of the interior decorating, and is also pleasing to the eye.”
The style expressed American pride in having entered and “won” the First World War and the belief that America would now become the dominant imperial power, supplanting England. The first prize for the American middle class was to expropriate the Cottswold style of the English Tudor cottage. At about this time the phrase, “A man’s home is his castle” became popular. The American middle class, and the homeowners in South Minneapolis, believed they were the leading edge to bring prosperity to the whole world, and their first duty was to bring prosperity to themselves, and the most visible manifestation of their new wealth and power was their Tudor Revival home.