Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hidden Plainfield: One of a [plebian] kind?

A concrete-block home -- Plainfield's only example?
Today's Hidden Plainfield focuses on a style that I find rare indeed in Plainfield: Early 20th-century homes built of ornamental concrete block. I have found only one -- the subject of today's post. Is it possibly the only one of its kind in Plainfield?

Though cement has been around since Roman times (they were the great perfectors of it), it was not until the 19th century that someone developed a form of concrete bricks for construction, which turned out to be costly, heavy and having production flaws.

Many early homes were of modest dimension and pretension.
By the turn of the 20th century, a cast-iron form had been developed, allowing for the production of hollow concrete blocks which we would recognize today. These were soon embellished with an ornamental side -- sometimes pretending to be stone -- which could be faced outward in construction for a more gussied-up look.

Many thousands of these homes are said to have been constructed in the first two decades of the 20th century, but our example is the only one I could find in Plainfield. Perhaps the reason the style never took off in the Queen City was that frame construction may have been easier or cheaper (we had the Loiseaux lumberyards, after all) -- and that it may have been considered too 'plebian' by upward-aspiring Plainfielders of an earlier generation, who would probably choose to show their aspirations with brick or stone construction.

Frank Lloyd Wright's 1923 Ennis House is anything but modest.
But it was Frank Lloyd Wright who designed the famous 1923 'Mayan Revival' Ennis house in Los Angeles, an enormous -- and hardly plebian -- concrete block mansion.

This Dunellen concrete block home is also not 'plebian'.
Those familiar with Dunellen will realize at once that 'plebian' is in the eye of the beholder -- considering the sizeable and mansionly concrete block home on North Washington Avenue and Third Street.

Do you know where today's property is?

(If you know of others in Plainfield, please send a pic and I'll post it, or give me an address and I'll drive by.)

Answer tomorrow.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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