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Carpenter Gothic Architecture

  The Uniting Church at Narooma, New South Wales built 1914; Federation Carpenter Gothic architectural style  
Carpenter Gothic Shaw House in California Natchez, Mississippi- Overlooking the Mississippi River Allsaints Jensen Beach Southeast Florida
St Mary's Church, Townsville, Australia St Andrew's, Turramurra, Sydney, Australia Carpenter gothic Unitarian Universalists of San Mateo, California (built 1905) showing gothic arches, steep gables, and a tower. The tower includes examples of abat-sons.
The fanciful Gothic Revival style spread across North America via pattern books such as Andrew Jackson Downing's popular Victorian Cottage Residences (1842) and The Architecture of Country Houses (1850). Some builders lavished the fashionable Gothic details on otherwise modest wooden cottages.

Characterized by scrolled ornaments and lacy "gingerbread" trim, these small cottages are often called Carpenter Gothic.

Homes in the Carpenter Gothic style usually have these features:
Steeply pitched roof
Lacy bargeboards
Windows with pointed arches
One story porch
Asymmetrical floor plan
Some Carpenter Gothic homes have:
Steep cross gables
Bay and oriel windows
Vertical board and batten trim
Carpenter Gothic architecture is a style of architecture which became very popular in the United States in the mid-1800s. Numerous examples of Carpenter Gothic homes can be found in many regions of the United States, and some of them are on the National Register of Historic Places, reflecting their cultural value. Homes built in the Carpenter Gothic style can also be found outside the United States, especially in New Zealand and Australia, although they may be referred to more generally as “Gothic Revival” homes.

The Gothic Revival movement got its start in the 1700s, when architects began to play with themes from medieval architecture. In the United States, the Carpenter Gothic architecture genre was promoted by Alexander Jackson Davis, who put out a number of collections of house plans in the Carpenter Gothic style. He suggested that one of the selling points of this architectural style is that it could be used to make homes economically accessible to all classes, ranging from frothy confections for the wealthy to more austere homes for people with less money.

Several characteristics can be used to identify Carpenter Gothic architecture. The first is that this style tends to be confined to homes and churches, and the structures are made from wood. A typical Carpenter Gothic structure also has an asymmetrical floorplan, along with features like deep gables, towers, wraparound porches, pointed arched windows like those found in cathedrals, and an abundance of wooden scrollwork details. It is also common to see board and batten siding in Carpenter Gothic architecture, although this is by no means required.

One famous example of Carpenter Gothic architecture can be seen in the iconic painting American Gothic, illustrating the more plain end of the spectrum, but the peaked windows and steep gables characteristic of the style can be clearly seen. Carpenter Gothic architecture is also sometimes referred to as Rural Gothic, although plenty of Carpenter Gothic structures can be seen in more settled regions.

One reason that Carpenter Gothic Architecture took off was the development of the scroll saw, which allowed lumber companies to mass-produce scrolled woodwork. Prior to the development of steam-powered saws, this woodwork would have been carved by hand at tremendous expense; mass produced scrollwork made it possible to add decorative trim in lavish amounts to all sorts of homes. Turned woodwork also showed up indoors, on pillars, trim, and supportive beams, turning structures into works of art as well as functional buildings.

U.S. Domestic Use

The Gothic Revival style was based on the churches and homes of Europe in the Middles Ages and is considered the first true Victorian style. Sometimes called carpenter Gothic, these homes were often built by untrained builders from carpenter's pattern books. They have irregular pitched gable roofs, fanciful eave treatments, pointed arch windows, and sometimes elaborate Gothic ornamentation and details. Most Gothic styled residences were destroyed in the 1906 fire, but a few wooden churches survive. These are sometimes referred to as Victorian Carpenter Gothic.

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If a line of demarcation could be precisely drawn between contrived styles and vernacular architecture, Victorian Carpenter Gothic would have to be located close to that line. Carpenter Gothic, is seen as a style used for churches of modest size when economy of expenditure and simplicity of construction were important. It is, as the name suggests, an idiom which made great use of timber, demonstrating how the tradesman used, connected, expressed and embellished the various timber components of the building. Such embellishment as there was usually drew on shapes and patterns reminiscent of the contrived Victorian Gothic styles. Models for at least some Victorian Carpenter Gothic designs were provided by the Ecclesiological Society in England, which encouraged the development of timber church architecture in the South Pacific region.
The archetypal Carpenter Gothic building is a small, box-like church with a steeply pitched gabled roof of corrugated iron, standing in isolation beside a dirt road on the outskirts of a country town. The stud framing of the walls, complete with bracing and noggings, is exposed on the exterior of the building, the boarded lining being fixed to the inside face of the frame. Apart from a minuscule tower or belfry, the only non-functional decoration is found on the elaborately scalloped and pierced bargeboards, where this unpretentious timber version of Gothic acquires a surprising delicacy.
Quite often such buildings effortlessly achieved a genuinely architectural quality not always attained by more pretentious structures.