Edward Whitney built this handsome concrete-block Craftsman house, with Oriental influences, to showcase his contracting firm’s work and its new building materials. Ambrose Foster of Portland, Wisconsin, patented a hollow-core concrete block in 1855, but this building material became popular only after 1900, when Harmon Palmer patented a cast-iron block-making machine. In 1910, Whitney Brothers produced its first precast concrete blocks, bricks, and shingles. By using colored sand and interchangeable faceplates in the molds, the company created various hues and surface textures.
Concrete block has often been associated with drab, utilitarian construction, but Whitney combined this inexpensive material with ornate details for this house, including stained glass windows. The house is a two-story cube, with light-gray concrete blocks below and reddish slumped-concrete bricks above. Charcoal-gray concrete quoins tie the walls together, and similar blocks laid in a Flemish bond outline the windows. The use of concrete extends to the low-pitched roof, covered with concrete mission tiles. Concrete ridge crestings accentuate flared eaves to give the roof a pagoda-like flavor. Elaborate rafter tails vaguely resemble stylized dragon’s heads, and similar details repeat along the dormers, the bay and oriel windows, and the porch roofs. Block piers with large scrolled brackets support the off-center porch, with a spindle balustrade of concrete. The rear garage is also ornate, mimicking the house. Above the concrete-block walls, concrete bricks tinted in light, medium, and dark colors are laid in a diagonal pattern. A pagoda-like hipped roof with a hipped lantern crowns the composition.