Architectural Monographs: Ornate Outbuildings of Old-Fashioned Houses

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Prior to the 19th century, living in the country meant living an entirely self-sustaining lifestyle, relying only upon what you could build, grow or prepare yourself. As a result, farmhouses back then might have had a constellation of small outbuildings surrounding them, each with a different purpose: storage for large amounts of food, sheds for certain manufacturing processes or stables close to the house for the owner’s driving horses.

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The spread of development throughout America over the 19th and 20th centuries made most of those structures obsolete, and in many cases, they no longer exist outside even the oldest of farmhouses. A corner store appearing in a rural area meant locals could stop doing absolutely everything for themselves, focusing their energy on the specialities that provided the most stable income.

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But in 1922, when this issue of the White Pine Monographs was written, there were still a few rural homes throughout New England where such small outbuildings could still be found, and many of these structures were notable in their attention to detail.

In fact, much of the same architectural features found on the main house could be found on the ‘accessory houses’ as well. The author of this monograph notes that such an approach was actually taken out of necessity, as builders at the time were mostly just copying ornamentation out of books. “Therefore, when they were forced to build garden structures of small size and without precedent or available designs, they copied either a small portion of some design at hand or reduced the scale of the book size to the required size.”

See more photos at the White Pine Monograph Library.

Architectural Monographs: Wooden Architecture of the Delaware Valley

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While most early settlers in New England stuck to the architectural typologies they were used to in their home country – ignoring abundant timber resources in Pennsylvania to build brick or rock houses, for example – one particular region stands out as a notable exception. In the Lower Delaware Valley, including Eastern Pennsylvania, West Jersey and Delaware, wooden architecture was quite common despite the tendency of settlers to follow their ancestral traditions.

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In other areas, builders went to great lengths to bake bricks or source stone, but the people of the Lower Delaware Valley realized the futility of this endeavor and decided to go with the obvious solution: build with the pine that thrives in the area.

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This issue of the historic White Pine Monographs takes a close look at those houses. One example is ‘The WIllows’ in New Jersey, near Gloucester, built around 1702 and believed to be one of the earliest wooden houses in the region with some additions that came in later years. Writes the author, “The structure is really a piece of cabinet work rather than a piece of carpentry, and is a monument to the skill of the joiner – the old term is peculiarly appropriate for the artisan in this instance – who framed it together.”

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Read more at the White Pine Monograph Library.

Architectural Monographs: Old Time Churches of Vermont

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The architect author of this historic monograph, written in 1927, didn’t think much of colonial architecture – or rather, didn’t really think of it at all – until he designed a colonial-inspired structure of his own. It was then that he discovered the particular character of the styles from that era, and in fact, fell in love with the region he was born in for the first time.

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Asked to write about the churches of Vermont for this issue, the author says they speak for themselves. “Simple, straightforward, not particularly well proportioned, some of them, and a little too plain and severe, perhaps, to our modern eyes; more meeting houses than churches, more practical than architectural in the treatment of the gallery windows; still they are full of the character of New England and all show evidences of thought and loving care in the building of them.”

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The Puritanism of the builders may have prevented any of the Gothic flourishes or extravagant stained glass seen in churches of other time periods and places, but like most other colonial architecture, these churches have a quiet charm that fits right into the countryside of New England.

Read more and see additional photos at the White Pine Monograph Library.

A White Pine Monograph Hoax: The Massachusetts Town That Doesn’t Exist

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What’s the deal with Stotham, Massachusetts? Look up this little town online and you’ll find that it doesn’t actually exist. Yet architect Hubert G. Ripley waxes rhapsodic about the ‘unspoiled New England village’ in Volume VI, Issue II of the White Pine Series of Architectural Monographs, written in 1920. When it was printed, nobody questioned Ripley’s account. It wasn’t until the 1940s that catalogers at the Library of Congress discovered the apparent hoax.

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Ripley writes of a small town which, by the early 20th century, was virtually preserved as it had been during its glory days, without the blight of cheap contemporary buildings. He goes into great detail about the lineage of the family that founded the town, explaining which of the descendants built each home featured in the photographs. “Generations of blushing maidens have swung on the old Billings gate, opening on the path leading to the meadows, in the pale light of the harvest moon, lending shy ear to the rustic swains of the village, as in whispered and halting phrases they spoke of their hopes and aspirations; and as a result of these meetings, old traditions were kept alive.”

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Passages like this reveal that perhaps Ripley wished he were a novelist rather than an architect, for everything he writes about in this issue is fictional. There’s even a ghost story. So what was Ripley’s motivation for doing such a thing, especially when the White Pine Monographs were known for being so carefully researched and accurate?

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The truth, as editor Russell Whitehead revealed in the 1960s, was that there were a great deal of photographs that didn’t make it into earlier publications for various reasons. He and Ripley looked through them and found them too good to be wasted, so they hatched a plan to write a little story. You can read the whole thing at the White Pine Monograph Library.

Architectural Monographs: Design A Community Center Building

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In 1919, the fourth annual White Pine Architectural Competition challenged architects to design a community center building and civic center group plan for a small riverside town in New England with a population of about 5,000 people. Designers were asked to design a structure that would harmonize with other public buildings in the area, made of painted white pine “in the character so well developed in that part of our country.”

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The community center building was to contain a town council chamber, offices for the town officials, permanent voting booths, and an assembly hall for 700 “equipped with a stage and a motion picture machine.” The contest required it to be finished on the exterior with white pine. Beyond this building, the general civic center plan required a freight depot, an open market, stores, offices, a high school, an art museum and other public buildings.

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The judges note that the entries showed ‘a general weakness,’ but that most of them grasped not only the scale of such a building, which was to be a social center for a small village, but the importance that the act of voting should be given within it, and the need for equal accommodations for both sexes in the gender-separated club rooms.

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“A few points, however, are evident to any student of the times. One is that women and men must be placed on a practical basis of equality as far as accommodations are concerned, and women must be given absolutely equal rights in and access to such main features as the gymnasium and swimming pool.”

Read more of Volume V, Issue IV of the historic Architectural White Pine Monographs, offered by NeLMA.


Architectural Monographs: Interior Woodwork in New England

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From the earliest interiors of colonial houses, which were almost medieval in nature, to the more refined details of subsequent periods throughout history, American interiors have one thing in common: woodwork rich in character, lending a sense of time and place. Volume XI, Issue II of the historic White Pine Architectural Monographs explores the evolution of interior woodwork in New England, and how it related to furnishings and other elements of the home.

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“Every joiner, cabinet-maker, housewright, carpenter, or carpenter-builder of the 18th century worked in the style of the time freely interpreted,” writes author Edwin J. Hipkiss. “All moulded work from the cornice of a high chest to the cornice of a mansion was cut by hand with planes formed to make the curved elements of this simple architecture of classical origin.”

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“In the woodwork of both the 17th and the 18th centuries the element of craftsmanship is important. The work of intelligent men, proud of a manual skill passed on from master to apprentice or from father to son, produced an ever fresh handling of well-known forms that were acceptable to several generations.”

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While some modern architectural styles of the 21st century have done away with detailed woodwork in favor of cleaner lines, there’s still an appreciation for such craftsmanship to this day, and contemporary woodworkers strive to preserve these arts. This volume of the White Pine Monographs goes into detail about the wooden elements that could be found in the homes of various time periods, with lots of photos and architectural drawings.