Age is not the only thing that makes a building historical. The traditional materials and craftsmanship in the original construction of your historical building are an essential part of its historical fabric. Preserving its architectural integrity can only be done by using the same traditional materials and craftsmanship that made your building what it is today – a picture of the past. Original or historically-accurate siding on a historic home or building is an overt example of a building’s era and unique characteristics. 


Photo by Pierre Châtel-Innocenti on Unsplash

 

Synthetic vs. Wood Siding: Life-span

  • Synthetic siding has a potential life of at least 50-60 years
  • Wood siding has a potential life of at least 200+ years

Wood was abundant in Early America (and continued to be so throughout our history), and thousands of historical buildings in the Northeast are adorned with wood siding. Often, owners of these buildings look to alternative siding methods to replace wood siding deteriorated beyond repair. Their rationale for such practices is that they want to reduce the cost and effort of its maintenance, or to save on energy costs; conventional building wisdom maintains that vinyl and other synthetic siding lasts longer, requires less maintenance, and wastes less energy. The truth is this: in almost every instance, installation of synthetic siding will not save energy and maintenance costs. It will last a very long time; there are buildings that still retain their original synthetic siding applications from when they first appeared 50-to-60 years ago. And while that sounds significantly durable, it rather pales in comparison to the fact that there are historical buildings from 200+ years ago that still retain their original wood siding (siding that doesn’t sit many, many years in landfills when it needs to be removed). Synthetic siding won’t only add to landfills, it will also compromise the building’s historical integrity, and can cause irreversible damage to the building. 

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Synthetic vs. Wood Siding: Energy efficiency

  • Since walls are not a significant source of energy loss, synthetic siding proves, at best, a nominal energy savings

The myth that synthetic siding is more energy efficient than wood siding is pervasive and persistent – perhaps because it is easy to fall into the habit of assuming newer is always better. Newer is not always better, and even newer-with-an-insulated-backing is only nominally, if at all, better. The National Park Service’s Preservation Brief No. 3 highlights the fallacy regarding the weight placed on siding for energy efficiency, noting that walls aren’t even where the most heating and cooling energy is lost in historical buildings – the roofing system is. Spending money to replace wood siding with synthetic siding will not usually return the investment in energy savings for this reason. A much more cost-effective focus for energy savings are the windows, doors, and roofs of historical buildings.

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Synthetic vs. Wood Siding: Maintenance

  • Synthetic siding materials require much maintenance and can even create additional maintenance for other parts of the building

Synthetic siding materials are not maintenance-free. Aluminum will dent, and if painted, requires the same amount of paint maintenance as wood siding. To properly maintain and preserve aluminum siding, it must be cleaned regularly. Vinyl is a plastic and vinyl siding is subject to the same pitfalls as any other plastic: it cracks and shatters if impacted, it deteriorates with exposure to the extreme temperature changes of summer-to-winter and back again, and it simply cannot be installed to maintain a tight fit in both summer and winter because of the amount of expansion and contraction those extreme temperature changes cause. Vinyl siding will even interfere with a building’s ability to “breathe” and result in excess moisture retention and airflow problems causing unhealthy air quality for the building’s occupants, actually creating additional maintenance needs for other materials, systems and areas of the building.

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Synthetic vs. Wood Siding: Historical integrity

  • Synthetic siding does not preserve the many features of wood siding applications that contribute to the very fabric of a building that makes it historical

Synthetic siding will compromise the building’s historical integrity. The National Park Service’s Preservation Brief No. 8 explains that the materials of a historical building contribute to its historical fabric, noting that “Preservation of a building or district and its historical character is based on the assumption that the retention of historical materials and features and their craftsmanship are of primary importance.” There are many features that make wood siding of primary historical importance to your building. The tools used, geographically-specific craftsmanship techniques, types of clapboards and how they are manufactured and installed, the profiles, decorative edging, and patterns of application that make historical wood siding worthy of preservation are all lost when synthetic siding is used. For example, wood siding on Mid-Atlantic buildings from the early 1800’s to the early 1900’s had distinctly different looks, features, and craftsmanship techniques than those in New England during the same time frame. The stock synthetic siding options available today simply cannot achieve that same level of variation between historically significant architecture styles. 

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Synthetic vs. Wood Siding: Serious health problems

  • Synthetic siding not only masks the health of a historical building, it deteriorates it, endangering both the building and the people who live or work in it

Synthetic siding causes more serious problems. Wood siding on a historical building is also one of the most easily read indicators of the general health of the building. Paint peeling from wood siding can be an early warning signal that there are moisture problems threatening the building, and can sometimes even indicate where those problems are rooted (e.g., gutters or downspouts that aren’t working, improper flashing/weatherproofing, etc.). If wood siding is replaced by or covered with synthetic siding, it often masks any early signs or symptoms of moisture issues and results in more extensive moisture damage. Not only does synthetic siding mask the health of a building, it deteriorates that health. Since synthetic sidings to not allow a house to breathe the way wood siding does, it exacerbates any moisture problems that are present or develop in the future by essentially locking the moisture in the building. In doing so, synthetic siding encourages the growth of molds that turn the building’s air quality into a toxic environment that endangers the health of its occupants. Vinyl siding specifically also carries other health and safety concerns like the toxic fumes it emits when heated, and the cancer risks currently thought to be connected to the polyvinyl chloride plastic resin vinyl siding is made out of. 

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Synthetic vs. Wood Siding: Damage

  • Synthetic siding can result in permanent damage to the character-defining features of a historical building

Synthetic siding can cause irreversible damage to the building. An uneducated, and often heard argument claims that when need be, vinyl siding can simply be removed if it is applied over top of the original wooden siding. This is in part true, but it is in part reflective of a naïve understanding of what contributes to the historical fabric of a building, and how even seemingly simple changes can result in permanent damage to that fabric. Once again, Preservation Brief No. 8 from the National Park Service sets the record straight. It states, “there is frequently irreversible damage to historic building materials if decorative features or trim are permitted to be cut down or destroyed, or removed by applicators and discarded.” During the installation process of synthetic siding, even if it is only being applied over existing wood siding, the original wood siding can be permanently damaged by furring strips nailed onto the walls to create a flat surface to install the new siding on. Windows, door trim, cornice, decorative trim and molding, and other projecting details are sometimes permanently altered because the cost of custom-fitting the new synthetic siding to retain their character is too much.

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Evaluate your building’s siding:

  • Do any areas of my historical building have synthetic siding materials applied over wood siding?
  • If yes, do I have a plan for restoring the original wood siding?
  • Are there areas of my wood siding that have already been replaced because of deterioration?
  • Were they replaced with comparable wood materials and craftsmanship features?
  • Do they blend in with the original siding?
  • Is my wood siding evaluated regularly and properly maintained? Is it re-painted every 5-10 years?
  • Do I have a maintenance plan and agreement with a qualified and competent historical restoration company to ensure proper maintenance of my wood siding?

 

PART 3, THE FINAL PIECE IN THIS 3-PART SERIES of working on your old home explores using a good design. Using a good design refers to integrating additions, renovations, or even new construction into your historical building, not necessarily “copying” historical architecture contemporaneous to your building’s era. It simply needs to integrate with the historical representation of your building and the surrounding neighborhood. 


Photo by J. Remus on Unsplash

The development and evolution of historical neighborhoods over time follow their own rhythm and pattern, unique to each individual neighborhood. Often, the architecture is as well. Sympathetic or compatible additions and renovations that are right for one property might not be for another, and your project should start with an appreciation of the unique architectural character of the neighborhood of which your building is a part. This understanding should influence and shape the design of your project. A good design is not just about a solid understanding of the architectural character of a building, it should also address the marriage of old and new – styles, materials, and workmanship. If it does not, your project could ruin your building’s architectural character instead of augment it.

For example, many historical buildings have been carefully designed to address water and moisture issues by “breathing” the moisture out, as well as shed it carefully down the exterior of a house in a way that avoids water permeation as it moves down the house. If your project does not use a design that works in the same manner, water will begin to penetrate your building and lead to fungal deterioration, which in turn will lead to major expenditures and repairs, if not complete loss of some of your building’s features. Another common bad design seen during restoration on historical buildings is the use of non-sloping window sills that do not shed water, and can lead to maintenance nightmares. Having a design for your project that not only embodies the architectural character of your building, but also addresses critical compatibility issues (such as water-shedding) is key to preventing corrosive damage to your building. 

Ask yourself:

  • Has my design been created, or reviewed, by a qualified contractor who understands historical buildings and how their designs function?
  • Do I see any existing areas in my building where the design appears to be incompatible with historical integrity and/or physical functioning of the building?
  • Am I familiar with my neighborhood’s sense of place and how the local architecture contributes to that character?
  • Does my design include modern materials? If so, are they compatible with the historical materials existing on my building?
  • Do all of the materials, workmanship, or functional elements of my design work together in the same way?
  • Does my design take into consideration important aspects like scale, building form, setback and site coverage, orientation, architectural elements and projects, facade proportions and patterns, trim and details, etc.?

 

PART 1 OF THIS SERIES of working on your old home explores options for property owners to save the home’s historically relevant aspects specific to when and how it was built, versus mixing time periods and styles. Maintaining your home’s historical relevance necessitates preservation and restoration tactics that honor the home’s appropriate time period. If too much of the historic fabric is lost (e.g., removed or replaced), the methods and materials that make a historical building special are also lost. At a certain point so much may be lost that the property becomes “just” an old building.


Photo by Joel Filipe on Unsplash

There is over 400 years of architectural history in the United States, including a diversity of styles as rich as the diversity of our people. Early Colonial architecture still intact today displays magnificent examples of the Spanish and English influences prevalent when European settlers first immigrated here. Revolution period buildings demonstrate the forging of a new nation with Federalist and Jeffersonian features. Homes and buildings from the mid 1800’s through the early 1900’s capture the two “moments” in American time that define the experience of our culture’s Revival Period and Gilded Age.

Every historical building has a period of significance that determined how that building was constructed and the features it would have that, together, define its architectural importance. Maintaining your historical building in keeping with the period of significance that defined it as an important piece of our built history, is essential to its historical integrity. Mixing and matching period styles can permanently alter your building to the point of historical insignificance

Historical materials, and the craftsmanship used when working with those materials, are easily damaged by modern renovation attempts – even when your intention is focused on preserving your building’s features. For example, using a power sander while restoring original wood that was hand-planed will result in woodwork that can never again reveal the same character as the original woodwork did. Painting wood flooring in a house from a period when a wooden floor would never have been painted is something typically considered reversible, but isn’t always if the wrong paint is chosen or when the removal of the paint causes significant damage to the original flooring. Original porches (and other projections), building footprints and materials, period layouts and unique features can all be altered to the point of no return while adding living space meant to bring a historical building in line with more modern functional style (i.e., failed reconstruction attempts). Removing original wallpaper, or installing wallpaper on a house from a period when wallpaper wasn’t used, isn’t just affecting the aesthetic integrity of a historical house – it can permanently damage the original plaster walls behind it.

If your ultimate goal is to maintain the historical integrity of your property’s time period, focus on preservation (focuses on the maintenance and repair of existing historic materials and retention of a property’s form as it has evolved over time), restoration (depicts a property at a particular period of time in its history, while removing evidence of other periods), or even reconstruction (re-creates vanished or non-surviving portions of a property for interpretive purposes) if possible or necessary. Essentially, avoid making changes that may try to make it appear older, newer, or fancier than what it really is. Even small, subtle changes can permanently damage the integrity of your building. The National Park Service details these options further in terms of standards and guidelines for treatment of historic properties (https://www.nps.gov/tps/standards/four-treatments/treatment-restoration.htm).

Ask yourself:

  • Do I know my building’s period of significance?
  • Do I know the architectural features common during my building’s period of significance?
  • Have any of the architectural features original to my building been altered, removed, or renovated?
  • Has the interior layout of my building been changed?
  • Have I checked with a qualified contractor to see if any changes to my building that I want to make are incompatible with my building’s architectural integrity, or can it be done in a more compatible way? Consider professional help given the potential for such a project to overwhelm you (see our helpful tips on hiring a qualified contractor https://practicalpreservationservices.com/hiring-the-right-contractor/). The qualified contractor will best be able to navigate the National Park Service standards and guidelines referred to above.

Next week: PART 2 OF THIS SERIES focuses on replacement in-kind.

 

Greg Huber from Eastern Barn Consultants and Past Perspectives joined the Practical Preservation podcast to discuss:

  • How barn styles varied from region to region 
  • What makes barn construction unique
  • The type of barn Danielle had never heard of

We also discussed the services Greg offers documenting barns and researching house histories, the barn tours and seminars, and the books he has written.  

Contact info:

Greg Huber, Architectural Historian

610-967-5808

[email protected]

Books:

The Historic Barns of Southeastern Pennsylvania: Architecture and Preservation Built 1750-1900

Bio:

Gregory Huber – of Past Perspectives and Eastern Barn Consultants

• Gregory D. Huber is an independent scholar, consultant and principal owner of both Past Perspectives and Eastern Barn Consultants, historic and cultural resources companies that are based in Macungie, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania.
• His special focus is in House Histories and Barn Histories of historic homesteads in southeast Pennsylvania and beyond.
• A student of early vernacular architecture since 1971, Huber has specialized in pre-1850 barn and house architecture of Holland Dutch in New York State and northern New Jersey and Pennsylvania Swiss-German and certain English settled areas of the northeast.
• Huber’s latest book – out in August 2017 – The Historic Barns of Southeastern Pennsylvania – Architecture and Preservation – Built 1750 to 1900 has reached Number One Book on the Amazon Best Seller list in its specific category – Vernacular Architecture
• He is author of more than 270 articles on barn and house architecture and is co-author of two other books and editor of another book – Barns – A Close-up Look.
• He has lectured to more than 225 audiences and led dozens of barn and house tours in several states of the northeast.
• He is available for historic homestead consultation work on old houses and barns.

 

 

This article is a part of a series from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s excellent field guide on the architectural styles found in Pennsylvania.  In it, they’ve assigned key periods of development – from the Colonial period in the 18th Century to the Modern Movements of the 29th Century.  This article focuses on an overview of the Traditional/Vernacular style in Pennsylvania from 1638 through 1950

PA Architecture Gothic Revival Style 1830 – 1860

Identifiable Features

1.  Pointed arches as decorative element and as window shape
2.  Front facing gables with decorative incised trim (vergeboards or bargeboards)
3.  Porches with turned posts or columns
4.  Steeply pitched roof
5.  Gables often topped with finials or crossbracing
6.  Decorative crowns (gable or drip mold) over windows and doors
7.  Castle-like towers with parapets on some high style buildings
8.  Carpenter Gothic buildings have distinctive board and batten vertical siding

Gothic

The Gothic Revival style is part of the mid-19th century picturesque and romantic movement in architecture, reflecting the public’s taste for buildings inspired by medieval design. This was a real departure from the previously popular styles that drew inspiration from the classical forms of ancient Greece and Rome. While distinctly different, both the Gothic Revival style and the Greek Revival style looked to the past, and both remained popular throughout the mid 19th century. The Gothic Revival style in America was advanced by architects Alexander Jackson Davis and especially Andrew Jackson Downing, authors of influential house plan books, Rural Residences (1837), Cottage Residences (1842), and The Architecture of Country Houses (1850). This style was promoted as an appropriate design for rural settings, with its complex and irregular shapes and forms fitting well into the natural landscape. Thus, the Gothic Revival style was often chosen for country homes and houses in rural or small town settings.

The Gothic Revival style was also popular for churches, where high style elements such as castle-like towers, parapets, and tracery windows were common, as well as the pointed Gothic arched windows and entries. The Carpenter Gothic style is a distinctive variation of the Gothic Revival style featuring vertical board and batten wooden siding, pointed arches and incised wooden trim. The name comes from the extensive use of decorative wood elements on the exterior. While some examples remain, the pure Carpenter Gothic style is not well represented in Pennsylvania.

The most commonly identifiable feature of the Gothic Revival style is the pointed arch, used for windows, doors, and decorative elements like porches, dormers, or roof gables. Other characteristic details include steeply pitched roofs and front facing gables with delicate wooden trim called vergeboards or bargeboards. This distinctive incised wooden trim is often referred to as “gingerbread” and is the feature most associated with this style. Gothic Revival style buildings often have porches with decorative turned posts or slender columns, with flattened arches or side brackets connecting the posts. Gothic Revival style churches may have not just pointed arch windows and porticos, but often feature a Norman castle-like tower with a crenellated parapet or a high spire.

Many examples of Gothic Revival buildings of both high style and more vernacular character can be found across the state. The high style buildings, mansions, churches, prisons and schools sometimes offer ornate architectural details. The more common vernacular buildings may have only a few Gothic details, usually pointed arch windows and a front facing gable with wooden trim. Gothic Revival details may also be found in urban settings on rowhouses or duplexes. Later in the 19th century, Gothic Revival details were mixed with elements of other Victorian era styles to become a style known as the Victorian Gothic. In the early 20th century, a distinct variation of the Gothic Revival style, known as the Collegiate Gothic style, developed primarily for educational buildings. These derivative forms of the Gothic Revival style are more fully discussed elsewhere in this field guide.

 

This article is a part of a series from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s excellent field guide on the architectural styles found in Pennsylvania.  In it, they’ve assigned key periods of development – from the Colonial period in the 18th Century to the Modern Movements of the 29th Century.  This article focuses on an overview of the Traditional/Vernacular style in Pennsylvania from 1638 through 1950

PA Architecture Romanesque Revival Style 1840 – 1900

Identifiable Features

1.  Masonry construction
2.  Round arches at entrance windows
3.  Heavy and massive appearance
4.  Polychromatic stonework on details
5.  Round tower
6.  Squat columns
7.  Decorative plaques

Romanesque

The Romanesque Revival style was introduced in the United States in the mid 19th century, as architectural ideas from Europe, based on the buildings of ancient Rome, were imported here. Only a few public buildings were built in this style until the talented and influential American architect Henry Hobson Richardson embraced the style in the 1870s and 1880s. Richardson, a graduate of the École des Beaux Arts in Paris, developed a more dramatic version of this style with bolder, wider arches and strong sculptural forms. The Richardsonian Romanesque version of the style continued to be used for public buildings but also became popular for residential mansions. Interest in this style continued to grow after Richardson’s death in 1886 with the publishing of a book on his work and later pattern books and builders’ guides. Buildings of Romanesque Revival style are most easily identified by their pronounced round arches and heavy, massive stone or brick construction. Most have round towers, squat columns and decorative plaques with intricate or interlacing patterns. Since masonry buildings were more expensive to build than wooden ones, Romanesque Revival structures are less common than some of the other Victorian era styles executed in wood.  With its strong sense of gravity and permanence, the Romanesque Revival style was especially suited to churches, university buildings, prisons and other public buildings.

 One of the best known buildings of the Romanesque Revival style in Pennsylvania is the 1884 Allegheny Courthouse and Jail in Pittsburgh, one of the last designs of Henry Hobson Richardson.  Other excellent examples of this style can be found throughout the state, especially in church and school buildings. Many surviving train stations and courthouses are executed in this style as well.

The Romanesque Revival style is seen most often in urban and suburban areas, and rowhouses were a particularly common building type constructed in this style. The areas surrounding Pittsburgh contain a number of buildings inspired by Richardson’s Allegheny Courthouse and Jail. This building influenced construction around southwestern Pennsylvania for over a decade, from public buildings to residential detached homes and rowhouses. It is seen less often in Philadelphia, as Richardson did not have architectural commisions there.

This article is a part of a series from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s excellent field guide on the architectural styles found in Pennsylvania.  In it, they’ve assigned key periods of development – from the Colonial period in the 18th Century to the Modern Movements of the 29th Century.  This article focuses on an overview of the Traditional/Vernacular style in Pennsylvania from 1638 through 1950

PA Architecture Colonial Revival Style 1880 – 1960

Identifiable Features

1.  Columned porch or portico
2.  Front door sidelights
3.  pedimented door, windows or dormers
4.  Broken pediment over front door
5.  Pilasters
6.  Symmetrical Facade
7.  Double-hung windows, often multi-paned
8.  Bay windows or paired or triple windows
9.  Wood shutters often with incised patterns
10.  Decorative pendants
11.  Side gabled or hipped roofs
12.  Cornice with dentils or modillions

Colonial

One of the most frequently produced and enduring popular styles in America is the Colonial Revival style.  It can be seen in a seemingly endless variety of forms throughout the state and the country and still continues to influence residential architecture today.  Basically, the Colonial Revival style was an effort to look back to the Federal and Georgian architecture of America ’s founding period for design inspiration.  Less commonly, the Post-Medieval English and Dutch Colonial house forms were an influence on the Colonial Revival style.  This enthusiasm to explore the architecture of America ’s founding period was generated in part by the Philadelphia Centennial of 1876 celebrating the country’s 100th birthday.  This trend was further promoted by the Columbian Exposition of 1893, held in Chicago .

Like most revival efforts, the Colonial Revival style did not generally produce true copies of earlier styles.  Although, in the early years of the 20 th century (1915-1935) there was a real interest in studying and duplicating Georgian period architecture.  Generally, the Colonial Revival style took certain design elements—front façade symmetry, front entrance fanlights and sidelights, pedimented doorways, porches and dormers—and applied them to larger scale buildings.  These colonial era details could be combined in a great variety of ways, creating many subtypes within this style.  In the 1940s and 1950s a more simplified version of the  Colonial Revival style became popular for homes, usually featuring a two story building, a side-gabled or hipped roof, classically inspired door surrounds and windows, shutters and dormers.  Less common are examples of the Dutch Colonial Revival which are distinguished by a gambrel roof, and sometimes a shallow pent roof over the first floor.  Likewise, there are fewer examples of the Colonial Revival style with a second story overhang inspired by the form of Post Medieval English buildings.

The Colonial Revival style was also popular for public buildings, applying common achitectural details of the style to a larger form.  Colonial Revival public buildings include government offices, post offices, libraries, banks, schools and churches.

This article is a part of a series from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s excellent field guide on the architectural styles found in Pennsylvania.  In it, they’ve assigned key periods of development – from the Colonial period in the 18th Century to the Modern Movements of the 29th Century.  This article focuses on an overview of the Traditional/Vernacular style in Pennsylvania from 1638 through 1950

PA Architecture Sullivanesque Style 1890 – 1930

 

Identifiable Features

1.  Intricately patterned, wide decorative cornice
2.  Vertical bands of windows
3.  Terra cotta or plaster panels with sculptural ornamentation
4.  Flat roof with deep projecting eaves
5.  Tall (6 stories or more) building
6.  Porthole windows at cornice level
7.  Large round or Syrian (Ogee) arch at entry
8.  Curvilinear and entwined decorative pattern – Celtic influenced
9.  Buildings have three distinct parts: top, middle and bottom

Sullivanesque

The Sullivanesque style was created by Louis Sullivan  (1856-1924), a prominent turn of the century  architect. Sullivan was educated at MIT and the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and worked for premier Philadelphia architect Frank Furness, before moving to Chicago.    The Sullivanesque style developed in response to the  emergence of tall, steel-frame skyscrapers in the 1890s.  This new building type presented a new design challenge.  Sullivan’s approach was to use ornament and design to delineate a tall building into three distinct parts, an entry level with prominent window and door openings, a mid section with bands of windows with vertical piers, and a top with a highly decorative cornice, often featuring round porthole windows.  Sullivan applied classical design principals to these early skyscrapers.  His tripartite design was distinctive and elegant and shows the influence of the concurrent Art Noveau movement in the decorative panels using geometric forms, curving lines and Celtic inspired entwined patterns.  This elaborate form of ornamentation marks a building as Sullivanesque more so than any other feature.

While several of Sullivan’s early works were constructed in Philadelphia between 1849 and 1860, many of his best-known works are located in the Midwest.  Sullivan worked with and influenced many other significant American architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright,George Grant Elmslie, and William Gray Purcell.  The Sullivanesque style is an urban style, primarily  seen in large cities or regional centers.

 

 

 

This article is a part of a series from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s excellent field guide on the architectural styles found in Pennsylvania.  In it, they’ve assigned key periods of development – from the Colonial period in the 18th Century to the Modern Movements of the 29th Century.  This article focuses on an overview of the Traditional/Vernacular style in Pennsylvania from 1638 through 1950

PA Architecture Meetinghouses 1700 – 1860

Identifiable Features

1.  1 or 2 story height
2.  Two individual entrance doors on front facade
3.  Austere interior furnishings
4.  Side gable roof
5.  Gabled hoods or transom over front door

meetinghouses

The simply designed meetinghouse form is most often associated with the Quaker faith, but is also common to other religious sects, especially the Mennonites.  Other early religious sects built meetinghouse style churches in Pennsylvania as well, including the Moravians, German Baptists, the German or Dutch Reformed, and the Brethren in Christ.   In the early settlement period churches often shared a building for worship, so a meetinghouse may have been built to meet several sects’ needs.   Basically, meetinghouses are physical manifestations of faith.  Thus, religious sects that emphasized simplicity, piety, equality, and a focus on the spiritual, not material world chose the meetinghouse form of church as an expression of their religious values.  Interestingly, the Amish, a sect with many of these values, do not build churches or meetinghouses; rather they worship in homes or barns.

Quaker meetinghouses are among the earliest religious buildings in our state, since Pennsylvania was founded by Quaker William Penn as a colony committed to religious tolerance.   The simple style of the Quaker meetinghouse was derived from late 17th century English patterns and then adapted for use in the colonies.   The Quakers, like the Puritans of that era, desired simply styled churches with little ornamentation.  The building form chosen by the Quakers in Pennsylvania usually had separate entrances for men and women and separate seating areas as well.  Usually one or two stories in height, this Quaker meeting house form has a side gabled roof and often small gabled door hoods.  As a vernacular building type, designed without an architect or a desire to follow current fashionable styles, the meetinghouse form remains relatively unaltered over time.  However, there is some variation in the design of meetinghouses, due to the preferences of religious sects, regional preferences, or the era of construction. Built of stone, brick, log or clapboard, the meetinghouses are representative of building practices in their region.  Interior detail is usually very minimal with pews or benches for seating, but no altar, decorative stained windows, or bell tower.  Some meetinghouses have a front facing gable, but retain the side by side entry doors as does the New Providence Mennonite Church in New Providence, Lancaster County.    A Historic American Building Survey study of meetinghouses in southeastern Pennsylvania was undertaken in 1997 and produced photos and measured drawings of these buildings dating from 1695 to 1903.  This HABS data is available at http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/hhhtml.

This article is a part of a series from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s excellent field guide on the architectural styles found in Pennsylvania.  In it, they’ve assigned key periods of development – from the Colonial period in the 18th Century to the Modern Movements of the 29th Century.  This article focuses on an overview of the Traditional/Vernacular style in Pennsylvania from 1638 through 1950

PA Architecture Georgian Style 1700 – 1800

Identifiable Features

1. Symmetrical form and fenestration (window placement)
2. Multi-pane windows (6-20 panes in each sash) 3. Side-gabled or hipped roof
4. Stone or brick walls
5. Transom window over paneled front door
6. Pediment or crown and pilasters at front entry
7. Cornice with dentils
8. Water table or belt course
9. Corner quoins

georgian_style

The Georgian style, identified by its symmetrical composition and formal, classical details, was the most prevalent style in the English colonies throughout the 18th century. It was the first architect-inspired style in America, a distinct departure from the more utilitarian, earlier buildings that followed prevailing folk traditions. The Georgian style arrived in America via British architectural building manuals called pattern books around 1700. While the Georgian style was popular in England in the 17th and 18th centuries, it is based on the classical forms of the earlier Italian Renaissance period. English master architects Inigo Jones, Christopher Wren and James Gibbs, inspired by the classicism of the Italian Renaissance developed the Georgian style in England. As the style spread to the colonies, it reflected a period of colonial growth and prosperity and a desire for more formally designed buildings.

A typical Georgian house in Pennsylvania is a stone or brick two-story building with a side-gabled roof and a symmetrical arrangement of windows and doors on the front façade. Usually 5 bays (or openings) across with a center door, the style also commonly features a pedimented or crowned front entrance with flanking pilasters. Other commonly seen details are multi-paned sliding sash windows, often in a 6 light over 6 light pattern, a dentiled cornice, and decorative quoins at the corners of the building. Smaller Georgian buildings might be only 3 bays across, and feature either a center door or side door. The side door version is called a “Two-thirds Georgian” since it follows the Georgian style but lacks two of the usual five bays across the front. This variant of the style, adapted to an urban setting, appears in rowhouse or townhouse form in the state’s early cities. Some Georgian buildings in Pennsylvania were built with a pent roof between the first and second stories, although this was not the common form. Another regional variation of the style is the hooded front door, marked by a shallow roof projecting from the decorative crown at the front entry.

Elements of the Georgian style in various vernacular forms appear on buildings in Pennsylvania throughout the 18th century and beyond.