Column: Ask Dr. Downtown7:38 AM Thu, Jul 15, 2010 | Permalink
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Note: Readers of this blog may be unaware of the longstanding "Ask Dr. Downtown" column, in which readers ask Dr. Downtown (aka this blogger) questions. This occasional series had until today been on pause since the Providence Journal went to a new typeface in its print version for anything in boldface. The blog program used for Architecture Here and There gives little idea of the clunky look of the newspaper's new font for boldface type. It put sans-serif type amid Times Roman's normal serifed type - a contrast that offended Dr. Downtown's delicate stylistic sensibilities.
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Dear Dr. Downtown: You are moving to a house out of downtown. Why should we still call you "Dr. Downtown"? -- Apoplectic in Apponaug
The doctor is indeed moving (or to be precise, is being moved . . . by movers, he hastens to assure his dear readers, not by the authorities) out of downtown, after 11 years of residence, to a house in Providence 2.8 miles north of his loft downtown, which he ceases to occupy as of today. The doctor's correspondents may call him anything they want, and they generally do, but his office remains at The Journal, which remains downtown.
Dear Dr. Downtown: Correction. Your correspondents cannot call you anything they want. I personally enjoyed calling you the worst names in the book until you imposed censorship on me by not printing my questions (or anyone else's). In fact, you have written no "Ask Dr. Downtown" columns since Sept. 18, 2008. What was that all about? -- Missed You in Misquamicut
The newspaper imposed in late 2008 a new style of fonts and typefaces, including those required for reader questions, that disagreed with Dr. Downtown's strong style preferences. The doctor's aesthetic sensibilities rendered him inconsolable. After a series of 12-step rehab programs, however, he has finally decided to accept the new style regime.
Dear Dr. Downtown: Does that mean "the doctor" will be knuckling under to other style regimes that have been "imposed" on his "sensibilities"? -- Hopeful in Hopkins Hollow
Please! Give Dr. Downtown some credit for independence of mind! The Providence Journal can force the doctor to accept the new fonts and typefaces, but the American Institute of Architects cannot force him to accept modern architecture. His new residence is decidedly not a so-called "contemporary."
Dear Dr. Downtown: So what is it? -- Dying To Know in Dyerville
The house is described as a Dutch Colonial built in 1920 (though the actual year may be 1910 or even 1900). While most houses of this type have a gambrel roof (like a barn), this one does not. Yet the gable that emerges to envelop the front door in the façade that faces Overhill Road does cause it to resemble the Dutch Colonial known as the Yates House (circa early 18th Century) pictured in A Field Guide to American Houses, by Virginia and Lee McAlester. But determining the style of a house is more an art than a science. The doctor prefers to categorize it as a Cute Little House With a Backyard Suitable for One-Year-Olds Named Billy. In fact, as of today it is best described as a Victorian. The doctor contemplates adding a front porch if it can be done without upsetting its status as a Dutch Colonial. He promises his neighbors not to add a modernist porch.
Dear Dr. Downtown: If we want a learned disquisition on period house style, we'll ask for one! Please tell us why you have abandoned downtown. -- Jaded in Jerusalem
The doctor has not abandoned downtown, but bows to the ancient wisdom that contends -- though it is refuted by the millions who have grown up in the Borough of Manhattan -- that bringing up a child requires a more neighborhoody neighborhood. More than a little regret and a lot of melancholy attend the doctor's departure from his loft in the Smith Building. A palace amid paradise! His obstreperous correspondents cannot get rid of Dr. Downtown just because his home address has changed.
Dear Dr. Downtown: Was that a thinly veiled reference to your critics you just made? -- You Talkin' to Me? In Tarkiln
Not so thinly veiled, thinks the doctor!
Dear Dr. Downtown: At least you have not abandoned your practice of trying to avoid answering the questions posed by your "dear" readers. -- Too Much Moxie in Hoxie
Okay, okay. Let me assure you, "dear" reader, that the doctor has not moved his residence out of downtown because of any decline in the joy of living there. He admits that many of the qualities of the Downcity Dream that gave the doctor such joy to write about since 1999 have improved. For one thing, the oldster motorcyclists have taken their machines for disturbing the peace elsewhere. Also gone are the car alarms invariably set off by the motorcycles. In fact, car alarms are now rare, and rarely last long. As for the drunken conversations of clubgoers unaware of the prying ears listening from above, they still provide ample entertainment.
The doctor will keep his eye on downtown, and continue his reporting on its ups and its downs from his office in downtown.
David Brussat is a member of The Journal's editorial board (firstname.lastname@example.org). His blog at projo.com is called Architecture Here and There.