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An Analysis of Kenneth Duprey's Old Houses on Nantucket
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00101454/00001
 Material Information
Title: An Analysis of Kenneth Duprey's Old Houses on Nantucket
Physical Description: Archival
Language: English
Creator: Hardy, Deirdre J.
Publisher: Deirdre J. Hardy
Place of Publication: Gainesville, FL
Publication Date: Winter, 1977
Copyright Date: 1977
General Note: Course number: AE675
General Note: Professor Philip Wisley
General Note: UF AFA Historic Preservation document 473
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Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
System ID: UF00101454:00001


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Table of Contents
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Full Text
An Analysis of Kenneth Duiprey' s


Prof. P. Wisely

An Analysis of Kenneth Duprey's

Old Houses on Nantucket

In the preface of his book Old Houses on Nantucket,

Kenneth Duprey explains thqt his volume began as a case of

necessity for no adequate descriptions of the architecture or

interior finishes of the houses on Nshtucket Island had existed

when he first undertook preserving his own home there. Thus

Duprey had found on-site research and examination necessary
for his own information and during this process became involved

in tracing historical and cultural forces of the area and noting

their all pervading influences in creating a.unique regional

domestle architecture.

A brief outline of the Island's history us a great whaling

port and stronghold of the unker religious faith leads one to

expect and find that the craftsmanship of carpenters whose main

occupation was shipbuilding would result in strong, functional
buildings devoid of embellishment and unnecessary structure.

Portinent geographical facts such as the Island's remoteness

and consequent environmental characteristics dictated the choice

and use of building materials -- even the recycling of same --

which the photographs reveal to have been treated with respect

and consideration of their inherent qualities.

Whether it was planned or evolved is not apparent, but 8As

book leads one into complete belief in its thesis -- not by

didactic text -- but by simply and plainly stated facts which are

related to superb black and white photographs. There is not

even any need for colour -- in fact it probably would have

detracted from the pervasive honesty and practicality evinced

by the photographs -- perhaps even seemed garish -- for the
subject matter reveals owners who bought .quality goods for

their structural beauty and ihtogrity and functional qualities,

not applied decoration. The photos also reveal (astonishingly,

to this reader) which of the interiors are those of house

museums and which owner-occupied. Although the basic furnishings

are markedly similar in each instance, those of the house

museums dont have quite the same 'cared-for' apneurance.

The evolution of the Nantucket house is documented by

dividing the text into sections in which are grouped the houses

illustrating the author's thesis. These are:

Early NantuckGt HOuses (1659-1750)
The Typical Nantucket House
The Post-Hevolutionary Period
The Siasconset Cottage
The Greek Revival Period.

Synonyms for these more formal titles might have been beginnings

'grew into 'variations after the war' and 'adulterated' with

a separate section revealing the charms of the 'Sconset Cottages
which like wildflowers just 'grew'. 'Adulterated' may seem like

a harsh word to describe w.hat in other locations would be very

restrained use of the Greek Revival and Victorian motifs, but

sited as they are in among the pristine and refined typical

Nantucket houses they seem ostentatious, reflecting as they do

the declining influence of Quakerism on the Island and the grow-

ing wealth and worldliness of its well-travelled seafaring men.
In a similar way the photographs of the Post-Revolutionary period

illustrate the basic changes in plan and element use that came

with increasing wealth reflected in the use of materials imported

to the Island and at the same time the restraint used in adapting

the Federal style. For examplethe absence of patriotic motifs

so much a part of this style on the mainland, is attributed not

only to the religious influence which normally disapproved of

such, but which was, however, waning; but also to the anger
and resentment felt by the Islanders towards the Government

for what they rem:rded as a lack of help in protecting their

vulnerable location during the war.

A section of annotated photographs,*MTich follows the chronolo-

gical .sections vividly illustrates the"typical" house and these

are followed by detailed plans and sections and details of same.

A glossary of indigenous Island terminology which is used in the

text, adding authenticity and reinforcing its honesty and

simplicity, rounds out this well-planned work. An Island map
and area site plans would have aided the reader unfamiliar with

local geocraphyin understanding the topographical and environ-

mental influences necessitating the physical responses which were

noted in the text. A time-scale graphic w =uld also have made it

easier to comprehend overlapping style changes and related them

to contemporary world affairs.

Thus Duprey's thesis that Nantucket's unique regional

domestic architeoutre is a result of time, place and circumstance

is well documented both by succinct and pertinent text and his

superb photography. It is also accomplished in a.manner

sympathetic to his theme and curiously similar to the architecture
of Nantucket itself -- the book's physical components and layout,

printing style, text itself and photographs are all devoid of

gimmickry and decoration. A quality product is simply offered
in an honest straightforward manner for the pleasure and enrich-

ment of those who are attracted by the external appearance and
tempted to open the covers/door. Truly, a creation by a crafts-


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