Located at 388 West 300 North in Provo is the Charles E. Davies House, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Charles Davies House was built about 1885. “The house, a double-gable H-plan type, is the only example of the H-plan in Provo and its distinctive Victorian bay windows make it one of the best examples of such houses in the state (Historic Provo p. 8).” The Charles E. Davies House was designated to the Provo City Historic Landmarks Registry on March 7, 1996.
Built in the double-gable H-plan style, this home is very representative of the average home in this area during the period in which it was built. There are several windows on the front facade of the house. The two windows closest to the small porch in the front are relatively simple and slim, while the two double-hung sash windows on the front facade have a more elegant appearance and are each enhanced by a relieving arch hovering over them, complete with raised extrados. The front door used to be aligned under the porch, but has subsequently been bricked in. The west wall is adjacent to a gable.
Born in the country of Wales in 1859, Davies was a farmer by profession, and after he converted to the LDS Church he immigrated to the United States. Settling down in Provo, Utah, he married Rachel E. Davis in Salt Lake City.
The Charles E. Davies house, built in Provo in about 1885, is a significant example of late-nineteenth-century vernacular architecture in Utah. The house, a double-gable H-plan type, is one of thirty-four significant sites identified during an intensive survey of Provo in the summer of 1980. The Davies house, one of a number of domestic architectural forms available to Provo residents during the late 1800’s, is at once typical and exceptional. In size, scale, and appointments, the home is generally representative of the average homes being constructed here during this period. At the same time, although the double-gable H-plan type is found in other Utah communities, its relative scarcity makes it an uncommon architectural feature in Utah. The Davies house is the only example of the H-plan in Provo and its distinctive Victorian bay windows make it one of the best such houses in the state.
The double-gable H-plan house is a late-nineteenth-century transformation of the Greek Revival inspired “temple-form” house type (see figure 1). During the early 1800’s, a resurgence of interest among architects in the monumental buildings of classical Greece led to the introduction and eventual acceptance of a house form which imitated the Hellenic temples. This house had its main facade located on the narrow, gable-end rather than on the wider, broad side as was the usual practice during the eighteenth century. In its original configuration, the main entrance was located on the gable-end of the house behind a colossal temple front. Side wings were also often present. As the house entered the builders’ vernacular of the early nineteenth century, the pretentious pedimented porticos were usually discarded. In this scaled-down and simplified version, the temple-form house became a popular farmhouse on the New England frontier.
As settlers pushed into the upper Midwest, the temple-form house was increasingly seen with the main entrance moved form the central, gable facade to one of the side wings. This change is recorded from mid-century, and the resulting form has been variously called the “modified temple-form,” “T-plan,” or “upright and wing” house. Both the temple-form house and its modified relative (modified temple-form) were carried to Utah after 1847 by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons. These gable facade buildings constitute one of the major domestic architectural forms in the state.
One logical variation of the modified temple form house can be found in the placing of a second forward-facing gable to the end of the side wing. Repeating the gable makes the house symmetrical and effectively closes up a visually incomplete and open design. Such houses are found in many Utah communities, attesting to the popularity of the type. They are greatly outnumbered by their “T-plan” cousins, and must be considered a rare architectural type. Such houses are often called “H-plan” house by local architectural historians. Such an alphabet designation, however, should not obscure the houses historical and design relationship to the old temple-form plan.
Charles E. Davies, the original owner of this house, was born in South Wales in 1859 and later immigrated to the United States after joining the LDS Church. He eventually settled in Provo and married Rachel E. Davis in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City. By trade Davies was a farmer.
The vernacular H-plan house was constructed in about 1885, and David L. Van Wagenen, a prominent local merchant, bought the house in 1907. He owned and operated the D. L. Van Wagenen Mercantile Company in Provo for many years. Van Wagenen apparently sold the house in 1912 but continued to live there until 1922. The house has since been used as rental property, as the owners of the house have not been listed as living in the house. In 1912 Van Wagenen sold the house to Eliza Smith Stewart who in turn sold it to Thomas Callister in 1918. Callister sold it to Georgianna Parry in 1920 and she sold the house to Clyde Bunnell in 1923. The house was owned by the Bunnells until 1929 when the property was conveyed to Ray Barrett. In 1945 the house was sold to Madeline Hales who sold it the same year to Arthur S. Roberts. Roberts deeded the house to Clark S. Nelson in 1950. It remained in the Nelson family until 1956 when it was sold to Dr. Orlo Alien. Alien sold the house to Howard L. Jensen in 1960 and Jensen sold it to Louis B. Jones the same year.
The Charles E. Davies house in Provo is a one-story brick house which has a distinctive double-gable facade. The house consists of two parallel rectangular units separated by a smaller square unit on the inside. The gabled ridge of the internal unit runs perpendicular to the roof lines on the outside rectangles. Viewed from above, the house plan resembles the letter “H,” and it is not surprising that such houses here have come to be called “H-plan” houses. The house type is actually a rather uncommon variant of a popular vernacular type, the gable-facade “temple-form” house. The double-gabled H-plan house is, then, one of a number of nineteenth-century vernacular types which were present in most Utah towns. As such, the Davies house is typical of the architecture of the period.
Each of the gable ends of the “H” contains a rectangular bay capped with a truncated hip roof which is pierced by a gable. On the three sides of the bay are double-hung sash windows, narrow ones on the sides and a pair of standard size windows separated by decorative mull ions on the facade. All the windows of the house with the exception of two later additions in the rear have a decorative arch over them with jigsaw cut ornament and are capped with a segmented relieving arch which has raised extrados and a pair of centered bricks that resemble a keystone. Most of the windows are the two-over-two double-hung sash type. The main door was originally centered under the porch which spans the bar of the “H”, but it has been bricked in. The two windows that flanked that door are still intact. The two doors that open onto the porch from the gable ends are long and narrow, and have oval transoms. The west wall, the broad side of one of the legs of the “H”, is pierced by a gable. Under the gable is centered a door flanked by two windows. The door has a square glass panel with carved wood trim around it, and may be original. Other major alterations are evident only at the rear of the house. The two additions in the rear between the legs of the “H”, one of which may be original, and the changes in the fenestration of that section do not, however, detract significantly from the original integrity of the building.
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