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Mrs. George Widener House (Miramar)
These two adjacent residences were built, like Horace Trumbauer's earlier Berwind House, for wealthy Philadelphians. Built for an executive of the Pennsylvania Railroad, Clarendon Court is set only a few yards back from the street; most of its eleven-acre site stretches behind the house to the ocean. With a central stone facade flanked by projecting side wings and classical detailing, Trumbauer here reflects a Palladianism filtered through the designs of the eighteenth-century English architect Sir William Chambers. Clarendon Court's severity, accented by the crisp planarity of its unadorned walls, is relieved only by the pedimented surround of the entry and the figurative sculptures perched atop the cornice.
Miramar is a relatively small structure, designed in a formulaic architectural vocabulary that here seems more French than English, set as it is among elaborate formal gardens. In contrast to the restraint of Clarendon Court, Trumbauer crammed his decorative scheme for Miramar onto the two-story facade; its rusticated blocks, arcade of oversized windows, sculptural reliefs, and balustrade all compete with the intimate scale of the building itself. While Clarendon Court achieves a kind of monumentality through its minimal ornament, Miramar seems perversely miniaturized by its decorative surface. For years Trumbauer was the architect for both private and public projects involving the Widener family; ironically, as this house was under construction, Mrs. Widener's husband and son perished in the Titanic disaster.
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