Two hundred years ago there were few architects to direct carpenters in the way to build a proper home. That was just fine. Homes in general were simple and carpenter architects paid a lot of attention to detail and proportion.There were books written by architects, that provided guidelines and formulas for the creation of homes, but those were a point of departure and did not anticipate every condition that the carpenter would encounter. Those early builders were trained well and took pride not only in the execution of their trade but also in the design of the buildings they created.
Few homes of that period have not been added onto over the centuries. The earliest additions almost universally were built well and are in keeping with the design and craftsmanship of the original home. Twenty-first century additions on the other hand, often are of poor quality materials, workmanship and design.When asked to renovate a period home, we find that much of the time, those later additions have deteriorated and must be removed.
I am always impressed with the ingenuity, and craftsmanship of those nineteenth century builders and the beauty and proportion of their work. There was a tradition of fine home building that only a few carpenters and contractors maintain today. For a wood and stone building to last 200 years, the details had to be right. Even without perfect maintenance, these beautiful homes survive and remind us that the places we live can have elegance and grace and be made to last centuries.
Photos courtesy of Historic American Buildings Survey