West End Walks. 393-395 Danforth Street

Built in 1859 by Charles A Alexander as his own residence.

Charles A Alexander was a local architect whose work we have seen in the Spring mansions also on Danforth Street.

The house sits on an elevated lot overlooking the intersection of Vaughan and Danforth Streets across from the terminus of Western Promenade. Built of brick, it is a rectangular 2 story block 3 bays wide by 2 deep with a 2 story rear ell. In the front, the left bay projects from the main block in a fairly common manner.

The basic form of a rectangle with a projecting bay can be seen in a much higher style in the contemporary Morse-Libby house also on Danforth as well as its cross-street neighbors at 394 & 400.

Alexander had, as we have seen, an affinity for brick and its possibilities. There is not much biographical history on him. I often wonder if he had a familial connection to the masonry trade. Although he could use the material to great effect, he seems to have held himself back some here. The only detail to be seen is a projecting course at the beltline. This breaks the field of the wall and adds a shadow line.

The windows have low arched headers and narrow trim insets for the sashes.  These sit on chunky granite sills which seem kinda heavy. The image above shows a sharp contrast in the bricks from the 7th course above the beltline up. At some point in time, the original mansard roof was removed from the main block and replaced with a low hipped roof as seen today and in the 1925 tax photo. The reason for this change is not recorded anywhere. The roof of the rear ell shows the original look and what I believe are original slates.

I love those dormers.

The change of roof also brought the porch and, in my opinion, the current bay windows on the projection.

The porch is a pleasant space no matter when it was built. It’s sufficiently deep to give shade and has an attractive beaded edge detail in the ceiling. The columns supporting the roof are a bit slim for their height but are still well selected. They stand on plinths with a panel detail that matches the bay windows. This is what leads me to believe the bays were redone concurrent to the porch. A final addition at the time was a delicate rope work detail at the eaves of the main block, bay, and porch.

Also of note is the stable/garage on Vaughan Street. It is period to the house but for the modern overhead door of course. A look at the tax photo shows the original configuration of the building’s facade. The roofline, while still a Mansard, displays a different, simplified profile. Gone is the inward curve as the roof rises. A simple angled line suffices on the lessor building. Also of note is the slates retain the patterns of the main house roof but the colors are reduced to the natural gray only.

The deed history is a bit odd. At the time the house was constructed the owner was listed as Mary C A Alexander, Charles’ wife. Mary had acquired the property in 1858. In 1861 Mary sold the property to Charles. Charles sold the property in 1863 to one Henry Paine. Paine was a dealer in coal and wood with offices located on Smith’s Wharf. Paine’s estate sold the home to Joseph Noyes in 1906. For the next 12 years, the property was traded among family members several times. Finally in 1918 one Julia Noyes sold the home to Fredrick Freeman who would in turn sell it to James and Sarah Campbell in 1921. The Campbells were the owners if record at the time of the 1924 tax assessment.

Tax photo from 1924. Note the traffic control light at left.

Tax photo from 1924. Note the traffic control light at left.

393-395 Danforth is in the West End Historic District and thus falls under the overview of the city’s Historic Preservation department.

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