Steckel House – 415 North Madison Street, Bloomfield
Built in 1910 for W. J. and Belle Steckel by Weitz Construction of Des Moines, this Colonial Revival style home was designed like a Revolutionary War era home that Mrs. Steckel admired in Philadelphia. The amazing aspect of this home is that while the exterior façade is very traditional, harkening back to the Georgian style of architecture of colonial America, the interior featured the distinctive arts and crafts style that was sweeping across the county at the time. While on board a ship bound for Europe to avoid the construction of her home, Belle Steckel met Gustave Stickley and Elbert Hubbart, two arts and crafts artisans of the day. She telegraphed back to Bloomfield to halt interior construction.
Mr. Stickley and Mr. Hubbart later came to Bloomfield and supervised the interior construction of the home that included many built-in cabinets in quarter sawn oak with typical arts and crafts, metal hardware. The kitchen cabinets were constructed from butternut but held true to the arts and crafts style. Many pieces of distinctive arts and crafts furniture were also created by Gustave Stickley for the home. The numerous piece dining set included a large dining table with 12 rush seat chairs, a copper lined serving cart, a buffet, a child’s chair and rocker, a telephone stand so W. J. could conduct business while at the table and even a stool for him to rest his “bad leg” under the table. Heavy hammered brass light fixtures and much of the arts and crafts furniture were replaced after the Steckels’ only child, Josephine, and her husband, Edward Burchette, came to live with Belle following the death of W. J. in 1940. The dining set remained until the mid-1980s, when it sold for thousands of dollars at Christy’s Auction House in New York City.
A great deal of entertaining went on in this home during the two generations the family owned the home. W. J. Steckel was a music enthusiast as was his daughter, Josephine. Both formal and informal music gatherings flowed through the home. Informal music sessions were very frequently held on Sunday evenings. Many of the musical events drew musicians from throughout Southeast Iowa. Two grand pianos and a player piano graced the music room. W. J. traveled to Chicago to cut his own piano rolls so he could play duets with himself. Extensive rose gardens were cultivated south of the house and were often the setting for Belle’s themed garden parties. Originally, there were two patios at the front of the house. Belle Steckel even named the home “The Rosary”. Edward and Josephine Burchette continued the tradition of both formal and informal entertaining after Belle’s death.
A young Myrtle Junkins was hired as the housekeeper and moved in the new home with the Steckel family in 1911. Her quarters were the four rooms on the third floor of the home. She would care for the home and the three generations of the family that occupied it the rest of her life. She even remained as caretaker in the home after the Burchette children grew to adulthood and Edward Burchette moved to Des Moines. She remained there until the mid-1970s.
The first floor of the carriage house was originally a stable for the family horses that were pastured in the large area back of the home. The top floor was a game room. It was later redesigned by son-in-law, Edward Burchette, as a unique apartment furnished with quality country antiques.
Viewing the exterior façade of the house, note several distinctive features of the Georgian architectural style that were carried forward to the Colonial Revival style in the early 1900s. This home clearly exemplifies the symmetrical composition enriched with classical detail, both of which are the distinguishing characteristics of Georgian architecture.
Specific characteristic are:
- Columns supporting an extended triangular pediment forming the front entryway. The main door is the principal ornamental feature of the Georgian façade.
- Double hung windows usually with panes that almost touch the cornice or roof on the second floor.
- Windows that are aligned vertically and horizontally. Note that the two adjacent windows on the second story would be a deviation from the usual symmetry of the style. The oriel window on the south façade would also be non-typical of the style.
- The window hoods with a keystone demonstrate classical detail.
- Bricks laid in Flemish bond. Notice the string course—horizontal line separating the first and second stories. It is formed by setting a row of bricks vertically.
- Symmetrically placed dormers that feature a pediment and Palladian style windows.
In 1978, the home was purchased by John and Susan Martin. They have continued the meticulous care of this historic home.