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
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
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.