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ARCHITECTURAL DESCRIPTION

The Purcell House faces north on a sloping corner lot in a residential neighborhood of single-family houses and curvilinear streets.   The house is roughly centered on a .4 acre lot.  The front yard features a few small trees and affords a largely unobstructed view of the house from the street.   Large mature trees border the rear and west sides of the house.  Neighboring houses include several Contemporary Style houses, but are predominately post-World War II brick Ranch Style Houses.  The Purcell House fits clearly into the flat-roof subtype of the Contemporary Style as defined in Virginia and Lee McAlester's A Field Guide to American Houses.    The flat-roof design of the Purcell House distinguishes it from most, if not all, of the other houses in Davidson.

The Purcell House is a one-story, frame, flat-roofed house with a daylight basement.   As is typical for the Contemporary Style, the house lacks any traditional decorative details.  Instead the facade features simple geometric forms; the combined rectangles that make up the doors and windows, and the bold thick line of the soffit that runs far beyond the principal section of the building.  Another prominent feature of the facade is the wide, rough-saw redwood siding.  The use of natural materials and the integration of the house with its site, as is demonstrated with the Purcell House, distinguish the Contemporary Style from the earlier International Style.

The facade of the Purcell House features a deep overhang.  The front entrance is roughly centered on the facade.  It is recessed and is bordered to the west by a partial-height two-wythe-thick brick wall that projects slightly past the facade.  The original single-light door was recently replace with a new door of a similar design.  The door is bordered with a direct-glazed transom and a direct-glazed sidelight to the east.  The brick wall is topped with a single direct-glazed light.  The east wall of the recessed porch is covered with redwood siding.  The porch floor is concrete, with a brick border and steps.  The porch ceiling and the deep soffit are sheathed with plywood panels.

To the west of the recessed porch, the facade is mostly blank.  It is pierced by a tall window opening set close to the projecting brick wall.  The window is composed of two narrow sash stacked one above the other.  The top sash operates as a casement, while the lower sash is fixed.

To the east of the recessed entrance the facade is pierced by two windows.  Originally these window openings were roughly square.  Recently the openings were enlarged with tall casement sash that extend below the original window openings.  This modification appears to be the only significant change to the exterior of the house, and is the only instance where the original windows have been replaced.   To the east of the recessed entrance the daylight basement is exposed.  The frame walls of the main story overhang by approximately ten inches the masonry walls of the basement level.  The basement walls are masonry block veneered with brick laid in a running bond.  On the facade the masonry wall is pierced by a single window with an angled brick sill.  

The house's flat roof extends uninterrupted beyond the west elevation to form a full-width engaged porch.  The porch roof is supported by three box posts that contain metal pipe columns. The adjustable metal columns rest on low concrete piers set in the concrete porch floor.  The concrete floor features a rough exposed aggregate finish, and is divided  into square sections by dimensioned lumbers set in the concrete.  Three boxed beams run from the principal section of the house to the posts.  The ceiling is plywood like that found on the soffits.  

The west elevation is sheltered by the engaged porch and features a bank of windows composed of nine sash stacked three high and three wide.  The sash on the top row operate as awnings.  The middle row if fixed, and the bottom row sash operate as hoppers that swing in.  The windows are located near the facade.  The west elevation is also pierced by a single-light door set near the middle of the elevation.  The same redwood siding found on the facade is used on the west elevation, and covers all of the exterior frame walls.  

The design of the side porch is in keeping with the Contemporary Style.  A trademark of this style is to blur the distinctions between interior and exterior space.  On the Purcell House the roof over the porch is essentially identical to the roof over the interior spaces.  The large bank of windows allows both air and light to flow between the space.  A beam running through the living room  extends out to the porch.  There is no significant change in the floor level between the porch and the interior spaces.   On earlier styles, porch architecture was often distinct from the design of the rest of the house.  Most early 20th century houses in Davidson feature a shallow porch across the facade.  In contrast, the side porch on the Purcell House has dimensions similar to an interior space.

The rear of the Purcell House features a flat-roof, two-room-deep, one-room-wide wing.  The wing divides the rear elevation of the principal section of the house into two sections.  The west section is pierced by two window openings, including a bank of six sash set near the west elevation.  Like the windows on the west elevation, the sash are set in three rows with hoppers on the bottom and awnings on the top row.  To the east of the bank of windows is a smaller window composed of two stacked awning-sash.  The same deep overhang found on the facade is used on the rear elevation.

On the rear elevation, to the east of the rear wing, the daylight basement is largely exposed and features a single-light replacement door set close to the east elevation.  To the west of the doorway is located a bank of four awning sash.  To the west of the windows a brick flue rises from the basement level.  The masonry basement wall is also pierced by a single-light window adjacent to the rear wing.  The frame main story is pierced by a window composed of two stacked sash.  To the west of this window are two small single-light windows.  A recently installed scupper drains the roof into a grate in the ground.  Scuppers were added to aid the original roof drains. 

The rear wing was added soon after the house was completed, and utilizes the same roof design and siding found on the rest of the house.  The wing was built over a basement/crawlspace.  The east elevation of the wing features a small cantilevered wooden porch with a replacement handrail.  The porch is accessed by metal stairs with wooden treads.  The east elevation of the rear wing features a single-light door and a window composed of two stacked sash.  The southmost section of the wing was originally a screened porch, but was enclosed with glazing.  The west elevation of the rear wing contains a set of sliding single-light doors.  The enclosed screen porch is accessed on the west elevation by a second set of sliding doors topped with a small single-light transom.  A basement room is located under the glazed porch and is accessed by a two-light  exterior door.

The simple east elevation of the Purcell House features four single-light windows set in a symmetrical pattern, with two piercing the main story, and two directly below the upper windows, piercing the masonry basement wall. 

Retaining walls, utilizing the same smooth brick found on the house, are located adjacent to the front entrance, around the side porch, and to the rear of the rear wing.  Another landscape feature is a rough-aggregate concrete walk that leads from Hillside Drive to the front entrance.

Portions of the  interior of the Purcell House have been altered.  Walls in the kitchen where removed and all of the cabinetry was replaced.  Walls in the rear wing were removed.  The stairwell was enlarged, and a wall forming the original foyer was removed.

The living room and the dinning room have been well preserved.  The living room features a minimal fireplace consisting of a metal hood and chimney suspended over an open brick hearth.  An angled partial-height brick wall forms the rear of the fireplace and extends beyond the wide brick hearth.  This is the same brick wall that borders the recessed entrance and projects out from the facade.  The brick wall does not reach the ceiling.  This allows the openness of the living room to extend to the entrance foyer behind the fireplace.  A boxed beam rests on the angled brick wall and extends to the west elevation.  This beam carries the weight of the room and allows for the open area containing the living room and the dining room.

Original Oak floors in the living room, dinning room, and hallway have been retained.