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Federal Style Homes
by Dr. Oneida Cramer

Federal Style houses are hard to find in the Dallas area. Recently, however, at the Third Annual Preservation Dallas Achievement Awards, an award for ?Residential New Construction in a Historical Context,? went to the home of Jim and Barbara Carreker?a Federal Style home on Baltimore. The house was originally built in the 1930?s by Hal Thompson, and it was remodeled in a 1998 project accomplished by Jim Carreker and the late Jane E. Carreker with architect, Richard Drummond Davis, AIA.

The major rooms in the front of the original house as well as the exterior were left relatively untouched except for restoring, painting, and fixing the downstairs entry foyer, stair hall, dining room, living room, and sunroom. Upstairs, however, Davis reconfigured the existing house into three bedrooms (two suites with sitting areas), an exercise room, and a library. And then he almost doubled the size of the house with an addition off the back.

?One of the problems we had was an enormous leaded glass-arched window above the stairs,? Davis said. ?The stair is an elliptical stair and the trim are curved, probably one of the most elegant stairs in the City of Dallas.? The arched window lets sun light shine down into the stair entry foyer. Yet, the window sets right in the middle of the back of the house.

Over the years, different homeowners wanted to make additions on the house because it was missing a breakfast room and a family room. But the proposed additions were designed off the back-center wall and would cover up the leaded-glass arched window. Since none of the homeowners wanted to disturb the beauty of that window, the house went through a series of owners before the Carrekers and Davis came up with their plans, which, by-the-way, hinged on going underneath the elliptical stairs with an arched doorway that leads into a gallery.

?The gallery goes out from the back of the house to a pavilion that is separated and pulled out from the house creating a courtyard between the new pavilion and the existing house,? Davis said. Such a configuration not only preserved the arched window, it created a beautiful view of the courtyard from the stairway.

The gallery is located directly behind the original dining room and foyer. On its right side, the gallery provides access to a breakfast room (added-on behind the existing kitchen) and a bar tucked behind the breakfast room. On the left side of the gallery is the entrance to the great family room, which occupies the entire first floor of the pavilion. A stairway at the end of the gallery goes up to the master bedroom/bathroom suite with his/her closets on the second floor of the pavilion. Also on the second floor is a hallway that connects the master bedroom suite to the original house.

The proportions of material in the original home, the finishes, and detail make this Federal Style house one of the most beautiful houses in Dallas, according to Davis.

?Our attempt was to try to make the breakfast room and the family room as good or better than the four rooms across the fount of the house that Mr. Thompson had done and keep within the Federal Style vocabulary,? Davis said. So, the coffered ceiling in the great room has deep, geometric curvilinear figures around one central oval design although the filigree ornamentation is toned down to simplify a style befitting the function of a family room. The breakfast room has more of the detailed filigree ornamentation that is characteristic of Federal Style.

?The breakfast room is oval, and on a rotated axis, which was necessary because of having to swing a car into the existing 3-car garage,? Davis said. The oval medallion?especially the oval, itself?is an important form that adapted as a component of Federal architecture. Arches and fanlights are also important in Federal Style, which culminated the architecture of Georgian Renaissance and the Adam brothers (Robert and Charles Adam.)

Much of American Federal Style is based on the work of Robert Adam (1728-1792). Adam architecture became popular after the American Revolution because the US adopted neoclassical art as the official style due to the democratic forms of governments in ancient Greece and Rome. Concurrently, there was a movement to replace sensual and ornate designs with more logical and moralizing?refined details, simple columns, and large flat surfaces.

?An oval was a more sophisticated and more elegant form,? Davis said. In the Carreker home, the oval breakfast room not only resolved an exterior issue, it created a pocket of space for a bar near the rear of the gallery.

Both the pavilion and gallery open through French doors on a beautifully terraced courtyard. The two sets of French doors off the pavilion flank a chimney that services a fireplace inside the great room as well as an outdoor fireplace along the pavilion?s brick wall. Because he could not match the color of the original brick, Davis chose to put limestone on the exterior of the gallery wall to separate the original brick from the new brick. Limestone also coordinates with the trim around the windows and the balustrades along the courtyard perimeter.

Balustrades, especially on the roof, are characteristic of Federal Style architecture. On the courtyard, the balustrades keep true to the essence of Federal Style, and, at the same time, function elegantly as a barrier or fence to separate the courtyard from the garden grounds, which extend outward along a rectangular fountain pool going towards a gazebo.

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-by Dr. Oneida Cramer
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