At first glance, Chautauqua seems like an idyllic, Victorian dollhouse untouched by modern influences; however, architectural preservationist Bob Jeffrey knows there’s more to the Institution’s homes than meets the eye.
At 12:15 p.m. Tuesday, July 12, at Smith Wilkes Hall, Jeffrey will brief Chautauquans on the architectural styles of the area, highlighting distinctive features that date back to pre-Victorian times in his lecture “2022 Chautauqua BTG House Tour Preview.” Jeffrey will be the third speaker for the Bird, Tree & Garden Club’s Brown Bag Lectures for the 2022 season.
The lecture comes two days before the 2022 House and Garden show from noon to 5 p.m. Thursday, making a triumphant return from its last iteration in 2018. Before and after Jeffrey’s talk, tickets for the tour will be available for $45.
With a bachelor’s in environmental design from Miami University and a master’s in architecture from Kent State University, Jeffrey is the president of both Maviro Incorporated and Town Improvement Association Incorporated, businesses that specialize in adaptive reuse of historic buildings. He also serves as the president of the Historic Kenwood Neighborhood Association, and is a former trustee of Chautauqua Institution. As a lifelong Chautauquan, Jeffrey is well-versed in the architectural styles of the grounds.
Jeffrey plans to discuss the 12 houses included in the tour, going by time period with the aid of slideshow presentations complete with pictures of the homes. He will delve into the historical periods that have informed Chautauqua’s neighborhoods, from the Gothic era of the late 1880s to the mid-century modern era of the 1950s.
“What’s interesting about this tour discussion is that it starts with original cottages that were on 10 platforms down in Miller Park,” Jeffrey said. “It shows the fact that you build a house for basically two weeks here, a tiny little cottage crammed together, and how that has obviously changed since then.”
While Jeffrey is particularly fascinated with the historical merit of Chautauquan residences, the modern architectural style still catches his eye.
“What’s beautiful about our time is that it’s about the front porch,” Jeffrey said. “It’s about communal space, just walking, people talking to you and knowing you. It’s a bygone era that doesn’t happen in your suburban neighborhood, where you pull into your garage and shut the door.”
Jeffrey hopes his talk not only serves as an informational prequel to the tour, but also as a reminder to honor Chautauqua’s past in building in future homes.
“Most people, when they build their house, they want to have their life revolve around that house,” Jeffrey said. “But up here, it’s not about that. It’s about being at the Amphitheater. It’s about being out in the plaza. And (the lecture will) help people understand a little bit more about that philosophy and how this place developed, so that when they make changes to their house, maybe they’re a little more sympathetic to the needs that they have.”