Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Roberts- Taylor-Isbell House -History - 910 Government Street

910 Government Street was marked with a shield and banner May 6, 1973. It is a contributing element of the Oakleigh Garden Historic District.  The Greek Revival frame townhouse was constructed of heart pine with cypress siding in a side-hall plan, with double parlors west of a wide hall.  The main house includes west and west wings which form a T shape, and with the north wing forms the shape of a cross.  The north is a rear service wing at a lower elevation, consisting of two rooms up and two rooms downstairs connected by a staircase on the northeast galleries.  The galleries connect to the main house by several small sets of stairs.  The roof of the main house has pedimented gables: at north and south ends, and the ends of east and west wings.  The original wood-shingles roof is visible in the attic at the intersections of the east and west wings.  The rear north wing has a low hipped roof and is in the Creole style.  Room heights are 13 feet tall in the main house and 10 feet tall in the north wing.

Circa 1837 - North Wing   The north wing consists of two rooms upstairs ("the boys 'rooms," per Rev. Abbot and downstairs the antebellum dining room and adjoining warming kitchen, separated by double doors.  As with many of the older homes in the area, the service wings are often said to predate the main dwellings; these nearly always seem to be contemporary.  Cart Blackwell, the first architectural historian from MHDC ever to view inside 910 Government Street, commented that the north service wing was at least contemporary house by 10 to 20 years, as evidenced by two exterior paint layers below the lowest layer as found on the main house, also by the existence of clapboard siding on the south wall of the north wing where it adjoins the main block and west wing, and numerous other details, including wide floor boards, wooden pegs, mortise and tenon framing, and the hipped roof of the north wing.  The house has three attics, he smallest of which is a cricket adjoining the north wing to the main house and rising over the original north wing roofline to deflect water away from the house.  "No one would ever build an addition with a hipped roof that dumped water against the main house, even contemporaneously with the 1854 house.  It obviously predated it"  It is unknown if the 1837 wing was originally a complete house or a dependency to a larger house.  Selby thought the latter. 

1854 - Main House/South Block  The main house was built by Joel Abbot Roberts in1854, as documented in his leger.  Joel Roberts owned lots at 904 (later 908) , 908 (later 910) Government.  Robert's mother-in-law, Elizabeth (Taylor) Bolles, owned an empty lot (#29) which she deeded 11/1/1855 to her daughter Mary, Joel's wife.  This lot is now the east half of 910.  That lot remained empty from the 1850s unti9o 1905 and was sometimes called 908 in city records.  910 was sometimes called a double lot.  Bot lots went all the way through to Conti Street until Joel Roberts' death in 1863, when his wife subdivided the northern halves of both lots, which later become 909 and 911 Conti. 

West Wing (1855 - 1878):  The two-story west wing contains one room upstairs and one downstairs, each with a Victorian fireplace.  An outside chimney appears to have been  added around 1900, when the wing was updated with new baseboards, wood trim, door and window frames.  In the downstairs room there is evidence of a former stove pipe that fit into the back of the second parlor chimney. that fit into the back of the second parlor chimney.  Cut marks in the west wing wall around the downstairs fireplace indicate that the wooden c 1891 walls preexisted the fireplace and had to be cut before installation of the mantelpiece. 

East Wing (1905)  Lot #29 on which he east wing sits was a vacant lot deeded 11/1/1855 by Elizabeth (Taylor) Bolles to her daughter, Mary Taylor (Bolles) Roberts.  1904 photos made at the time that Mrs. R. V.  Taylor founded the local branch of the YWCA at her home predate construction of the east wing Driving Tour" map c 2004 states: "two story wing and porch to the east is a c. 1925 addition that mimics the buildings' original character."

1939 -Later Alternations:  A 1939 aerial photograph made before the kitchen house and northeast dependency were demolished shows a tiny courtyard surrounded on three sides by the north wings, east wing and a northeast wing or dependency.  Neither the antebellum kitchen house nor the northeast dependency ,which were demolished in 1940  are shown on any maps.  The last major alternations at 910 were in 1940 when the northeast dependency was demolished, containing garage and when the northeast dependency was demolished, containing garage and servants' quarters', along with the old kitchen house, and new garage built.  R. Taylor Abbot pointed out the salvaged construction material from the demolished structures then reused in the 1940 kitchen-pantry and bathroom alternation.  In 1940 the north wing galleries were widened, with the addition of three bathrooms, doubling the size of the north wing and bringing the number of bathrooms to seven.  Further, enclosure of the galleries increased the total square footage well beyond various appraisals. 

Information furnished by Roy, Debra Amos Isbell and Ray Isbell at 910 Government Street.   Informational sources for this blog can be obtained from the Isbells ) 

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