National Register Nomination Information:
The Walker-White property consists of a 5.9 acre tract of land set back from Platt Road by a long driveway with a house, shed and garage located on the property. The buildings are sited on a largely wooded lot, built near the edge of a steep bank overlooking Blow-Me-Down Brook which cascades through a rocky gorge. Like many of the other Cornish Colony houses, the Walker House also has a commanding view of Mount Ascutney to the southwest. The nominated property possesses a high level of integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association.
Combining elements of a New England farmhouse with an Italian villa, this house incorporates elements typical of Charles Platt's early designs. The two story clapboarded structure is capped by a standing seam metal, hip roof trimmed with exposed rafters. During Walker's tenure the house consisted of a stucco lower story with clapboards above. The clapboarding was continued on the first floor during the subsequent ownership of the Caldwells. Two tall brick chimneys rise from the roof. The five bay facade has a central entrance consisting of a wooden door with three horizontal panels capped by a fanlight and flanked by wide pilasters with clapboards between. Above the entrance there is an abbreviated pergola with brackets with jigsawn ends supporting similarly cut joists. The shed roof above this is a recent addition. Historic photographs show a slightly more elaborate entrance with columns supporting a pergola. A simple wooden water table wraps around the entire building, in addition to the wooden belt course above the first floor-windows. Windows contain tall 6/6 sash on the first floor with smaller 6/6 above. All are flanked by blinds.
The south side of the house is punctuated by two of the larger 6/6 windows downstairs and three smaller 6/6 sash upstairs. The lintels of the first floor windows overlap over the belt course. What would contain the third bay on the first floor is occupied by a recessed porch from which a pergola projects. Above the brick patio, the pergola's open joistwork is supported by three Roman Doric columns with a similar pier at the corner of the house.
The recessed porch continues along the rear (west) elevation, supported by three additional Roman Doric columns. Protected by the porch, french doors open from the back wall of the house. Above the recessed porch, the rear elevation is punctuated by a single 6/6 window and a low gable wall dormer containing two 9/9 windows. Adjacent to this to the north is an additional gable wall dormer with two 9/9 windows which is centered over a single story, three-sided bay window consisting of a pair of 4/4 windows flanked by two angled 6/6 windows. To the north of the bay window the second story overhangs the first slightly. The first floor has a modern casement window while upstairs there are three 6/6 windows. The rear elevation ends with a projecting single story section capped by a flat roof with exposed rafters.
Projecting from the north end of the building, facing the garage is a two story flat roofed section consisting of a single story open porch on the first floor supported by chamfered corner posts with a shed roofed room above. A single 6/6 window lights the upper story while under the porch there are a three panel wooden door and 6/6 window. Similar 6/6 windows also punctuate the sides of the porch projection. To the side there is a three panel door with a multilight picture window to the side. Upstairs there is a 6/6 window and small horizontal window opening over this doorway.
To the northeast of the main house is a clapboarded two car garage structure, constructed in 1986, according to designs by local architect, Stephen Tracy. The single story structure rests on a concrete foundation and is capped by an asphalt hip roof, trimmed with exposed rafters. The two car openings face southeastward and are arched with central keystones. A glass and panel door accesses the west elevation. A single 6/6 window punctuates both the rear and remaining side elevation.
To the east of the new garage is an older garage/shed, constructed of novelty siding and capped by a shed roof with exposed rafters. The date of construction is probably about 1910. There is a sliding door on the front side. A sliding pair of 3 x 3 windows is located on the west elevation with two windows on the the east side. The rear elevation is lit by two 3 x 2 fixed windows.
Additional elements of the property once included Walker's studio and a tennis court. These are no longer extant.
STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE
The Walker-White House is significant for its associations with the Cornish Colony, as the home of artist, Henry Oliver Walker, and as a design attributed to Charles A. Platt. Typical of Platt's early designs, the house combines elements of a New England farmhouse and an Italian villa. According to the memoirs of Laura Walker, the house was the first house of the Artist Colony to be built. She states that Charles Beaman "built the house and took a mortgage on it" while Mrs. Walker's father provided the funding for the land.(1)
There seems to be considerable evidence suggesting Platt's involvement in the design. According to research by Keith Morgan, the design is attributed to Platt in an article on Cornish Gardens, appearing in Century Magazine in May 1906. The Walker House is the first entry on Morgan's catalogue of Platt's known architectural and landscape commissions.(2) Written memories by Laura M. Walker, wife of Henry Oliver Walker, also confirm Platt's involvement. She states that "Charles Platt built our house and soon after built one near us...I had known Charles Platt for some years and also Jack, his brother, very well, and as we both knew him and he had also planned our house it was very nice to have him build near." Platt bought the property adjacent to the Walkers from Chester Pike and in fact the Walkers had earlier considered buying the same piece. According to Mrs. Walker, Platt bought and built upon the first summer they were in their house and it was finished the second summer (1890).(3)
According to Mrs. Walker's diary and historic photographs, the Walker House was originally a stucco bungalow to which an additional story was later added. As Mrs. White describes, Henry had his studio in the house at first. She states that "some years later we had another story put on...The house was what would nowadays be called a bungalow. At first, one big room for nursery -two tiny bedrooms besides on lower floor, and a parlor, which we used also for our meals and a studio. Plenty of big fireplaces and plenty of wood, and all our books in the parlor or living room...At first we only had two attic rooms upstairs where a maid slept those first years...Later on, Henry built a big studio a few rods away and with the lower floor emptied of bedrooms and six of those upstairs and two bath rooms, we were rich indeed."(4) It is not clear exactly when this occurred or during which stages Platt was involved, however, it would seem reasonable to expect that Platt counseled his close friends as they rehabilitated and added to the bungalow.
The present owner has obtained from the Platt family what appears to be a photograph of the Walker House, taken in 1898 and apparently before the construction of the upper story. The photo shows what appears to be a photograph of the Walker House, in the background of the Platt House. The Walker House appears as a single story structure capped by a jerkinhead roof punctuated by shed dormers. The house appears to have a five bay wide facade and two bay wide end elevation. A shed roofed porch spans the rear.(5)
A muralist and portrait painter, Henry Oliver Walker (1843-1929) was thirty four when he went to Paris to study under Bonnat. Walker met Augustus Saint Gaudens, Charles Platt and Thomas Dewing while he was abroad. Upon returning to this country he settled briefly in Boston before setting up studios in New York and Cornish. His murals are found in the Massachusetts State House, Minnesota State Capitol and in the Library of Congress. Kenyon Cox painted a companion mural to that in the Minnesota State Capitol. Walker is best known for his allegorical murals but he also did figure painting and portraits in Cornish.(6)
Laura Marquand Walker (1857-1929) was a textile designer and decorative artist, who had studied photography with Maria Dewing while she was in Boston. With other Cornish colony women, including Eleanor Platt and Frances Houston, Walker started the Mothers' and Daughters' Club in 1897.(7)
Married in 1888, Henry 0. & Laura Walker spent their first summer in Cornish renting Saint-Gaudenses' house. The following summer they boarded at Stephen Tracy's farmhouse on Lang Road before buying this property in 1889 from Chester Pike. (8) The initial parcel consisted of about fifteen acres of pasture and woodland and part of Blow-Me-Down Brook. Later the Walkers acquired an additional four or five acres including an additional part of the brook. According to Mrs. Walker's memoirs, the property also included a barn and shed. The Walkers spent summers in Cornish from 1888-1921.(9) After Walker's death, the property was purchased by Joseph Caldwell; Mrs. Caldwell (Eleanor Platt Caldwell) was the granddaughter of Charles Platt and the house largely served as an extension of the adjacent Platt Home next door during this time period. The house was owned briefly and rehabilitated by Peter Burling in 1985 who sold it to the present owners, John and Connie White, the following year. Formerly a summer house, it was winterized in 1986. The present parcel of land consists of 5.9 acres, the additional acreage historically associated with the property was subdivided to the Platt property in 1985.
(1) Laura M. Walker. "Memories". Unpublished manuscript, 1938, courtesy of Mrs. Ledyard Smith (granddaughter).
(2) Keith N. Morgan. Charles A. Platt: The Artist as Architect. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1985), p. 241.
(3) Walker, "Memories".
(5) Photograph given by Charles Platt to John White, undated - 1898?
(6) A Circle of Friends: Art Colonics of Cornish and Dublin. (Durham, NH: University Art Galleries, 1985), p. 123.
(7) Ibid, p. 38.
(8) Ibid, p. 123. (9) Walker, "Memories".
MAJOR BIBLIOGRAPHICAL REFERENCES
Walker, Laura M. "Memories", unpublished manuscript dated 1938, courtesy of Mrs. Ledyard Smith (granddaughter).
FORM PREPARED BY: Lisa Mausolf, Preservation Specialist, Upper Valley-Lake Sunapee Council, 314 First NH Bank Building, Lebanon, NH 03766. Tel: 603-448-1680. Date: October 1989.
DATE ENTERED: NOMINATION IS PENDING.
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