Upsala, across Germantown Avenue from its more famous Georgian predecessor Cliveden, is a beautiful, if
understated, example of Federal design. The front of the house is all about cool elegance with local Wissahickon schist
dressed in an even ashlar pattern. Its grey color contrasts just enough with the white marble lintels cut to look like a flat
arch and a white marble belt course. These in turn contrast slightly with the white wood architrave and shutters around
the windows and the white wooden portico at the front door. This portico, like a miniature Greek temple is one of the
distinguishing features of the Federal building.
Another Federal feature is the
brackets at the cornice which have
become smaller, simpler, and more
numerous when compared to most
Georgian buildings and are echoed
in the tiny brackets on the pediment
over the front door. Under these
brackets, sometimes called
modillions, tiny dentils stretch along
the top of the house just under the
The front facade's formality is also
emphasized by its symmetry and
vertical alignment of windows.
This rigid and rather unforgiving formalism of the front elevation doesn't make its way
around to the sides of the buildings. The north side is built of the same local stone
regularly coursed but undressed with much wider grout joints giving a much less formal
appearance. Windows on the sides are not regularly spaced horizontally but are aligned
vertically. Even so, the "federalness" shows through by extending the cornice across the
gabled and of the side giving it a portico appearance. Interestingly, the south side of the
building is stuccoed and the north side is not. Perhaps both sides for stuccoed originally
(and possibly even scored to look like stone) to maintain the formal Federal appearance.
This distinguished Federal Style
house is a beautiful example of
the stone mason's craft.