LANCASTER IN STYLE, PART 21: ENGLISH COTTAGE STYLE, 1920-40
Adorable is an adjective we don’t often associate with an architectural style, but it is the perfect description for the English Cottage. One of the several between-the-wars styles, the English Cottage evolved as the affordable option to the popular Tudor Mansion movement between 1920 and 1940.
Described as cozy and comfortable, the English Cottage is characterized by low-profile roof lines and the occasional steep “cat-slide” gable.
Exterior materials are combinations of stone, brick and stucco; windows are casement, reflecting their European “out-swing” heritage. Modeled after the cottages of the Cotswolds in England, the one- and two-story structures are often nestled among trees and flower gardens replete with an arched entry door. The tall, stacked chimneys frequently occur at the front entrance, creating a unique silhouette and skyline for the passerby.
The English Cottage style uses the “wall dormer” detail to foreshorten the building’s overall height and to provide more usable space on the second floor. The wall dormer is flush with the exterior wall and breaks through the roof’s eave, creating the signature effect.
Elements of heavy timber beams and brackets, especially on porches, further reinforce a medieval connection. The style’s popularity was further expanded when mail-order companies like Sears & Roebuck offered complete English Cottage house kits for $1,500 in the 1920s and ’30s.
Interestingly, a parallel style developed in Hollywood, California, called Storybook Style, which took the English Cottage and transformed it into a fairy-tale appearance with quirky roof lines, crooked doors and windows and, in some cases, thatched roofs.
Lancaster architects C. Emlen Urban, James H. Warner, Henry Y. Shaub and Melvern R. Evans were quick to embrace the English Cottage style and add it to their growing portfolios. There are extraordinary examples of this picturesque style throughout the county, especially on the west side of town. The style is now over 100 years old and nature has worked its magic to settle the “adorable” cottages into their perfect settings.
What are the between-the-wars styles?
The styles that evolved between World Wars I and II were English Cottage, French, Dutch and Spanish Revival.
What is a cat-slide gable?
It’s effectively a regular gable roof with one side extended lower to the ground. The name comes from the notion that a cat thrown upon the roof will “slide” down to the ground.
Why don’t we see thatched roofs in Lancaster County?
The thatched roof requires a very steep roof in excess of 45 degrees to shed water and snow quickly. Additionally, the trades and material to install the roof would need to be imported from Europe.
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.