“We regret much of what we’ve built; we regret much of what we’ve torn down. But we’ve never regretted preserving anything.” -Daniel Sack

Original windows serve a dual purpose of providing ventilation and light while being an important part of the buildings architectural design. These windows are constantly under attack from the marketing forces of the replacement window companies.

Window Restoration

Window Restoration in Society Hill neighborhood in Philadelphia

 

Here’s a horrifying experience recently shared with us:

I was one of those stupid people who put new vinyl windows in my old 1883 farmhouse. I had already spent a winter fixing the old, broken, and cracked windows since no one had lived in my house for seven years. I did show significant saving (on) heating oil the first year since I had storm windows as well.

Fast forward ten years and I am already seeing the gas between the windows escaping. Some of the locks have stopped being cooperative as well. And the warranty? Well, the company no longer makes windows.

And ever since installing the windows, I have had peeling paint on my siding. I didn’t know about siding vents – the kind you stick up under the clapboards – until earlier this year.

This is one decision I wish I could make again – I’d never get rid of my old wooden windows!

Sadly, we hear these kinds of stories all the time (so much in fact we make traditional windows to replace modern replacement windows).

Traditional Wood Windows with Insulated Glass at the Petersen House in Washington, DC

Traditional Wood Windows with Insulated Glass at the Petersen

House in Washington, DC

However, we also know that your wood windows are the prime targets for replacement window companies.

The information homeowners are taught to believe, is that original wood windows are substandard and the only viable solution is to replace them with their very own superior product. Chances are you’ll probably even get a guarantee too!

The original windows are part of your home and integral to the historic fabric of it. Windows are one of the most significant architectural elements, and they serve as both an interior and exterior feature.

Windows that are not properly maintained can become more than an eye soar. The functionality of their original design begins to falter, chilly winter air seeps in and humidity becomes the deciding factor if the window will open this time or remain jammed shut for perpetuity.

Window Lead Magnet Ad

You can be assured that the trusted replacement window sales representative will make sure you are well educated on the seemingly endless array of benefits that can be attained by purchasing their product.

The sales pitch will include such ‘facts’ as your existing single-pane wood windows cannot perform as well as replacement windows!

This incomplete information continues to be perpetuated by the replacement window industry with the goal of you buying their window. Homeowners accepting this information are often being provided data comprised to affirm the idea that original and historic wood windows are inferior to their replacement counterparts.

Single-pane wood windows in disrepair and poorly maintained, cannot perform as well as intact replacement windows or any window in optimum condition.

Wood windows that are not adequately maintained, neglected and in poor condition are often used to base conclusive assessments of the efficiency of replacement windows verses original windows.

It should not be surprising that replacement windows fair better in this scenario.

These comparison studies and their findings are used to influence homeowners, but they do not tell the entire story. In fact, a properly maintained single-pane wood window, weatherized, in conjunction with a storm window (interior or exterior) is equal to a replacement window in energy usage according to numerous engineering studies.

A replacement window may save a few dollars in heating and cooling cost, but to recoup the cost in the investment of a whole home window replacement, it will take you fifty or more years at less than a $1.00 a year in heating and cooling savings according to the University of Vermont study.

Yes, replacement windows do offer double panes (sometimes triple), low U-Values and Low-E glass. The really cheap ones offer a low price point too.
It doesn’t make them better.

Restored windows Franklin and Marshall College Lancaster, PA

Restored windows Franklin and Marshall College Lancaster, PA

Another ‘fact’ that will be citied during the sales presentation is that replacement windows are “maintenance free”.

Maintenance free may imply a solution to a home’s rundown windows, but the solution is not found in mass produced and disposable windows.

Maintenance free means it cannot be maintained or repaired, with the average life span under twenty years, those very same replacement windows will find themselves in a land fill along with their nemesis, the original windows, they replaced. Every material and every part of a window wears, breaks down and needs some type of repair to continue proper functioning.

Fact is, that a replacement window cannot be repaired and cannot continue to work at the same level it was when installed. It is not comprised of the same individual components as traditional windows, it’s a single unit design and constructed as such to make it impossible to disassemble and repair.

When a replacement window fails, its maintenance free selling point becomes the reason you need another replacement window. It also becomes another opportunity for a replacement window company to sell you the latest and greatest ‘maintenance free’ window. The notion that replacing supposedly substandard wood windows with modern replacement worry-free windows, is certainly a misnomer. As in the case study above, homeowners are often disillusioned when the integrity of ten or twenty-year-old replacement windows deteriorate to level where they inevitably need to be replaced – again and again – welcome to the replacement cycle.

Original windows can be repaired and preserved because they predate the era of planned obsolescence. An era when buildings had to work with the environment to keep its inhabitants warm in the winter and cool in the summer. An era in which fixing things was preferred to replacement. An era before the skilled tradesman become product installers with an assembly line mentality of the building trades. The individual components of these windows can each be repaired, maintained or replaced in sections as need be. They were built for longevity, not for replacement.

Window Lead Magnet Ad
They can be preserved and their historical significance doesn’t need to be sacrificed for energy efficiency or functionality.

When an original wood window fails, it can be repaired and repaired again and it isn’t as daunting of a task as you just might think. Replacement window companies cannot make a profit if homeowners routinely maintain their historic windows. The replacement window industries’ goal is to sell as many windows as possible. Our goal is to help you understand there are options that preserve the integrity of your historic building and to arm you with information and facts.

Maintenance measures can be taken to keep historic windows energy efficient, properly functioning and able to last another 100 years:
 Painting
 Caulking
 Weather stripping
 Re-glazing
 And more…

Replacement windows will however permanently alter your homes interior and exterior appearance. Losing the detail and elegance found in the workmanship of true divided lights, wavy single pane windows, rails, muntins, profiles, depths and sills will be lost and replaced with flat and shadowless details, meant to replicate what was once there. Understanding the materials and traditional joinery used to build your original windows are superior to any replacement window is an important factor in deciding whether to restore or replace.

Challenging conventional knowledge on what it takes to maintain historic windows isn’t as daunting as it may seem. However, it requires shifting the paradigm of thought – understanding that maintaining your original windows can be a simple task and the reason to replace your windows is not to save energy costs or have zero-maintenance. 

Watch the video below to learn more options for your original wood windows.

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 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.

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 Stick Style 1860 – 1890

Identifiable Features

1.  Steeply pitched gable roof
2.  Cross gables
3.  Decorative trusses at gable peak
4.  overhanging eaves with exposed rafters
5.  Wood exterior walls with clapboards
6.  horizontal, vertical or diagonal decorative wood trim – stickwork
7.  Porches with diagonal or curved braces
8.  Towers

Stick Style

The most distinctive stylistic element of the Stick style is the  decorative stickwork or bands of wood trim applied horizontally, vertically or diagonally to the exterior wall surfaces.  A similar pattern of decorative wood trim appears in the trusses of the gables and across gables and on the porch braces.  The stick style is considered to be a transitional style, with decorative details similar to the preceding Gothic Revival Style , and a shape and form closely related to the following Queen Anne Style.  All three styles are inspired by Medieval English building tradition and thus, share some common features.  Unlike the Gothic Revival style, the Stick style treats wall surfaces, not just doorways, cornices, windows and porches as decorative elements.

Like other Picturesque styles, the Stick style was promoted by the pattern books of Andrew Jackson Downing in the mid-1800s.  The exterior stickwork was considered to be display  structural honesty by showing the supportive wooden understructure on the outside.  Since the stickwork on the walls was purely decorative rather than structurally relevant, such an argument for the greater integrity of form of this style seems somewhat unfounded.  The Stick style was never as popular and wide spread as the somewhat later Queen Anne Style which appears in various forms all over Pennsylvania and the United States.

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 Traditional Octogon 1850 – 1870

Identifiable Features

1.  Octagonal shaped building
2.  Low pitched hipped roof
3.  Wide overhanging eaves
4.  Brackets at the cornice
5.  Partial or fully encircling porch
6.  Octagonal cupola on some versions

Octo

The Octagon Mode is a distinctive and remarkable yet relatively rare architectural style, which enjoyed a brief period of popularity primarily in the years from 1850 until 1870. Previously, Adam- or Federal-style buildings had occasionally featured octagonal wings or projections, so the octagon form was not a new creation. Several prominent designers (including Thomas Jefferson) built octagon buildings in the United States in the late 18th and early 19th century, but the octagon house form seldom appeared until it was reintroduced to the public through the writings of Orson Squire Fowler in 1848.

Fowler was a public lecturer, writer, and eccentric, and he promoted this style in his book The Octagon House: A House for All. He viewed the octagon form as a healthful, economical, and modern innovation in housing and argued that it offered increased sunlight and ventilation, as well as savings on heating and building costs. Octagon houses were built across the country but were more of an anomaly than a common style. The Northeast and Midwest had the greatest number of octagon buildings. Octagon houses often incorporated elements of other styles, the Greek and Gothic Revival  styles, and especially the Italianate. Few residences were built in the octagon style after 1865. However, the octagon form continued to be used for barn and outbuilding construction from the mid to late 1800s. Tollhouse and railroad stations of this era were sometimes built in the octagon form as well.

Interestingly, the octagon appeared in Pennsylvania almost one hundred years before Fowler published his book, in the form of small stone school buildings in the southeastern portion of the state. Documentation suggests that Quakers began building octagonal stone school buildings in southeastern Pennsylvania as early as the 1760s. It is assumed that this school form is derived from English or Scots-Irish folk tradition, a variation on the one-room schoolhouse. The Quakers are thought to have embraced this octagonal school form due to the simplicity of its design, simplicity being a key principle of the Quaker faith. Additionally, the octagonal style buildings were practical, being less expensive to build and heat, and easier to ventilate and light. By the early 1800s, the stone octagonal school house form was so common in southeastern Pennsylvania that both Quakers and non-Quakers employed it. Several of these unique octagonal stone schools survive, with construction dates from 1802 to 1841.

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 Chateauesque Style 1860 – 1910

Identifiable Features

1.  French chateau-like appearance
2.  Round tower with conical roof
3.  Steeply pitched hipped or gable roof, often with cresting
4.  Tall chimneys with decorative caps
5.  Round arch or flattened basket-handle arch entry
6.  Multiple dormers
7.  Quatrefoil or arched tracery decorative elements
8.  Balustraded terrace
9.  Usually of masonry (stone or brick) construction

Chat

The Chateauesque style is exactly what it sounds like: an effort to recreate the appearance and stylistic elements of the palatial French chateaus of the 16 th century.  Details borrow elements from the Gothic style and the Renaissance style, just as the original Chateau designs did.  The Chateauesque style was popularized in the US by by architect Richard Morris Hunt, the first American to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in France .  Buildings of this style are almost always architect-designed, grand places intended to impress.

Chateauesque style buildings are easy to identify due to their imposing appearance and characteristic complex roof line with abundant detailing.  Buildings of this style have steeply pitched hipped (and sometimes gabled) roofs, topped by cresting or finials, and pierced by decorative gabled wall dormers. Low relief carving may ornaments the dormer gables and window surrounds.  Chimneys are tall and have decorative corbelled tops.  Another standout feature is a round tower topped by a conical roof, although some more modest examples of the style may omit the tower.  Balconies may feature Gothic inspired quatrefoil or arched tracery patterns.  Entry doors often have round arches or a flattened arch with an ogee arch molding.

Most examples of this rather rare style are found in a sophisticated urban setting or on an estate where such opulent, high style buildings might be expected.  Several outstanding mansions of Chateauesque style have been identified in the Philadelphia area and also public buildings such as city halls in other locations.

After the turn of the 20th century, elements of the Chateauesque style were incorporated into a revival form sometimes called the French Eclectic style.  Identified by a round tower with a high conical roof and steeply pitched hipped roof, this style often appears in early 20th century neighborhoods along with other popular revival styles of the the era, such as the Tudor and Colonial Revival styles.

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 Renaissance Revival Style 1890 – 1930

Identifiable Features

1.  Low-pitched hipped or flat roof
2.  Symmetrical facade
3.  Masonry construction
4.  Impressive size and scale
5.  Round arch entrance and windows
6.  Classical details: columns, pilasters
7.  Roof line parapet or balustrade
8.  Arcaded and rusticated ground level

Italian

The Italian Renaissance Revival style developed at the very end of the Victorian period of architecture. Like the Romanesque styles and other later classically-inspired styles, the Italian Renaissance Revival style looked to Italy and the ancient world for inspiration. This style developed in direct contrast to the medieval form and appearance of other popular styles of the time, the Gothic Revival, Queen Anne, and Shingle styles. This style and the earlier Italianate style both were modeled on the 16th century buildings of the Italian Renaissance. However, Italian Renaissance Revival style buildings are much closer stylistically to the original form than the Italianate style. This added authenticity was due to greater familiarity with the original buildings—via photographs versus pattern books—and advances in masonry veneering techniques that developed in the early 20th century.

The most predominant feature of this style is its imposing scale and formal design incorporating classical details such as columns and round arches and balustrades. This style can take several distinct forms, but all variations are almost always of masonry (usually stone) construction. One version of the style features a large rectangular building, usually three or more stories in height, topped by a flat roof with a crowning balustrade. Another common feature for this flat roof version of the Italian Renaissance Revival style is a rusticated stone first floor with upper floors having a smooth finish. Porch arcades and porticos are often seen in this  version as well. The other most common form of this style features a hipped roof, often of clay tiles, with broadly overhanging, bracketed eaves. This variation bears some resemblance to the Spanish Colonial Revival style (also known as the Mission style) which was popular in the same period. While having a similar form and tiled roof, the Spanish Colonial Revival style lacks the classical details like columns, pilasters and pedimented windows.

The Italian Renaissance Revival style was first popularized on the East Coast by architects such as McKim, Mead & White as early as the 1880s. This elegant style is seen mostly in up-scale, architect-designed buildings, such as mansions or public buildings. While many examples of this style can be found in Pennsylvania, it is most common in city settings. The 1920s-era State Office complex (North and South Office Buildings, Finance Building, and Forum Building), adjacent to the Beaux Arts State Capitol building in Harrisburg, is of this style.

 

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 Collegiate Gothic Style 1890 – 1940

Identifiable Features

1.  Gothic arch window and door openings
2.  Masonry (brick or stone) construction
3.  Bas relief decorative panels or plaques
4.  Portico or recessed porch entryway
5.  Buttresses
6.  Tracery windows
7.  Crenulated parapet
8.  Tower or spire

Collegiate Gothic

The Collegiate Gothic Revival style is an early 20th century adaptation of the 19th century Gothic Revival style to serve a specific function, educational buildings.  The Gothic Revival style, which flourished from the period of 1830 through 1890 in the United States, was often chosen for churches and institutional buildings due to its  impressive, medievally-inspired form. In the early 20th century the Gothic Revival style reappeared for an appropriate choice for both university and secondary school buildings.  Prominent universities such as Boston College, Yale, Duke, and Princeton employed the Collegiate Gothic Revival style in this period to create an atmosphere of respected antiquity.  In the 1920s and 30s, many new public and private schools were built in Pennsylvania as a result of changes in educational policy.  These new larger and more complex school buildings had specialized space design for cafeterias, gyms and technical training and were often of Collegiate Gothic style.  While these designs were sometimes rather pared down versions of the more ornate forms of the style with only a few decorative details like an arched and recessed entryway or a few decorative panels, these school buildings are clearly part of the Gothic Revival tradition.  Masonry construction lent a sense of permanence and substance, a fitting image for the public education system, especially as it strove for even greater academic offerings.

 The Collegiate Gothic Revival style can be found throughout the state in the public and private secondary schools of cities and towns, and also on university campuses.  The Philips Memorial Building at West Chester University is a noted example of this style and was built in 1927.  Constructed in 1930, Bishop McDevitt High School  (originally called Catholic High School) in Harrisburg is another  good example of this style as seen as a private secondary school.