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
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
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
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
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
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.