Welcome to Agincourt, Iowa

Home » 2021 » July

Monthly Archives: July 2021

The City-County Gaol

“Gaol” is an old British way of spelling jail, but you’re not likely to encounter it these days. One of the projects from mid-way in development of this process was a jail, connected with the second Fennimore County courthouse, as well as the Agincourt City Hall. At least that’s the way I remember if from circa 2008-2009.

Eric Hoffer (whose permission I haven’t asked) took this on as a “now” project, contemporary with his own effort — not necessarily an easier row to hoe.

I borrowed this image from a personal site he doesn’t seem to be using these days. But here’s the link to the page with other images of his jail. It doesn’t show much of the immediate context, though I can tell you it’s on the north side of the courthouse and (as I recollect) adjacent to the city hall. The would be about the northeast corner of Second Street N.W. and Agincourt Avenue.

If anyone knows Eric’s whereabouts, let me know.

Roma Mountjoy (contemporary)

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

MOUNTJOY, Roma [contemporary; Welsh]

“Tower Bridge” [top]

oil on paper / 2.05 inches by 2.05 inches


“Tower Bridge” [bottom]

mixed media on paper / 6 inches by 6 inches


Artists often return to a favored or familiar subject. London’s Tower Bridge is one of those subjects which has been recorded in every season and all times of day or night. Welsh artist Roma Mountjoy has returned more than twice to this iconic structure and captured impressions of its ever-changing character. In fact, bridges form a minor theme in the collection, which includes the Brooklyn Bridge and our own Gnostic and Cheshire bridges.

The Italianate

The Greek Revival style moved westward into the Trans-Appalachian states with early 19th century migration. Ohio is rich with examples, as are Indiana and Illinois. The style weakens — that is, to say, the copies of copies of copies become less convincing — as it moves into Wisconsin and Minnesota, though you may be offended by that observation if you’re from one of the latter states. Look not for it in the Dakotas; it’s not here.

The Greek Revival of the “Federal” period was followed by the Italianate, which you will find in the Dakotas and pretty much all the Great Plains States. [Remember, Texas is always an exception.] This was a style of the Civil War years and following, and one, therefore, which was dependent on the transition from hand carpentry to the increased use of power tools. Italianate design requires a good deal of wood trim but, happily, most of it can be produced with a jig saw and a lathe.

Italianate buildings can be found from Hartford to Hannaford and New Orleans to New Ulm. From farmhouses to courthouses. It is interpreted in a variety of materials from brick and stone to wood and stucco; including metal from cast iron and galvanized to wrought. And combinations of those materials, colorful combinations. I’ve always felt comforted by the Italianate, though without any solid reason for that comfort. I’ve also never tried to design anything in the style, until now.

This has been a long lean period in the Agincourt blog, largely because I’m deep in the writing of a manuscript on another project topic, so I didn’t want July to pass without at least a couple posts and the Original Fennimore County courthouse suggested itself — one of those cases where a sequence of buildings (courthouses one, two, and three) were designed in a different order. So now he time has come to imagine what that first seat of county government looked like and why it became outgrown so quickly.

Mid-Century Modern

Mid-Century Modern

Yes, the lush semi-tropical setting of this house by Gregory Ain places it securely in Southern California. And the mid-century modern style itself is one you’re unlikely to find in Iowa. But I can dream.

Last semester I worked with a student in a 5th-year architecture studio on the design of an MCM house. He was twenty-two or twenty-three, I’m guessing, and I, of course, more than three times his age, which may account for why it was more difficult than I had thought it would be. But that was my problem, not the student’s, because this was one of the architectural styles of my youth: I am, indeed, mid-century, if not actually modern. So, the earmarks of that historic style are more familiar to me than they would be to a twenty-something. Despite my hope that there is, in fact, very little other than age between me and my students, I’m living a life of quiet delusion.

Your Solar House

A 2008 article by A. Denzer, “The Solar house in 1947,” treats the significance of a book published that year, 1947, by Libby-Owens-Ford Glass Co., promoting L-O-F products and the design of passive solar homes — which one assumes would very likely have been done in an MCM design vocabulary. That was the first architecture book I can recall reading at my local public library some time in the mid-50s. So it became my go-to source for the state of mid-century modernism across the U.S. I bought a copy and gifted it to the student mentioned above — MCM has made a strong resurgence of late and he is far more likely to apply some of its principles than I am. But, for my current purposes, it raises the issue of when Agincourt might have received its first (only?) example of MCM single-family residential design.

Ain, by the way, proves to be a more interesting architect than I had recalled.