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:

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!!!)

Articles on Preservation of Historic Buildings and Architectures


Tourist Cabins: Wallinda Cabins

Perched on US Route 2, just west of Marshfield Village are the Wallinda Cabins. For years I’ve seen this sitting quietly on the side of the road, presumably unoccupied but having a neat and tidy appearance. Just last week on my way through Vermont, I decided that I would finally stop and photograph these before they disappeared……Continue reading

A Train Station and a Fire Station

The fire station in Wallingford, Vermont is located in a the former train station, which is still located adjacent to the tracks. It’s quite the unique adaptive reuse. Take a look (those photographs were night shots, hence the blurry quality).

This isn’t the first time I’ve come across a non-traditional building turned fire station. Remember the Cavendish Queen Anne house that became a fire station with truck bays on the first floor……Continue reading

Boston’s Waterworks Museum

What are three preservationists to do on a sweltering hot summer afternoon in Boston, MA? Even we have our limits for strolling the row house lined streets. When we could bear the heat no longer, we headed out to Chestnut Hill, just past Brookline to the (relatively) new Waterworks Museum, located at the original Chestnut Hill Reservoir and pumping station……Continue reading

Preservation Solution? Reversible Exterior Window Shades?

What do you do in the dog days of summer? Hide from the sun, of course. Remember the end of the school year during review and finals when classrooms would be sweltering? Large pull down shades could help control the temperature and industrial size fans, but it was still hot. Quite often when historic school buildings are renovated for modern use……Continue reading

Wine Tasting to Support Norwich Schoolhouses

In Vermont and across the country we all see too many schoolhouses abandoned or neglected. Sometimes these buildings will have better fates: converted to residences, used as community centers, or as a museum. And some have even better fates, like the Root Schoolhouse and the Beaver Meadow Schoolhouse, both of Norwich, VT…..Continue reading

PA Architecture Traditional 1700 – 1870

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

Identifiable Features

1.  Steeply pitched gable roofs
2.  Stone, brick, log or frame construction
3.  Double  doors, four over four front facade
4.  Dual gable end chimneys
5.  Usually two and a half stories
6.  Summer kitchen located just behind main house

PA Architecture Traditional buildings reflect the strong cultural ties of the state’s early settlers form the German (Deutsch) speaking areas of central Europe.  These Deutsch speakers, came to be described as the “Pennsylvania Dutch” —a rather misleading name based on the mispronunciation of “Deutsch” as “Dutch.”  This Germanic influence is most apparent in the southeast section of the state where German settlement began in the early 1700s.  While the German settlement later extended throughout the state, this southeastern area retains the earliest and the highest concentration of the early Pennsylvania German Traditional buildings.

Traditional_Vernacular - 2013-09-18_17.46.03

Buildings in this category take several easily recognized forms.  The earliest PA German Traditional buildings were of log or stone construction and of distinctly medieval form with steep roofs, thick walls and small, irregularly spaced windows.  These small early houses had floor plans which  followed traditional layouts—some very simple one-room buildings, but more frequently a 2 or 3 room layout with a central chimney and corner “winder stair” leading up to a loft or second floor.  The 3 room format called for a large kitchen or  “kuche” on one side of the center chimney and two smaller rooms including a  parlor or “stube,” and a bedroom or “kammer”  on the other.  This three room Germanic folk house is sometimes  referred to as a “Continental Plan” by architectural historians. The two room format known as  the “Hall and Parlor Plan” had only a kitchen (hall)  and a parlor with a central chimney wall in between.

In the vernacular tradition some early stone houses were built over a spring to provide running water and a cool area for food storage in the basement.   Some houses were also built into a bank or hillside, partially underground for similar cold storage reasons, as well as cost and material efficiency.  This bank style of construction is attributed to medieval Swiss tradition, so buildings opf this type are  sometimes called “Swiss style.”  Many banked houses were later expanded to become 2 or 3 stories with the ground floor  then used only as a kitchen or for  storage.Some early houses on the expanding frontier of Pennsylvania were constructed as fortified houses with extra thick walls  and small windows to withstand Indian attack.  Fort Zeller built in 1745 near Newmanstown, Lebanon County was not actually a fort but such a fortified  (thick walled) house built in this manner.

Another traditional early house form was the combination house and barn where both shared a common roof.  Few examples remain, since it was a more of a short term pioneering practice than a desired housing type.  Certainly, for early settlers faced with the need to provide prompt shelter for both the family and livestock such a solution would have been expedient.  As family fortunes improved, additional buildings were constructed to separate the farm animals from the family.

The buildings of the Ephrata Cloister in Lancaster County are unique surviving examples of medieval German building practices. The Cloister was begun in 1732 as a religious community for mystical German Pietists led by Conral Beissel and drawn to Pennsylvania for its religious tolerance.  Ephrata Cloister has one of the best preserved collections of 18th century German vernacular domestic and religous buildings.  At its peak in 1750 the Cloister complex included a chapel, mens and womens dormitories, a variety of mills, a bake house, a pottery, cabins, barns and stables. The  celibate community declined after the Revolution and became part of the 7th Day German Baptist Church in 1814.  Much of the complex remaineds today and is operated as a historic site by the PHMC.  Significant buildings include the 1740 chapel called the Saal, a half-timbered, 5-story, clapboard building with shake shingles and small attached stone kitchen and the 1742 sisters house known as the Saron, a steep-roofed, 4-story, log house covered with clapboards containing floors of narrow sleeping cells.  The small, unevenly placed, casement windows, steep gable roofs, shed dormers, plain white plastered interior, winding stairs,  and center chimneys are all indicative of medieval German building traditions.

Some 18th and early 19th German Traditional houses incorporated the customary German floor plan into a more formally designed exterior, adopting some of the elements of the contermporary Georgian style.  These German influenced houses usually had four bays, rather than the usual five of the Georgian style and lacked the Georgian  center hall as well.  The Cooke House in York County  and the Christian Stauffer House of Lancaster County are good  examples of this blend of Germanic form with Georgian proportions.  One of the most interesting and intriguing types of PA German Traditional houses is the Four over Four or  Pennsylvania German Two Door Farmhouse.  These houses are easily identified by their two front doors, placed side by side in the center of the house with a window flanking each and four windows on the second floor.  Houses of this type usually date from the mid-1800s and are often built of brick or frame. The Green House in York County is a good example of this form. One front door opens directly into the family sitting room, and the other into the more formal parlor.  This housing form does not exist in central Europe, and is prevalent only in Pennsylvania and its borders, so it appears to be a style developed here.  Much debate of the significance of the double front doors has produced some general consensus that it represents the adaptation of traditional German form to the formal symmetry of the popular Georgian and Federal styles.  For some architectural historians the twin front doors represent the development of a more utilitarian floorplan with the elimination of the Georgian/Federal style central hall, while presenting a more formal and symmetrical exterior appearance than the earlier medieval German buildings.  These distinctive houses can be seen especially in the southeastern and south central portion of the state, often with a detached one room “summer kitchen” just off the rear elevation.  The summer kitchen kept the heat from cooking or washing clothes from the main house during hot weather.