Case of the Miss­ing Pi­azza

Old House Journal - - From The Editor -

In OHJ’s June 2017 is­sue, this photo of an un­for­tu­nate Mid­west Vic­to­rian ran on the “Remuddling” page. We spec­u­lated that the boxy ad­di­tion took the place of a pi­azza, or porch. Be­cause there’s no ap­par­ent en­try door, some cor­re­spon­dents thought that this is the back of the build­ing. But the place­ment of the cam­panile (tower) sug­gests that this is the house’s front el­e­va­tion.

Mis­tero risolto! The sender of the photo, Kathy, later fol­lowed up with the en­grav­ing above, writ­ing: “Here’s the draw­ing I was search­ing for, show­ing the pink house as it orig­i­nally looked.” With an un­usual com­bi­na­tion of Gothic Re­vival and Ital­ianate el­e­ments, the Ro­man­tic-era house was for­mal in the man­ner of an Ital­ian Villa, with an el­e­vated pi­ano no­bile, or prin­ci­pal floor. The porch spanned the width of the façade. Kathy con­firms that the “ad­di­tion” was made dur­ing the house’s con­ver­sion to five one-bed­room apart­ments. (We’re still scratch­ing our heads about the dis­ap­pear­ance of an en­try door, what with all those ten­ants.) “Remuddling” pre­miered in OHJ in Oc­to­ber 1981 and has been a highly pop­u­lar fea­ture ever since. There have been ob­jec­tions, for sure, start­ing with my own mom, who called it “mean.” Ob­jec­tors have stood up for the prop­erty rights of own­ers. (To which I counter, What peo­ple do to the out­side of their homes is a very vis­i­ble mat­ter of pub­lic record, and so sub­ject to com­men­tary.) One per­son even qui­etly cham­pi­oned in­sen­si­tive re­mod­el­ing be­cause it lib­er­ates ar­chi­tec­tural el­e­ments to be sal­vaged by those with a restora­tion mind­set.

Other read­ers love the fea­ture, call­ing it in­struc­tive. “It’s ev­ery­thing on one page,” wrote one reader: “com­edy in the ridicu­lous things done to houses, drama (‘what will hap­pen next?’), and so­ci­ol­ogy as we see what peo­ple do to the ar­ti­facts of pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions.”

Please keep send­ing “Remuddling” pho­tos. I’ll take “Un­mud­dlings,” too, where the Af­ter photo shows a happy end­ing. Gra­zie!

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