Architecture 101

Architectural Terminology

Bay – A building’s exterior vertical demarcation usually characterized by the building’s fenestration.
Belt Course – A projecting horizontal band of masonry that delineates building stories.
Bond – Refers to the various patterns of brickwork used in masonry construction.
Bracket – A projecting support typically located under an eave.
Dormer – Most commonly windows, a unit located along the roof slope that contains its own walls and roof.
Eave – That portion of the roof that extends beyond the wall junction.
Entablature – Located between the pediment and columns, it contains the architrave, frieze, and cornice.
Fanlight – A semicircular or semi-elliptical window with radial tracery, usually located above the entry door.
Fenestration – A building’s exterior window and door openings.
Flemish Bond – A brick pattern made of alternating headers and stretchers; in many cases the stretchers are glazed.
Gable – The triangular portion of an exterior wall created by the intersecting slopes of a pitched roof.
Lancette Window – A slender, pointed arch window.
Mansard Roof – A double-pitched roof. Lower portion is steeply pitched while upper portion is nearly flat. Named after Francois Mansart (1598 – 1666).
Pediment – A triangular, molded element typically located above doors, porticoes, or in the gable of a Greek Revival building.
Pilaster – A shallow, projecting, rectangular column attached to a wall.
Portico – A roofed entry porch supported by columns or pillars.
Transom – Small window(s) above the entry door, often rectangular.
Vergeboard (or Bargeboard) – An ornamented board located along the gable ends of the roof.
Water Table – A masonry ledge that projects from the first floor, near the foundation.

Nineteenth Century Architectural Style Reference

Georgian c. 1714 – 1800
An architectural style named after the Kings of England who ruled during this period, Georgian architecture is based on Renaissance classicism. Windows and doors are aligned vertically and horizontally on a (typically) symmetrical, side-gabled facade. Five and three bay facades are most common. Decorative features include water tables and belt courses and rectangular transom lights above panelled entry doors. Masonry construction typified this style in the Mid-Atlantic states.

Federal c. 1785 – 1830
Also known as Adamesque, the Federal style is similar to Georgian in fenestration pattern and materials, but exhibits more elaborate door surrounds and window details. These often include a semi-elliptical fanlight above the entry door and rectangular side lights on either side of the door. In many examples, the entrance is further highlighted by a small porch or portico.

Greek Revival c. 1820 – 1860
Arising out of the desire to associate with Greek ideals of democracy, interest in Grecian archaeological discoveries of the early 19th century, and empathy for Greece as she struggled for her independence from Turkey (1821-1830), the Greek Revival style is marked by the use of temple motifs such as columns or pilasters, entablature, and pediments. Although symmetrically proportioned like its predecessors, Greek Revival structures are often gable-front buildings.

Gothic Revival c. 1835- 1870
Promoted as a rural style by America’s earliest pattern books (Andrew Jackson Downing’s Cottage Residences and The Architecture of Country Houses), the Gothic Revival style emphasized wide porches, multiple gables, decorative vergeboards, and lancet windows.

Italianate c. 1850 – 1885
Typified by a low-pitched hipped roof, tall and narrow windows, wide eaves with heavy bracketing, and often two to three stories in height, the Italianate style was also found in pattern books of the mid-nineteenth century, but eventually superceded the Gothic Revival in popularity.

Second Empire c. 1860 – 1890
A mansard roof, usually with dormers and heavily bracketed eaves categorizes this style. This style allowed for the full use of the uppermost floor by boxing in the attic story.

Queen Anne c. 1880 – 1910
Breaking away from symmetry altogether, the Queen Anne style is marked by several different gable orientations and often includes a tower component, bay windows, wall projections, as well as a partial, full-width, or wrap-around one story porch