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The Roff Home

» Timeline of Ownership
» The Renovation
» Victorian Italianate Style
» A Tale of Two Porches
» Around the Home
» Out Buildings
» The Grounds

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Victorian Italianate Style

Constructed in 1868 by Asa and Dorothy Roff, this home is built in a style known as Victorian Italianate, with certain features that are Federalist in nature. Prominent in the United States from 1850 to 1880, Victorian Italianate style was meant to replicate the feel of the villas and country cottages of the Italian countryside. The style was first popularized in England and later crossed the Atlantic to the United States. This home features many of the factors that define Italianate style.

A. J. DowningStyles like Victorian Italianate were described in books such as Andrew Jackson Downing��s The Architecture of Country Houses, first published in 1850. This book became influential thanks to its ability to guide people in the far-flung states and territories of the United States who were interested in establishing a unique style for their homes. These books showed different architectural styles and provided floor plans, landscaping plans, lists of recommended building materials, and even budgets estimates for material and construction costs.

Thanks to the developing U.S. book market, publications such as this were able to reach people far removed from urban centers�� people such as the Roff family that built the home��and could instruct them on current styles of architecture. Likewise, thanks to the development of the railroads, materials could be transported across the country to build these homes. (It is not known how the Roff family decided on the style of its home. It is conjecture that the family constructed the home due to the influence of books such as the one described above.)

Iroquois County Courthouse (1866)There are also certain similarities between this home and Watseka��s former courthouse, pictured to the right, which was built in 1866, two years before this home. It is a possibility that the architect who designed the courthouse also designed the Roff home. However, this has not been confirmed.

Because of the dates of their popularity, homes in the Victorian Italianate style are more likely to be found in the Midwest and other Northern states. They are infrequent in the South because they were either destroyed in the Civil War or proved too costly to be built in the post-war South. Some homes in this style can be found in New Orleans.

Roff Home: The original porchElements of Victorian Italianate Style

At the front of the home, several features of Victorian Italianate homes can be seen:

  • low-pitched roof
  • wide eaves
  • decorative brackets
  • narrow, shuttered windows

Elements of Victorian Italianate StyleThe picture above, from 1895, and the one to the right, from 1941, help illustrate these features.

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Read more about Victorian Italianate style, its reflection in this home, and the renovation effort to save it through the Roff Home blog.

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