In the 1890s, Barber used mail-order retailing to make himself one of the country’s most influential house architects. Clients throughout the nation chose their house designs from Barber’s Modern Artistic Cottages (1888) and his other publications. Customers could purchase house plans, specifications, materials lists, color samples, and model contract forms through the mail. If none of the standard designs, mostly in the Queen Anne style and over eight hundred in all, suited a client’s needs, taste, or budget, Barber and Company provided custom plans for a moderately higher price. Cleveland and Backus of New York offered mail-order house plans as early as the 1850s, but Barber was perhaps the most prolific of the many mail-order architects. By 1900, his firm in Knoxville, Tennessee, employed as many as thirty draftsmen to draw designs. The house of druggist Raphael Soquet, based on Design No. 33 in Barber’s The Cottage Souvenir No. 2 (1890), shows how one of Barber’s plans could be altered to suit a buyer’s wishes. The two-story clapboard dwelling juxtaposes various roof forms for an eclectic Queen Anne design, including an onion dome with a spindle finial. The front-facing gable boasts decorative bargeboards, ornamental trusswork with a wheel cutout at center, and a latticework balconet. Below the gable, a horseshoe arch embraces a window, and round-arched trusswork graces balustraded balconies on either side. These features, as well as turned-spindle posts, spindled railings, and bargeboards with a stripe-and-bull’s-eye motif, were included in Barber’s Design No. 33. But at the southwest corner, the second story opens up into another balcony, instead of the two-story bay detailed in Barber’s plan. The builder also added a first-story porch to the house’s southwest corner.
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Raphael Soquet House
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