Tree House 

A late Victorian in Midtown.

This Queen Anne house with a wraparound porch anchoring one corner of Oliver at Tanglewood was built around 1902 in one of the many subdivisions in the neighborhood that eventually became Cooper-Young. Development of the area began in 1884, when the Citizen's East End Railway trolley was extended from downtown to Trezevant Road (now East Parkway). G.H. McCaskill was a prolific builder in Cooper-Young, and this house -- with its complex roof of layered hips and gables and deep, L-plan porch with a canted wall -- exhibits the hallmarks of his distinctive work. At a time when Craftsman and Colonial Revival architectural styles were becoming fashionable, McCaskill's houses clung to Victorian influences. The porch roof of this cottage is supported by Doric columns, typical of late-Victorian architecture rather than the turned posts characteristic of earlier Queen Anne houses. However, its asymmetrical plan -- entrance hall, parlor, and dining room en suite; bedrooms off a separate back hall -- is a Queen Anne arrangement of a sort popular in English and American houses since the last quarter of the 19th century.

The house was turned into a duplex probably just after World War II. The conversion was done with an amazingly light touch and didn't make drastic changes to the plan or the major features. All five original oak mantels are still in place. They're the "double-decker" type with a mirror and top shelf above the mantel shelf and the whole composition flanked by columns; builders' supply catalogs of the period called them cabinet mantels. The elaborate front door has a full-length beveled glass-light framed by a band of egg-and-dart molding and pilasters with Ionic capitals. The entrance hall has a canted wall opposite the angled front wall, forming a three-sided bay with a fireplace -- a good spot for a seating area -- out of the house's traffic pattern. Massive bi-fold doors separate the hall from the front parlor; the dining room and the parlor have smoothly gliding pocket doors between them. A short hallway leads to the kitchen, outfitted with "modern" metal cabinets. A closet in the hall has a jazzy, Art Deco-inspired linoleum floor, which could serve as inspiration for a new kitchen decorating scheme. A full bath off this hall probably was formed from the original butler's pantry when the house was subdivided. Both this bath and the original bathroom have claw-foot tubs and Craftsman-style medicine cabinets. During the duplex conversion, the stair in the back hall was removed. If the stair were rebuilt, the vast attic could be developed as a couple of rooms with high ceilings and lots of cozy nooks with sloping ceilings. The house's second kitchen was added directly behind the original kitchen. If the house became a single-family unit again, the two kitchens could be joined to make a huge kitchen and family room with direct access to the long, shady backyard. The one-car garage with board-and-batten siding at the back edge of the yard needs some work but would be just right for a workshop or garden shed.

Half of the front yard is filled by a magnificent dogwood, surely among the city's champion trees. It was probably planted when the house was built and has become a neighborhood landmark, the destination of many an evening stroll when it's in full bloom. Porch-sitting is one of the defining recreational activities of Midtown, and the big, old-fashioned front porch of this house is a fine place to sit and watch the world stroll by.

2065 Oliver Avenue

2,100 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 2 baths; $128,000

Realtor: Prudential Collins-Maury, Inc.

Agent: Joe Spake, 751-4385, 753-0700

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