The Noble Clemons House sits near the corner of Elm Street as it approaches School Street. The house is of Italianate design and was finished circa 1850. It is an early and elegant palazzo-style home.
Built for the owner of the Essex Inn, the Noble Clemons House “is a stately example of a mid‐nineteenth century Italian palazzo, with its cubic massing, a low hipped roof with broad, bracketed eaves” and a prominent lantern centered on the roof (AARCH). In its day this house combined the latest fashion with contemporary building technology (ECHO).
Industrial Advancements Influence Architecture
The house utilizes brick, stone, glass and wood in its construction materials, and makes a bold impression as a square and solidly built home. Unlike the gabled roof or some of Essex’s steeply pitched roofs, the Noble Clemons House is one of the first with an almost flat roof.
Only the wide overhanging eaves are visible from ground level because the roof is so slightly pitched. Flatter roofs became a key feature of the Italianate style, made possible because of the availability of emerging industrial techniques such as the invention of tin-plated sheet iron, imported from England (ECHO).
New factories were being built across the country, and with faster production, woodworking machines were able to “produce large quantities of decorative trim to ornament gables, overhangs and porches. The massive, plain, curved cornice brackets of the Clemons house are clearly the result of machine production” (ECHO).
The lantern-style observatory atop the Noble Clemons House is like a crown resting atop an Italian villa. It is a rooftop viewing pavilion where “at the windows, pairs of sash slide into wall pockets out of sight so that nothing will intrude upon the pleasure of looking out in any direction” (ECHO).
It is likely that the Noble Clemons House originally had no fireplaces. Stoves had become more efficient heat sources than fireplaces, enabling homeowners to comfortably heat rooms with lofty ceilings. Heating with stoves instead of fireplaces lessened the need for small rooms which could be more easily heated in cold winter regions, and permitted rooms (and homes) with grander proportions.
This practical change enabled the Noble Clemons House to employ a more open floor plan than earlier Essex houses. The first floor was built in such a way that it was open all the way to the roof top lantern via open stairways (ECHO).
This was one of the first houses in Essex rescued and renovated by the Essex Community Heritage Organization (ECHO) in 1980’s (Images of America: Essex on Lake Champlain. 10).
After being vacant for more than 30 years the house was purchased in 1988. The house retained most of its architectural integrity, but lacked many modern amenities, such as a bathroom or electricity. The current owners undertook a thorough restoration of the home that respected and retained the original features of the building while making necessary accommodations to suit a comfortable modern lifestyle (AARCH).
Of the original details of the house several features still remain.
The “original six-over-six light sash remain intact, as does much of the interior plan and ornamental detailing, including a period staircase and decorative plasterwork. The ornate cast iron fence dates from the third quarter of the nineteenth century.” (“Essex: An Architectural Guide.” 20)
Additional Resources for Noble Clemons House
This map (with satellite image overlay) will help you locate the Noble Clemons House and see how its location relates to other historic buildings in the historic district.
References for Noble Clemons House
“Essex: An Architectural Guide.” Essex Community Heritage Organization, 1986.
“Essex Village Historic District.” Living Places. Ed. Julia Gombach. The Gombach Group, 2010. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. .
Hislop, David C., Jr. Essex on Lake Champlain. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Pub., 2009. Print. Images of America.
“Historic Essex.” Historic Essex. Essex Community Heritage Organization. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. <http://www.essexny.org/>.
McNulty, George F., and Margaret Scheinin. Essex: the Architectural Heritage. Burlington, VT: Queen City Printers, 1971. Print.
Smith, H. P. History of Essex County: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers. Syracuse, N. Y.: D. Mason &, 1885. Print.