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Britt

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This community in central Hancock County was traversed by two railroads, so quite early it acquired two adjacent groups of tall concrete grain elevators that are visible some distance from the town. Within town is the Lewis Larson house (1896), now operated as the Hancock County Museum. The good-sized dwelling, designed and built by John Victoria, represents the late nineteenth-century combination of the Queen Anne and the Colonial Revival styles. The silhouette of the dwelling is lively and picturesque, with bays and a small round tower to the left and a larger octagonal tower to the right. The building is richly detailed with a spindled porch, different patterns of shingle and clapboard, and windows with stained glass. The Larson house is located at 266 Second Avenue Southeast. Another design of John Victoria, built some ten years earlier, is the Stubbins house ( NO008).

Britt boasts an energetic version of the Prairie style, the C. W. Erwin house at 278 First Avenue Southwest. The house was designed by J. H. Jeffers of Mason City, and was built in 1918–1919. As in a good number of Iowa's Prairie houses, the designer of the Erwin house employed brick for the walls and tile for the hipped roof, which helps to convey a sense of traditional mass and stability. The corners of the two-story house are treated as piers carried up to a thin line of cast stone which circles around the house (and also links the window sills of the second floor). To the right, a single-story wing containing the entrance projects from the house, matched on the other side by a living porch.

In traveling through Britt, do stop at the now-deserted service station (c. 1922) in the northeast section of town, at the corner of Diagonal and Fourth Avenue Northeast. The service station building is a small structure that conveys the impression that its gable roof is supported by four corner piers. There are large circular openings/signs in each of the gable ends. At what would appear to be a later moment, a pergola/canopy was added over the pump area.

Writing Credits

Author: 
David Gebhard and Gerald Mansheim

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