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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 Barns and Outbuildings, 1700 – 1930

In a state like Pennsylvania where agriculture has played an enormous role from its founding to the present, barns and other agricultural outbuildings are an important part of the rural landscape. Some of these building types are unique to the region because of traditional ethnic modes of construction or specific agricultural activities, and others are universal and may be found across the country. Outbuildings of all types were developed to meet a wide variety of needs. Oftentimes, farmsteads are made up of buildings from many periods, both historic and modern. This is especially true for working farms which have erected new buildings to better adapt to contemporary farming practices. Farmhouses may take many forms or styles and are usually the nucleus of agricultural complexes. Some reflect a traditional vernacular character like the notable PA German Double Door Farmhouse and others may be high style or low style versions of popular architectural styles. Farmhouses may also be of very simple and utilitarian design, taking common housing forms such as the basic center hall I house, gabled ell house, cross gabled house or even modern ranch house. One important feature of many 18th and 19th century PA Dutch farmhouses is the summer kitchen. These small one room buildings are usually located just behind the main house. As the name implies, they served as a kitchen during the hot summer months, allowing the living quarters to remain cooler. The summer kitchen’s large fireplace could be used for cooking and laundry and other tasks.

Many farm complexes include a tenant house, which is usually a smaller, less detailed and more vernacular dwelling owned or leased by farm workers. Sometimes the tenant house is the older house of the farm, relegated to such use when a newer and fancier main house was built. Sometimes such houses were originally constructed for grown children or others as the family expanded. The “dawdi house” is a term for a home built for family elders, close to the main house, in the PA German tradition. This practice can still be seen on the farms of the Amish.

Likewise, some early dwellings were converted to outbuilding use when a finer or more permanent house was built. There are many examples of small stone or log buildings that may have begun as houses but later became springhouses, sheds or small barns. Other outbuildings were constructed to serve only one purpose, depending upon the type of crops raised and food processing needs on the farm. These outbuildings are sometimes easy to identify since they are specifically designed for just one use, like tobacco drying barns, poultry houses, root cellars, smoke houses and milk houses. Their form is much dictated by their use.

Barns play an important part in the rural landscape and Pennsylvania has many fine examples of many types. One of the earliest types of barns are log crib barns constructed of wooden logs an open interior floor plan and gable roof. One of the most distinctive types of barn in our state is the Pennsylvania Barn, a stone foundation bank barn with a projecting forebay or overhang. Prototypes for this barn can be found in Germany and Switzerland , showing its transplantation from Europe. This type of barn is also called a Switzer barn for that reason. English barns tend to be tall and narrow one story buildings that are not constructed into a bank. However, there are also banked English barns as well. Unique barns with decorative open brickwork patterns can be found especially in the southern portion of the state. Decorative elements associated with architectural styles are also applied to barns in the form of cupolas, pointed arched windows and wooden trim. The Star Barn located in Dauphin County is a recognizable landmark of Victorianized agricultural outbuildings, all featuring a distinctive louvered star pattern in the gable roof end and ornamental cupolas. Round, octagonal or polygonal barns apper with some regularity in the state, but are relatively rare. Thus, barns may be strictly utilitiarian structures or show the influence of various styles and vernacular traditions. With so many barns lost to neglect or demolition or altered for new uses, it is increasingly difficult to know for certain what types of barns were common in specific regions or constructed throughout the state.

For detailed information on barns, outbuildings and agriculture in Pennsylvania, please see the Field Guide and historic narratives on our Agricultural History Project website.

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 Late 19th & Early 20th Century Revival Period 1880 – 1940

The Late 19th Century and Early 20th Century Revival period is sometimes described as the Eclectic Movement in American architecture. The building designs of this era were intended to be more exact versions of earlier architectural styles and traditions. In the preceding architectural periods, elements of various European inspired styles were combined and arranged to create new styles like the Gothic Revival, Italianate, or Second Empire styles. In the Late 19th Century Eclectic or Revival Period, there was a desire to create buildings that were more closely modeled after the original forms that inspired them. Most significantly, for the first time the old buildings of early America were included as the inspiration for architectural style. Interest in American history and a sense of pride in our heritage was spurred by the country’s one hundredth birthday celebrated at the Philadelphia Centennial of 1876. This focus on American tradition was continued at the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893.

The two most prevalent styles of this period were the Colonial Revival and the Classical Revival which were inspired by early American buildings of Georgian, Federal, or Greek or Roman Revival style.  Of course those earlier styles had been designed to incorporate stylistic elements of ancient Greece and Rome, so many of same architectural details are common to all. The larger size and scale, and arrangement of details set the buildings of the later Colonial Revival and Classical Revival apart. The Spanish Revival style and to some extent the Tudor Revival style, also looked back to the buildings of America’s colonial period. The Collegiate Gothic style was developed from the earlier Gothic Revival style and the original Gothic style buildings of Europe. The Beaux Arts style and the Italian Renaissance Revival style were all based on historic European design. This period of architecture was the last to focus on the recreation of past forms; in all the architectural periods to come, the desire to make a new architectural statement took precedence.

Beaux Arts “Beaux-Arts” was originally a french term meaning “fine arts” or “beautiful arts”, but in the late 1800’s it came to refer to a specific style of Parisian-influenced architecture in the U.S.  A style of architecture that can be summed up with two words…

Massive and grandiose.

Marrying the classical design elements of largesse and symmetry from the Greek and Roman architectural traditions with the elaborate ornamentation from the Rennaissance design ideas, Beaux-Arts architecture became synonymous with larger-than-life, over-the-top architectural identified by the following elements:

•Constructed with stone
•Triangular pediments
•Lavish decorations (swags, medallions, flowers, and shields)
•Grand stairway
•Large arches
•Symmetrical façade
•Main entrances are the center of the main facade




Articles on Preservation of Historic Buildings and Architectures

Abandoned Vermont: Putney Schoolhouse

Schoolhouses are easy to recognize, especially one room schoolhouses that appear to have a bank of windows. This brick building in Putney, VT struck me as just that…..Continue reading

Nice Ride Minnesota

Nice Ride bikes are designed for one job, short trips in the city by people wearing regular clothes and carrying ordinary stuff. All Nice Ride bikes are the same size, the only thing you may have to adjust is the seat, and it’s easy!…..Continue reading

A Preservationist’s Confession: I Get Overwhelmed at Farmers’ Markets

It’s true. I love the idea of farmers’ markets: local food, local folks, supporting the local economy, community gatherings, live music, mingling, sunshine, open air, chatting, fresh food, baked goods, use of town green space or something similar. They embody some strong preservation and…..Continue reading

Richmond Checkered House Bridge Opening

Tuesday May 28, 2013, the Richmond Checkered House Bridge opened to traffic. This 1929 Pennsylvania truss bridge was the first ever widened truss bridge in the country – an incredible feat to maintain historic integrity and to keep this bridge in the transportation network. You can see in the photographs where…..Continue reading

Abandoned Vermont: Bloomfield Church

Bloomfield, VT is a small crossroads on the Connecticut River. Across the bridge is Stratford, NH. The general store is closed and not many houses populate this town. This church sits next to the town offices, the former school. Based on the piles of boxes in the windows, the church is abandoned…..Continue reading

Proctor Marble Bridge

Proctor, Vermont is home to the marble bridge, a structure built in 1915 of reinforced concrete and marble. The bridge stands as a memorial to Fletcher D. Proctor, given by his mother Emily Dutton Proctor. This marble bridge replaced three…..Continue reading

Craftsbury Standard School & Playground

Historic schoolhouses are commonly found throughout Vermont, some converted to residences, some as museums, some abandoned, some creative rehabilitations, and some remain in educational use. In the 1930s schools faced state regulation, and had to comply with standards in order to become a Vermont “Standard School.” These regulations were for the quality of education. Schools were also required to have certain…..Continue reading

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 Late 19th Century & Early 20th Century Movement 1890 – 1930

The late 19th and early 20th century was a period of transition architecturally, marking the entrance into a new era of building. This was the beginning of forward looking architectural design with styles not based on previous building forms. Changes in construction techniques, especially the development of sky scraper technology, and a desire to create houses that fit visually into the natural environment influenced the developing styles of this era. The first style to emerge from this architectural movement was the Sullivanesque style. Named for its creator Louis Sullivan, a prominent American architect, the Sullivanesque style was developed as a design for sky scrapers. Sullivan divided the sky scraper into three parts, an entry level, midsection, and highly ornamented top cornice. This style shows the influence of the Art Noveau movement in the curvilinear lines and complex patterns of the decorative elements. The Commercial style, sometimes called the Chicago style, is a more pared down design for sky scrapers based on a steel frame construction. Sometimes ornamented with elements of other styles like the Romanesque or Gothic Revival, the basic grid design of the Commercial style is still evident.

The other architectural style innovations of this period occurred in the design of residential structures. American architectural force Frank Lloyd Wright created the Prairie style, desiring to develop a new domestic form that fit naturally into the environment of the Midwestern prairie. Wright, along with other Chicago architects known as the Prairie School, designed houses with gently sloping roofs, deeply overhanging eaves, and horizontal emphasis. Vernacular versions of the Prairie style such as the American Foursquare house are far more common in Pennsylvania than pure examples of the Prairie style.

The Bungalow or Craftsman style is another residential style that developed at the turn of the 20th century and became widespread throughout the country in various vernacular forms. Bungalows were first seen in California and were inspired by the English Arts and Crafts movement stressing hand-crafted materials and harmony with nature. Known for their heavy columned front porches, front facing gables, and overhanging eaves, Bungalow style houses often have exposed rafters and other decorative wood trim as well. Pattern books and mail order catalogs enabled the Bungalow style to become very popular in the developing suburbs of the early 20th century. The styles of this period set the stage for even greater change in architectural theory and practice in the years to follow.


We are currently working on a window replacement project at the United Arab Emirates building in Washington D.C.  Built in 1912 in the Beaux-Arts style, the  embassy is part of the former grounds of the National Bureau of Standards in Cleveland Park that became a high-security enclave just outside of Embassy Row.  This enclave houses 18 embassies in historic buildings from the late 18th Century through the early 20th Century in an eclectic mix of Queen Anne, Georgian Revival, Tudor Revival, Beaux-Arts, and other  styles.

For this project, our windows were required to undergo testing procedures we haven’t gone through before.  We found the  experience so interesting that we’re highlighting the results here.  (Don’t worry – we’ll highlight our work on the building in a future newsletter, and we’ll post about the Beaux-Arts style in another post.)

First, the results…

Results Table


Danielle’s Thoughts

This was my first time experiencing the testing process and the whole thing was really interesting to me. They force the product through conditions I have never experienced in “real life” (which makes me wonder exactly what situations they are making the windows qualify for?).

Our fixed window surpassed all the testing and actually withstood F5 hurricane forces!! (And yes, we were there to witness those forces… behind safety glass of course.)

Our single-hung window performed well enough to earn the rating we “had” to achieve, but they stopped the testing at that point and did not push it to the limits like they did with the fixed sash because the window (understandably) did experience water infiltration at one point.  (Hey, it opens, so it’s got moving parts – you kinda have to expect iit.  Especially when there is a wall of sprinkler heads spraying water on it from every direction.)

Since you can only get a rating as good as the lowest test, they stopped the other tests when they passed the point they needed to for the rating we were required to have. It was kind of disappointing.

I would have liked to have seen the single-hung pushed to its limits as well.  But we construct them the same waY as the fixed sash, so I would assume the single-hung would have performed as well on the structural tests as the fixed sash if they had.


Moira’s Thoughts
Danielle was feeling under the weather that day, sick and surely contagious.  But none of us could convince her to stay home, so we headed out to the National Certified Testing Laboratories in York, PA.  (Hoping we weren’t setting a pandemic in motion with her germs.)

Two windows were going to be tested for air leakage, water leakage, and how much air pressure they could withstand structurally.  To test the windows, they clamped them to a large plexi-glass wall.  This structure was surrounded by a plastic box that was taped at the seams to eliminate any outside air flow from impacting the tests.

For the air leakage, forced air was directed at the window to measure how much air leaked through the window to the other side.  When they tested the damp-water penetration resistance mechanical spraying devices sprayed water at the windows in 5-minute cycles, with one minute between cycles for the wood to rest, that increased in pressure with each cycle until the window reached its fail point and water would fall over the lip of the sash.  During this test the window was constantly monitored by a testing technician who viewed the window from the back side of the testing wall where he visually inspected the joints for water penetration during the testing with a flashlight.

The last test was the structural load test and this was definitely my favorite.  Sensors were applies to various points on the sash to measure movement.  Both positive and negative pressure were increased substantially in cycles.  This test was simulating the kind of forces a window would experience during a hurricane and as the pressures were increased in each cycle you could visibly see the bowing of the window.  As it neared its fail point you could hear the cracking of the wood.



We recently completed a restoration project of some truly massive doors at the Wilmington Public Library in Delaware.

The library was built in 1922 with the bold shapes and lavish ornaments of the Art Deco style of architecture popular at that time.

We restored a pair 22’6’ tall, 10-panel White Oak and Mahogany pocket doors.  The doors were 4” thick, 4’6” wide each, and badly distressed from years of use and lack of maintenance.  The biggest challenge on this project was getting these giants off.  Obviously this was not your ordinary door removal.

To see just how tricky the removal process was, watch a video of the removal at: http://bit.ly/1riG1tL

Once we hauled the mammoth doors back to the shop, we set to work restoring them with five guys at workstations around the doors.



When will you be able to upload them?

We ended our summer here at Historic Restorations with a bang…our Preservation Circus in late August.We really enjoyed hosting it and all our guests raved about how much they enjoyed being there for it, so we’re calling it a huge hit. Penelope’s “reviewing” it from her perspective in her column this month (and we hear she took lots of pictures).

Event box

Penelope was a hit herself at the Circus,and she’s lucky she was because she pulled a naughty prank and showed up in a clown costume even though clowns had specially been banned. (We are a bit worried that all the fan mail she is receiving is going to her head, but it does help keep her motivated to keep her deadlines. We just hope it doesn’t turn her into too much of a diva.)

Penelope is quite inquisitive and very observant (especially when there are treats involved-she has mastered sitting very still if she THINKS a treat might be involved). When ever we are ready to give her a lesson in historic preservation, we just pull out the treat bag and we have he complete and utter attention. Atleast for as long as we have that bag in our laps…

This month we are highlighting the recent testing our windows underwent to see whether or not they met the LEED standards that a project we’re currently working on required we meet.

It was an interesting experience and one I’m not likely to forget anytime soon. I mean,when you experience testing that involves machines that open and close doors, giant wrecking balls, and a huge propeller system -it kind of makes an impact on you. (Even though none of our windows were lucky enough to experience those particular tests.)

Our windows were tested for air infiltration, structural integrity, and water infiltration .And despite the fact that I was sick and trying my hardest NOT to contaminate the world, I am glad I went to see the actual testing as it was done.(I think some of our guys wanted to go and were a bit jealous of me -well, not of the being sick part- because they wanted to see the wrecking ball in action.)

The results shocked us and weren’t at all what we expected. So keep watch for them in upcoming posts!

While you’re waiting, grab yourself a pumpkin spice latte, a piece of pumpkin pie or pumpkin bread, or whatever pumpkin flavored food it is you enjoy this time of year and celebrate the arrival of fall with me!

As always,if you have any questions or need anything just let me know.


[email protected]




Join us (virtually) on October 22nd at 7 pm EDT for

tips on planning your project from the comfort of home!

(see our events column for more details)




I’m still so excited from our Preservation Circus that I can hardly sit still.  There were so many people and Mommy tells me I was the star of the show! It was so much fun… there were tons of people, good music that kept my tail 10616609_10152361315651915_5036206237762911218_nwagging, kids running around, and these cute popcorn cupcakes my Mommy wouldn’t let me eat.

Grandpa made his amazing BBQ (don’t tell Daddy but I had some too), which everybody loved. Although my Aunt Layla sneaked too many hot dogs and ended up with an upset stomach. I heard Grandma say we collected 50lbs of food for the food bank!!!

Mommy gave lots of tours of the shop and Daddy answered lots of questions about historic preservation (I helped when he got stuck).  And the kids ate lots of popcorn.

I was going to post all the pictures here, but after uploading them to our Facebook page I’m pooped!  So I’m going to just send you over there to look at them so I can take a nap.

I think it was such a huge success that I’m going to have to start planning another party already!  (Maybe I’ll do a pirate theme next… arrggghh!!!)