Gothic Revival architecture 2 Star Barn

The Elizabethtown Star Barn and its companion structures, built for John Motter in 1877 and moved from their location along Route 283 near Middletown, are excellent  examples of wood-frame Gothic Revival architecture that moves toward the popular sub-type of style referred to as Carpenter Gothic.

LANCASTER IN STYLE, PART 7: GOTHIC REVIVAL, 1840-1860

To date we have introduced five architectural design styles in Lancaster County.

Last month’s Classical Revival style launched what will be a long list of revival styles in the United States and Europe.

Many ran on parallel timelines, and this month’s Gothic Revival is no exception.



Architectural historians indicate that Gothic Revival was most prevalent for residences between 1840 and 1860 and for church design through the 1940s.

Inspired by 12th-century medieval design characteristics, details include tall and narrow pointed-arch windows, lancet windows, a steeply pitched roof, decorative verge boards, a cross-gabled roof and quatrefoils.

Masonry was the preferred material for construction, especially for churches, but the substitution of wood framing for stone gave birth to the charm and affordability of Carpenter Gothic.

Gothic Revival architecture 3 F&M Old Main

One of the earliest examples of Gothic Revival architecture in Lancaster County is Franklin & Marshall College’s Old Main and its companion buildings, designed by Baltimore firm Dixon, Balbirnie & Dixon between 1854 and 1857. The two- and three-story brick and sandstone structures embody the classic details associated with Gothic Revival architecture: extreme verticality, lancet windows and louvers, battlements and finials.

One of the earliest examples of Gothic Revival architecture in Lancaster County is Franklin & Marshall College’s Old Main and its companion buildings, designed by Baltimore firm Dixon, Balbirnie & Dixon between 1854 and 1857.

The two- and three-story brick and sandstone structures embody the classic details associated with Gothic Revival architecture: extreme verticality, lancet windows and louvers, battlements and finials.

St. John’s Lutheran Church, designed by Lancaster architect James H. Warner in 1890, and St. John’s Episcopal Church, designed by Philadelphia architects John E. Carver and Edwin Forrest Durang in 1853 and 1882, respectively, are both fine examples of the style most often associated with church architecture.

Gothic Revival architecture 14 St. John's Episcopal parsonage historical

St John's Episcopal Church on West Chestnut Street in Lancaster, and its 1858 parsonage at Chestnut and Concord streets, are fine examples of Gothic Revival architecture. The parsonage, shown here in a historical photo, was designed by John Lane Evans and features decorative verge board and a pointed attic window. 

Both churches use verticality effectively to draw the eye upward and emphasize the elaborate towers and spires and ornate detailing.

The Elizabethtown Star Barn and its companion structures, built for John Motter in 1877 and moved from their location along Route 283 near Middletown, are exquisite examples of wood frame Gothic Revival architecture that moves toward the popular sub-type style referred to as Carpenter Gothic.

Skilled carpenters, using the 1874 scroll saw invention, made the highly decorative and ornate detailing found on the brackets and rake boards possible.

Gothic Revival Architecture 16 Soldiers and Sailors Monument

The Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Lancaster's Penn Square, built circa 1874 and designed by Lewis Haldy, is an example of Gothic Revival design.

The Gothic details include lancet windows and louvers, finials and decorative verge boards.

Gothic Revival details can also be found on window dormers throughout the city, and include pointed windows, quatrefoils, finials and lancet details.

The popularity of Gothic Revival architecture for residences waned after 1860, but continued to be in high demand for churches and other public structures including hotels, college campuses and government buildings until the late 1940s.

What is a lancet window or louver?

Lancet windows or louvers are tall, narrow and pointed at the top. They can be single, paired or grouped, with the middle lancet being the tallest.

What is a quatrefoil?

A quatrefoil is decorative design element consisting of four symmetrical lobes in the shape of a leaf or clover.

Are there other Gothic Revival sub-types?

In addition to Carpenter Gothic, there is Norman Gothic, Perpendicular Gothic, Victorian Gothic and Steamboat Gothic, to name a few.

This column is contributed by Gregory J. Scott, FAIA, a local architect with more than four decades of national experience in innovation and design. He is a member of the American Institute of Architects’ College of Fellows. Email GScott@rlps.com. Scott's column runs in LNP | LancasterOnline on the second Thursday of each month.