What are the architectural features of the Perry Mansion?

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Answered by: Christine, An Expert in the Art History - General Category
The Perry Mansion is a two-story Italian Renaissance Revival residence with a central hip-roofed central volume flanked by hip-roofed wings. Its walls are textured stucco with cast stone architectural details, and its hipped roof is clad in red half-barrel clay tiles. Supporting its wide soffit are flat brackets. Three wide stucco chimneys punctuate the roof. The Mansion’s plan is symmetrical save for a service wing located at the building’s northwest corner. The symmetry and low hip roof planes give the mansion a compact appearance despite its size. The house is designed with essentially two main façades—one facing the driveway and parking area to the north, and the other facing the main pedestrian entrance, gardens, and golf course to the south. The two entrances are located on the building’s central axis. Architectural details found on the house include cast stone panels with floral motifs, decorative iron lanterns and wall sconces, cast stone quoining at the corners and the intersection of building volumes, and a stringcourse between the two floors.

The north entrance faces the driveway turnaround and Garage Apartment to the north. The door is located in an entry porch set into a tall projecting volume. The entry porch is designed like a classical triumphal arch, with three barrel-vaulted openings set between tall pilasters. The entry door itself is a massive arched door with an intricate decorative iron overlay depicting a stylized peacock with a long, swirling tail and curving floral motifs. Atop the projecting entry volume is an iron-railinged balcony on the second floor. The two wings that extend to either side of the central entrance volume are also two stories in height, and contain wood divided light casement and double-hung windows. A significant feature of the north elevation is two enormous leaded-glass double-hung windows, whose placement corresponds to the curving, double-height staircase inside. At the western end of the elevation is a two-story rectangular wing that originally contained the building’s kitchens and servant’s quarters.

The Mansion’s south elevation faces the estate’s gardens and the curving brick walkway that approaches the building from the 41st Street pedestrian entrance. Like the north façade, the south is symmetrical in design. Here the central volume contains a gracious first-floor loggia that creates a large inset porch. The loggia consists of five arched openings that correspond to five large arched French doors opening into the house’s main hall. The arcade has smooth round columns with Corinthian capitals. Iron and glass lanterns hang from the groin-vaulted loggia ceiling. The loggia opens directly onto the South Terrace. The rest of the south elevation contains regularly-spaced multi-light wood casement and double-hung windows. The house’s east and west elevations are much shorter in length than the long north and south elevations but continue the fenestration pattern.

Inside, the Perry Mansion has remarkable integrity. The north entrance porch opens into an entrance hall flanked by two oval rooms: one containing a library and the other containing the double-height staircase. A long, rectangular main hall runs along the entire south side of this central volume; it has five large arched French doors that open onto the loggia. The west wing contains the dining room and kitchens, and the east wing the living room and a solarium.

Throughout the interior, original architectural details and finishes are intact. At the staircase, the dramatically curving banister has a cast iron spiral and floral motif. A large chandelier hangs in the center of the two-story staircase volume. The library walls are paneled with rich wood and feature built-in shelves and a fireplace mantle with a carved relief. In the long main hall, the ceiling is comprised of inset panels separated by carved wood beams. In the center of each inset panel is decorative gathered fabric and an iron orb-style chandelier. The living room has wood floors and a carved Texas cream limestone fireplace surround. The solarium, located on the easternmost end of the building, is surrounded by tall casement windows and French doors and flooded with light. Its interior walls are clad in smooth coursed Texas cream limestone and its floors are colorful cast stone tiles with a gold, black, green, and white square-and-triangle motif. A large projecting fireplace clad in cream limestone dominates the room. Carved Texas cream limestone is also found on door surrounds throughout the first floor of the Mansion. The second floor contains sleeping rooms, studies, and salons.

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