Nathan Ricker House Nomination by Jamie Clapper, Designated February 21, 2000
The Nathan C. Ricker House built in 1892 is a single family, two-story, wood frame house located on West Green Street, the main east-west corridor from the University of Illinois campus to downtown Urbana. The house is located in a neighborhood comprised of late 19th and early 20th century single and multi-family housing. The south facade of the house faces Green Street, which is line with several mature trees. Coler Avenue, on the house's west side also has mature trees. Vegetation appears on the house’s east side; however, the rest of the lawn is void of trees.
The massing is predominantly symmetrical on the west, north and south facades. The east facade is asymmetrical. The house has a modified Gabled Ell plan with an irregular roofline. The main hipped shape of the roof is intersected in the west facade by a gabled projection. On the south, a single bay gabled section projects form the hip form. The east facade has a projecting conical roof form and an angled ridge from the semi-hexagonal corner to the hip point. The north facade has a two bay gabled section projecting from the main hip. The east façade has a projecting conical roof form and an angled ridge from the semi-hexagonal corner to the hip point. The north façade has a two bay gabled section projecting from the main hip.The Nathan C. Ricker house is finished in the Queen Anne style, which is apparent by the irregular roof form, the many projecting bays, the exterior wall finishing, the front porch and the windows. The exterior of the house is covered with wood clapboard siding and wood shingles. The entrance is on the west side of the house, in a projection facing south. There is a curved herringbone brick walkway leading to the front porch and entrance from Green Street. The wood front porch spans the west façade and contains highly decorative posts railing and frieze. Another similar but smaller porch appears on the north façade located off the dining room. The roof is covered with brown asphalt shingles and the foundation is brick. The interior has spacious rooms arranged around a central hall The rooms feature tall ceilings, and rich woodwork; the more formal rooms have handsome fireplaces.
The front/west façade faces Coler Avenue. This façade includes the large full-façade front porch which a wood balustrade, and tongue and grove and wood flooring. The porch, which was rebuilt in 1997, is raised form grade and supported by brick foundation piers. Six steps located at the north and southwest sides of the porch provide access. The exterior finish on the west side is white painted (primed) 4” clapboard. The gable section contains an exterior covering of white painted overlapping wood sawn shingles. The foundation of the house is the original brick foundation with two openings, below the porch on the west façade. One opening is a wood frame, double-hung window with four-over-four lights. The other opening is a door. These openings were once accessed by chutes from the porch and were used to supply the house with coal.
The west façade is divided into four bays. The first bay has a single replacement wood door on the first story. The second story contains a wood double-hung window with one-over-one lights. The second bay has a single wood frame, double-hung window with one-over-one lights on the first floor.The second story opening is a smaller wood window, also double hung, with multi-lights over one. The top light has a center of textured clear glass surrounded by seven pieces of rose and gold stained glass. The third bay is a central projecting pavilion with a gabled roof. It contains a wood frame, a multi-light over one light double hung window, framed with sixteen pieces of stained glass in the top light, on the first story; above is an identical window. The gabled section of the pavilion, above the second story contains a rectangular wood-frame hopper window. The fourth bay on the west façade contains a rectangular wood frame awning window set high at ceiling level on the first floor; the second floor opening is a wood double-hung window with one-over-one lights.
The south façade facing Green Street is predominantly symmetrical. The main forms are a two and one-half story projecting gabled pavilion and a semi-hexagonal bay turning the southeast corner. The walls are mostly covered with white pained 4” horizontal clapboard, however white pained overlapping sawn shingles are used in the semi-hexagonal bay. The basement has one, two-light awning sash on the west side if the south façade.
There is a south facing entrance located in the projecting front/west facing two and one-half story gabled pavilion section on the west porch. The door is a single entrance wooden door with a large single light framed with egg and dart molding.
The first bay of the south façade contains three openings. The first floor opening is large double-hung wood one-over-one light window. Centered above the first floor window is a pair of wooden one-over-one light, double hung windows. The gable contains a three light rectangular wooden hopper window.
The eastern most section of the south façade is treated as a semi-hexagonal bay. One basement window is centered on the angled section. The first and second stories contain triple window sets. All windows are one-over-one light double-hung, with the center or angled section’s windows being wider than flanking windows. The roofline includes a shed wall dormer with a horizontal wood frame, hopper window with decorative glass. The window has three clear centerpieces with eighteen pieces of rose and gold stained glass surrounding them in a geometric pattern.
Like the front and south facades, the east façade reinforces the Queen Anne style through its disrupted façade. A two-story semi-circular bay projects the main wall plan off center forming an asymmetrical façade. The exterior is covered with white painted 4” clapboard siding on the flat wall planes, and overlapping white painted sawn shingles on the semi-circular bay. The areas to the side of the windows are covered with linear sections of sawn shingles. The basement contains two openings, one on the flat wall plane is covered with a decorative iron gate painted to match the colors of the brick, and the other is a window centered on the semi-circular bay.
All windows located in the east façade are on the semi-circular projecting section. The first floor section is consumed with a set of five one-over-one double-hung windows; there is an abbreviated set of three windows on the second story. Also visible on the east façade is the ornate side/north entrance porch. This porch, located to the right of the semi-circular bay, contains detailing identical to the west/front façade porch. The porch roof is steeply sloped with a diagonal ridge, which connects in the corner at the second story level.
The north façade of the Nathan C. Ricker House is divided into two bats in the north/south facing gable end, which dominates the façade. The exterior of the north façade is white painted, clapboard wood siding on the first and second stories, and overlapping white painted sawn wood shingles in the gable end. The foundation has two openings in line with the bays of the façade. The first bay has a single window opening covered with plywood; there is a pipe projecting from the opening. The second opening is a double wooden window.
The north façade’s two bays are identical. Each bay has one, double-hung, one over one light window aligned on the first and second stories. The gable has a pair of one-over-one light, wooden double-hung windows. These windows are a recent replacement. Other elements on the north façade include the porch off the dinning room to the left of the two bay gabled section, and the gabled basement entrance. The original bulkhead doors of the basement entrance were replaced with a small, low-pitched gable frame entrance at grade sometime after 1950. The alteration cuts across a portion of the left one-over-one, double-hung sash of the first story window pair. The modified basement entrance is built upon the original bulkhead’s low wall, which extends out from the foundation, and on which the former bulkhead doors were placed.
Other elements of the house include a continuous projecting cornice, which goes across all gables except the front/west facing pavilion, and continuous wood water table, which surrounds the entire exterior just above the brick foundation wall. There are also two rebuilt red brick chimneys.
A one and one-half story carriage barn was once located on the north end of the property. The garage entrance faced west towards Color Ave. The carriage barn was first documented in a 1909 Sanborn insurance map; when the house was also first documented. The carriage barn was razed by the City of Urbana in 1993.
The Ricker House has eleven rooms and a full basement and attic. The house is currently undergoing restoration, however, the interior details remain intact. The first floor features the house’s family spaces including the parlor and living room, which are dominated by richly trimmed windows and fireplaces. The dining room, kitchen and bathroom are also located on the first floor. The second floor includes the house’s four bedrooms, one bathroom and a trunk room. All the second story rooms have the same rich trimming as the first floor rooms, but are less formal. The master bedroom includes a fireplace along the west wall.
Nathan C. Ricker House retains its integrity. Outside of minor changes, little has been done to alter its condition. The exterior was sided with white aluminum siding, but it has been removed in the last year, exposing the original clapboard and sawn shingles. Two windows in the attic of the north facing gable section have been recently replaced with modern sashes. Also on the north side, the cellar entrance was covered with a gabled roofed section sometime after the 1950s. In 1997, the front porch was restored and the supporting brick posts were reconstructed. The roof of the house has also recently undergone rehabilitation. The roof project was completed in 1998.
The interior of Nathan C. Ricker House has also been slightly modified through the years. Carpeting now covers the original wood floors. Drop ceilings were added in the first floor and original window trim was cut when the ceiling was installed. The dropped ceilings have since been removed. After Ricker’s occupation of the house, the room between the kitchen and dining room was converted to a bathroom. This room was probably originally a pantry or breakfast room. Two short walls with a single door were added to make the conversion. The kitchen has also been changed from its original appearance, the original cabinets have been removed and replaced. Also, a built-in corner cabinet appears to have been added. The interior basement staircase appears to have been added, but this could be a historic alteration. The small passage from the front hall to the kitchen contains original doorways, indicating that the basement stairway was perhaps once storage under the original stairway to the second floor. Joist pockets visible in the opening for the stairway to the basement also indicate that the stairs were added after the house was constructed. Originally, the only entrance to the basement would have been from the cellar doors on the north side of the house.
The second floor of the house does not appear to have undergone spatial alterations. The only change to the second floor appears to be the modernization of the bathroom. In 1917, a fire damaged the roof causing the attic framing to undergo repairs; some charring remains on the north gable.
Statement of Significance – Summary
Nathan C. Ricker House meets the criteria for local landmark listing due to its association with Nathan C. Ricker. Ricker was a pioneer in the area of architectural education, an active and well-respected citizen of Urbana, and the architect of his home. The house’s period of significance ranges from its construction in 1892 to Ricker’s death in 1924. Ethel Ricker, Nathan’s daughter, continued to own the house until 1927. Rickers house, located at 612 W. Green St. Urbana, Illinois, is the only known residential building designed by him.
Nathan Clifford Ricker has a profound and lasting effect on the practice of architecture on Illinois, as well as the architectural education program at the University of Illinois. He used his European experience to develop an innovative instruction format and incorporated the use of modern materials and technology into both his lesson plans and his building designs. Ricker’s combination of educational and practical knowledge guided him as he established the architectural program at the University of Illinois. His program, which emphasized technology, building design, construction, and historic, is still utilized. In addition to his educational achievements, legislation passed under Ricker’s influence continues to guide the architectural procedures of Illinois. While the four National Register-listed university buildings that Ricker designed remain as excellent testaments to his significance as a designer, Ricker’s house at 612 West Green Street is the property, which is most personally associated with Ricker’s productive life. The only known residence designed by Ricker, the house served as Ricker’s home form 1892 until his death in 1924.
Ricker held many important offices within the University of Illinois’s College of Engineering, including Dean, and Head of the Department of Architecture (now School of Architecture). Due to his status Ricker achieved during his residence at 612 W. Green, the structure is most closely associated with his personal and professional life. The only other structures associated with Ricker are the buildings he designed for the University. While he likely had a campus office (or offices over the years) where he conducted his university duties as an educator, administrator and designer, no particular space has been identified as having been Ricker’s office. Because the Department of Architecture and School of Engineering were located in University Hall, then Engineering Hall, it is likely that Ricker had an office space in each building. Despite the amount of scholarly research that has been done on Ricker, no office has been identified. Furthermore, a review of Champaign-Urbana city directories over the years associated with Ricker’s productive life, specifically 1885-1912, reveals only his residential address, which was 612 West Green Street, and his current University title. A search of architects in the business directories contained no office listing for Nathan Ricker. Because of the accomplishments and status of Nathan C. Ricker during his residence 612 West Green Street and the lack of an office space, the only remaining structure associated with Ricker’s productive life is his house.