W James & College Ave 1 Shingle Style.jpg

This Shingle Style house at West James Street and College Avenue in Lancaster has a cut-stone foundation, prominent gables, serrated shingles at the transition, a rolled header over a gable window and small window panes over a single larger pane.

SHINGLE STYLE, 1880 - 1900

We conclude the seven Victorian-era architectural styles with the one considered the “all-American” picturesque style. Born out of a rebellion to escape the lavish and excessive decoration associated with the previous six styles, Shingle style was more about form, shape and the quest for a simple expression of life.

The complexities of details, wood moldings and elaborate stone carvings gave way to a style using all-wood construction and monochromatic exterior materials — namely, cedar shingles for both walls and roofs.

The 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition encouraged this more independent American expression of design, built upon the premise of “reviving” colonial architecture.

Although asymmetrical floor plans, large rambling porches and irregular rooflines help define the Shingle style’s appearance, the sculptural effect achieved by using only one exterior material and color clearly differentiated it from other styles.

Gable and gambrel roof forms were most popular and served as the main “chassis” for the house. The application of complex dormers, towers, balconies, porches and windows not only enhanced the appearance and appeal, but also increased the cost.

Once reserved only for wealthy New England seaside “cottages” and resorts, the style quickly gained popularity up and down the East Coast, and soon adaptations were found in many inland towns as well.

Unlike traditional clapboard siding, shingles could easily bend around curved forms, both vertically and horizontally, creating a sculptural effect not achievable with other building materials. The shingles formed a continuous covering that stretched smoothly and tautly over all wall and roof surfaces, whether straight or curved. Additional interest was achieved by sculpting the shingles into various patterns such as simulated fish scales, diamonds and concave and serrated shapes.

John Holman Mansion  1 Shingle Style

The John Holman mansion, built circa 1893 on West Chestnut Street in Lancaster, had a dominent gambrel roof, Palladian window and a rolled shingle window hood on its gable. It was designed by architect James H Warner. It's an example of the Victorian Shingle Style of design.

Lancaster’s two prominent architects of the late 19th century, C. Emlen Urban and James H. Warner, produced several exquisite Shingle style homes and public structures that embodied the principles and spirit of the popular style.

Both architects used stone or brick for the first-floor materials and married them with shingles for the second floor and roof elements.

The gable window found on the former West Chestnut Street residence of William H. Hager, built circa 1895, illustrates the sculpted effect that curved shingles can provide.

Similarly, the 1890 Lancaster Country Club designed by Warner demonstrates the seamless integration of roof and walls using shingles.

The style waned in popularity at the turn of the 20th century as the country turned its attention to the popularity of “revival” styles.

What windows were popular with Shingle style?

Similar to Queen Anne, sash windows consisting of one large pane on the bottom and smaller panes above were common.

What “Colonial” design elements were found on Shingle style buildings?

Palladian windows and Georgian details such as dentil molding were very common.

Why do so few examples remain in Lancaster County?

Unlike brick, cedar shingles for siding were not indigenous to the area and like the New England “summer cottages,” the Shingle style was reserved for the very wealthy.

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.

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