Friday, June 27, 2008

The Gideon and Agnes Pond House

The 1856 Gideon and Agnes Pond house is one of the few Minnesota examples of the Federal Style. Gideon Pond was a Connecticut carpenter who came to Minnesota in 1834 with his brother Samuel to serve as Christian missionaries to the Dakota Indians and to teach the natives European farming methods. He settled in Bloomington, MN in 1854 and founded a mission near the village of the Dakota chief Cloudman. In 1856 he built this two-story house near his mission with bricks made on-site from clay found in the adjacent Minnesota River valley.

Although late for the Federal, which had been losing favor in the East since the 1820s, Pond decided to build in this refined style which had been common in Connecticut when he left in 1834. Some experts hesitate to call later examples like the Pond House Federal, preferring instead to describe them as vernacular or a Federal style remnant. Although certainly quite provincial, the Pond House has some of the classic features of the Federal and I believe the name is appropriate despite its plainness and late date.

Federal buildings are usually box-like, with a symmetrical arrangement of windows and low-pitched gabled or hipped roofs. High style examples have refined, but decorated cornices beneath the roof line with fanlights and sidelights surrounding the entrance door. The Pond house features a symmetrical arrangement of windows, although many Federal examples of a similar scale have a third window centered above the entrance.

The focus of a Federal facade was the front entrance. Entrance doors were sometimes flanked by half or three-quarter sidelights while higher style homes often had elaborate fanlights as a transom. In this example there is no fanlight although full-length sidelights are present.  Although the sidelights appear somewhat wide and blocky (reminiscent of those often found on contemporary Greek Revival homes), the entrance suits the proportions of building. The door slab is a recent (and quite incorrect) replacement.

Rather than an elaborate cornice with dentils and molding which were common on higher style homes, Pond constructed a simplified version in brick.

The Pond house is located at 401 East 104th Street in Bloomington, MN and is open for visits on Sundays from 1:30 to 4.

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