PHYSICK ESTATE ARCHITECTURE

This photo illustrates one of the elements in the Physick house's "Stick Style"

The Physick Estate's design was considered

rather avant garde in Victorian-era Cape May

 

The Stick Style Architecture of the Emlen Physick Estate is characterized by:

  • Wood construction with boxy projections, such as bays, wings and towers;

  • A grid work of raised boards, called stick work, overlaying the clapboarded walls;

  • Simple decorative elements, often geometric in design. 

  • Irregular, asymmetrical forms and roof lines

These elements are in marked contrast with the ornate gingerbread trim found on many other Cape May houses.

 

"Mrs. F.M. Ralston is about to further improve her beautiful property on Washington Street by the erection of a handsome villa, after a design different from any yet introduced at Cape May... When completed [it] will doubtless be one of the very handsomest on the island."

- Cape May Ocean Wave, June 22 & August 29, 1878.

 

The Physick House made news because it was different from any other house in Cape May. It was constructed in the avant garde Stick Style, while most cottages in town were still being built in the more conservative Italianate, Gothic and Mansard styles.

 

The Physick House was designed by Frank Furness, who designed more than 600 buildings in the greater Philadelphia area in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Now recognized as one of this country's greatest Victorian architects, Furness fell out of favor by the mid-20th century, and many of his buildings, as well as his office, were destroyed. While no document exists to prove the Furness attribution, historians concur that he was the only architect who could possibly have designed the Physick House.

 

Such trademark features as the greatly oversized corbelled (upside down) chimneys, jerkinhead dormers, and porch brackets appear in many other Furness buildings of the period.