Gingerbread House

211 North Pleasant, 1883


Oberlin could support few examples of the bizarre domestic castles favored by opulent Americans in the Gilded Age. This fetching fancy on North Pleasant suggests the opportunities for show available to people of more modest means. Nothing quite like it had been seen in town before. When it went up in the summer of 1883, the village paper primly remarked, "There is quite a contrast in the matter of ornament between the original dwellings of the people of Oberlin and some of the recent structures with their superfluity of gingerbread work."

The house was built for insurance agent E.W. Chamberlain. Its plain vertical lines are tricked out with an eye-catching variety of detail: narrow bay, porch and stoop; festooned window moldings and brackets under the eaves; and perky gables breaking the roof line. Like a contemporary Victorian parlor, the busy exterior celebrates the possibilities of applied decoration, a quaint reminder of the days before form began dutifully to follow function.

(Blodgett 125)

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