Sunday, September 6, 2015

Architecture of Jules Jacques Benois Benedict

In my previous blog entry I mentioned an architect named J. B. Benedict in connection with an ill-fated plan to build a Summer White House on the top of Mount Falcon.  I would not wish to leave my blog readership with a poor impression of Mr. Benedict based on his involvement with this failed commission.  He was a very able architect, as the following material will attest.

From Wikipedia:  "Jules Jacques Benois Benedict (April 22, 1879 – 1948) was one of the most prominent architects in Colorado history, whose works include a number of well-known landmarks and buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Commonly known as Jacques Benedict, he was born in Chicago in 1879, and he studied architecture at the École des Beaux-Arts.  He came to Denver in 1909, and became renowned for his many prominent works including homes, churches, academic and public buildings, spanning a range of architectural styles and with a particular gift for melding with natural landscapes."

Today I consulted the list of Benedict's buildings in the National Register of Historic Places (United States Department of the Interior - National Park Service) and then drove to see them for myself.
One of Benedict's best known residences is the Campbell House, which is on the south end of the Denver Botanic Gardens.

From the National Register of Historic Places:  "J. J. B. Benedict drafted plans for the Campbell House/Botanic Gardens House, 909 York Street, Denver (1926, 5DV182; National Register and Denver Landmark) for Richard C. and Margaret Campbell.  Richard Campbell was the business manager for the Rocky Mountain News and founder of the Campbell Investment Company, while Margaret was the daughter of the U.S. Senator Thomas Patterson.  The irregularly-shaped two-story house had stucco walls, brick and stone door and window trim, and a steeply pitched green tile roof.  The Beaux-Arts style house was donated to the Denver Botanic Gardens (immediately north of the house) in 1960 by Ruth Waring, who had acquired it two years earlier."

Here is its picture from years ago.

Here is how it looked this afternoon.

A half mile away was another Benedict house, called the Kistler-Rodriguez House.  I liked its second-story chimney, which seemed to float in mid-air.

From the National Register of Historic Places:  "Erle D. Kistler and his wife were the initial occupants of the Kistler-Rodriguez House, 700 E.9th Avenue, Denver (1920, 5DV1497; National Register and Denver Landmark).  Erle Kistler was the treasurer of the W.H. Kistler Stationery Company and the son of W.H. Kistler.  The two-story hipped roof brick residence had contrasting stone quoins, window trim, and a center entrance with a semicircular compound arch.  The west wall featured a horizontal band of corbelled arches at the base of the upper story and a tall brick chimney with a corbelled base. The National Register nomination for the house characterized its style as Jacobean Revival.

Benedict also was the architect for the St. Thomas Theological Seminary in Denver.

From the National Register of Historic Places:  "Jacques Benedict’s largest commission for the Catholic Church was that for the construction of St. Thomas Theological Seminary, 1300 S. Steele Street, Denver (1926-31, 5DV729, National Register).  The design of the seminary was considered for a number of years, and many conferences were held between the Diocese and the architect.  Completed over a fiveyear period were the components of the main seminary building: Administration Building (1926); 138-foot Tihen Tower (1927); St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel (1930-31); and Dining Hall (1931).  Benedict employed what he called the 'Lombard style' for the seminary and 'an attempt was made to have the architecture fundamentally symbolical.'  The building was constructed of buff brick, with cast stone trim, round arch doors and windows, and a tile roof.  The chapel used over nine hundred different shapes of brick of various colors and glazing as an integral part of its ornamentation."

I drove into the seminary area and found a parking lot behind the main building.  As an ardent admirer of Bible translator William Tyndale (murdered by English Catholics in 1536), I felt slightly ill at ease as I walked the grounds and snapped photographs.  Nevertheless, I was struck by the beauty of the architecture.  The seminary looked (to my inexpert eyes) like a Northern Italian Renaissance villa -- a villa that had been tricked out with a few statues of saints and angels here and there.

A marvelous entry way.  I can imagine the Duke of Mantua returning to his villa on the back of a proud stallion after a successful campaign against his Austrian foes.

Now we come to the impressive tower.  I had to back up to see the top.

The cornerstone says CMXXVI or 1926.  I walked to the left and saw a second pair of tower doors and another wing of the building.

I was delighted with the detailed ornamentation.

Today, when I searched the internet for Jacques Benedict, I discovered that one of his houses had been restored and put on the market in July at an asking price of $3.2 million.  The house is called the Wilson-Wilfley House.  If I had known that the house was for sale, I could have liquidated my entire net worth and made a down payment on the little room above the garage.

From the National Register of Historic Places:  "The Wilson-Wilfley House, 770 Olive Street, Denver (1917, 5DV709.3, remodel) was built in 1890 and nearly destroyed in an explosion in 1907. In 1917, Albert E. and Mabel Wilson acquired the ruins and hired Benedict to rebuild the house in a Tudor Revival style.  The reborn dwelling was two stories in height and featured stucco walls with half-timbering, clipped gables, and a projecting one-story entry topped by a crenellated balcony."

Here are a few exterior and interior photographs from the realtor site.  The sight of modern furnishings is jarring.  I would rather see the original furnishings from 1917.

Jacques Benedict was clearly a gifted and versatile architect.

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