Wrought Iron Porch Railings
Wrought iron porch railings of all types of patterns and colors can be found in abundance in Gladstone Park. That’s because they were the go-to material commonly used on front porch steps leading up to the many English Tudor and Georgian homes found in the neighborhood.
Blast furnaces that debuted in the 15th century first made the manufacture of wrought iron railings possible. They were seen as functional, sturdy elements for (German) Gothic as well as Victorian houses to make passage up a stairway safer. And as techniques of working the iron improved, more intricate designs were possible, adding a more decorative element to the structure.
But wrought iron front porch railings were not always popular in Gladstone Park. When the Volga Germans began building their Dutch colonials in great numbers in the community during the first two decades of the 20th Century, their traditions did not incorporate the use of metal railings. Nor did the bungalow designs of the 1920s with their masonry and brick- or stone-capped front steps.
Wrought iron front porch railings didn’t really came into their own in Gladstone Park until English-style houses took off in the 1930s. British architecture, which emphasized ornateness with the look of antiquity, went for straight and twisted rails interspersed with panels of C-shaped and S-shaped scrolls at their front entries. The designs could get very elaborate with circles, ovals, rectangles, and diamonds linked by baskets or knuckles. Later the Georgians houses, associated with the English love of symmetry and classic proportions, focused on more harmonious and uniform designs.
Appreciated for their timeless yet elegant appearance, wrought iron porch railings continued to be used on mid-century split-levels and ranches in the community. As the last vacant lots were being developed for even more modern homes, buyers who could afford their cost over wooden rails also installed them…although at a taller height to meet new building codes. Some of these later styles are more naturalistic (beanstalk, branches, grape vines, etc.).
The biggest advantage of wrought iron front porch rails is their long-lasting nature. It is not uncommon to see Gladstone Park homeowners having railings originally installed 70, 80 or even 90 years ago blasted of the bits of rust that accumulated through the decades to repaint them to look “brand new.”
The author has thus far found it impossible to track down the Chicago companies that produced and installed the original vintage wrought iron porch railings in the Gladstone Park neighborhood, starting in earnest during the late 1920s/early 1930s. Thus, she has no way at the present time to label them with pattern design names, if indeed they had any. Even digging up the nomenclature to describe the style elements of what is seen in the photographs was difficult. If anyone has more information on any of these aspects, please contact her.
Because the photographer had to take the long view of entire front porches to illustrate their complete rail structures, it is essential to view the photographs in enlarged form to get the full impact of the details of the decorative panels and artistic style elements.
Click on a photo to enlarge and visit the gallery.