ERWIN & CLAIRE TIFFANY HOUSE

The Tiffany house is the most expensive house built in Nakoma before World War II. It is a particularly picturesque version of the Tudor Revival style due in large part to its unusual roof. The Tudor Revival strove to reproduce characteristics associated with England’s medieval buildings, but few designers went so far as to imitate the appearance of the thatched roofs that grace many of England’s cottages. Instead of straw and reed, American designers used wooden shingles laid in undulating patterns and rolled around the eaves. The tremendous expense of using shingles laid so closely together and the artistry required for these roofs made them exceedingly rare. Few remain intact.

Seeing this house from the front does not prepare you for the fact that the site slopes steeply downhill, allowing the rear facade to be almost two-and-one-half stories tall. This difference is used to splendid effect – the house seems almost to tumble down the hillside, collecting gable-roofed additions as it goes. The total effect is almost fairy tale-like in its charm, but cost its owners more than twice what owners of more conventional houses like the Severinghauses paid (site 13).

The original owners were UW professor Erwin Tiffany and his wife, Claire Tiffany, owner of “Claire Tiffany’s,” one of Madison’s most exclusive dress shops. Around 1935 they sold the house to Bernice and Dr. George Stebbins, a physician.

 

 

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