Gothic Revival 1830-1875   The Pointed Style


"Wedding Cake" House, Kennebunk, Maine

Perhaps the most photographed Gothic house in the country, even though it is not a pure example. It started out as a Federal brick house in 1826 and had the Gothic "frosting added" over it and a Gothic barn added in 1855.

The most prominent architectural feature is the pointed arch, even in the most modest cottage.

Most American Gothic Revival houses were built in America between 1840 and 1870.

Gothic Revival began in England and became the dominant style for country houses and was popular with Queen Victoria. It became the only "proper style" for English church building and was promoted as the proper style for all English buildings from 1840-1870. Americans liked it too, but as just one of several romantic styles to be modeled at will to Victorian American tastes.

The growing middle class as a result of the economic opportunities of the Industrial Revolution had more money to spend on housing and wanted to attractive homes outside the cities in healthful surroundings where horse drawn rail cars could bring the man of the house back and forth to work. Gas lights and indoor plumbing were becoming available and all sorts of new devices from iron cook stoves, and household machines were being invented. A. J. Davis was the first American architect to champion Gothic domestic buildings. He published the first house plan book in this country. Previous publications had shown details, parts, pieces and occasional elevations of houses, but Davis's book was the first to show three dimensional views complete with floor plans. But it was his friend Andrew Jackson Downing was the champion of the Gothic Revival style and expanded it with pattern books and tireless public speaking about the virtues of the style. Gothic Style fed public fascination with the romance of the medieval past. Downing's books offered not only designs for houses but also site and landscape plans to ensure a "happy union."


Carpenter's Gothic is distinguished chiefly by its profusion of sawn details. The fact that most of these details were originally designed to be executed in stone did not deter American architects and carpenters from doing them in wood, greatly facilitated by the introduction of the steam powered scroll saw which could cut from thin boards the scrolled ornament so often associated with the style.


 Carpenter's Gothic

Carpenter's Gothic is unique most New England Gothic homes The strong carpentry tradition in America, the demand for quickly constructed buildings and the abundance of fine timber combined to make wooden Gothic a natural development. Similar structures would have been impossible in Europe where wood is scarce and freedom with traditional architectural forms would not have been tolerated.

Kingscote, Newport R.I.


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