Monday, September 15, 2014

Early Architecture and History in the Valley

2014 Deyerle Lecture Series

Early Architecture and History in the Valley

                On Thursday, October 2, at 7:00 pm, the Massanutten Regional Library will host the first of our lectures of the 14th annual Deyerle series, sponsored by the family of the late Dr. Henry P. Deyerle. The focus of the series is the Heritage of the Shenandoah Valley. The topic for 2014 is Architecture and History of houses in Rockingham County prior to the Civil War.
      The first lecture is an overview of architectural and construction characteristics common to Valley houses built between 1750 and 1850.  Ann Terrell Baker will be the speaker.  Ms. Baker is the author of Old Houses in Rockingham County Revisited, 1750-1850 (2000).  She will present a pictorial history on some of the houses discussed in the book.  Terrell’s book is an updated and expanded version of the volume published in 1970 by her father, Isaac Long “Jimmy” Terrell, titled Old Houses in Rockingham County, 1750-1850.  Both books are available at the Library.

While architectural style is subjected to “fads,” architectural interpretation is largely dependent on means, materials, and manpower at the location of construction.    One unique style does define early architecture in Rockingham County.  The styles found in the County were those brought by German settlers from Pennsylvania, English settlers from the Tidewater, and Scotch-Irish who traveled up the Valley.   Architectural styles of the early pioneers were remarkably similar wherever one went along the seaboard.  In this research no architect has been associated with or identified in Rockingham County during the period 1750-1850; however, a study of the houses reveals common architectural patterns.  (Note:  Scans of floor plans and some information are from Isaac Terrell’s book.)
Pioneer House

The basic and often first house of a settler was patterned in the pioneer style, which consisted, at a minimum, of one room with one fireplace.  Some structures had a pitched roof
making space under the eaves for storage or sleeping areas, which was reached by a ladder or by a circular staircase in a corner of the room.  An ell might be added at the rear of this room for storage.  If a fireplace was built in this addition, it was also used for cooking.  A house located on a slope could be dug-out for an additional room, and if a spring was there, it could be used as a fort against the Indians.  Construction materials were those at hand – stones and logs.  Though logs were used prior to 1750, what we think of as traditional chinked-log construction was introduced into the Valley by the Scotch-Irish in the mid-1700s.  As a pioneer prospered the original small houses were often added-on to with larger, grander extensions.

German Style House

            A German-style house is distinguished by its central stone chimney.  The center chimney could heat as many as six rooms by angling the hearths, but usually heated four rooms.  Windows were on all sides of the house and, near an entry, a circular staircase led to the upper rooms.  The original house was enlarged either with rear ells or longitudinal additions.  In the latter type of additions one often notices non-symmetric-placed chimneys and a second “front” door, which might indicate a private entrance for another related family in these multi-generational houses.  The English settlers did not adopt the German-style; so seeing a residence with these style characteristics tells you that the original owner was of German descent.

English Style House

            The English style house is recognized by the chimneys placed each end of the house.  If the house is more than one room deep, the chimneys are doubled.   The other notable feature of this style is the central hallway running the depth of the house.  The shape of the house is rectangular and is usually two stories tall with attic space.  If the house was built on a slope as with the other style houses, storage space was located there and perhaps a summer kitchen.  The formal side of English–style houses had four windows and a center door on the first level and five openings across the second level.  The usual room arrangements were 2 on 2, 3 on 3, or 4 on 4.  Construction materials used were stone, wood, or brick.  The brick was often made in kilns on or near the property, and laid, at least on the formal side of the house, in Flemish bond.

Georgian and Federal Styles

            Over the years as settlers prospered many of the earlier houses in Rockingham County took on a grand exterior or were built on a plantation style with imposing columned entrances.  Owners often took to describing their homes as Federal or as Georgian style.  What is the difference?  Not much.  Often it depends on which side of the ocean one wanted to use as a vantage point.  In the United States, Federal style is post-Colonial from the years 1780 to 1830 and design is associated with ancient democracies – hence the neo-classical style, also.  In Britain and America, Georgian-style is associated with of the reigns of the four Georges particularly in the period from 1730 to 1800.  One way to distinguish Georgian from Federal other than date is that the Georgian house had a plainer surface.   In the United States students of architecture learn to distinguish both Federal and Georgian architecture from other styles as “five, four and a door.”

The Other 2014 Deyerle Lectures

Following the introductory lecture by Ann Terrell Baker, owners and restorers of three exceptional Valley houses will guide the audience through the considerations and challenges of preserving and maintaining an “old house” while being respectful of the decisions of previous owners.  The first property presented, on October 9, is Bogota.  Rachel Lilly, the current resident of this house, will take the audience on an architectural and historical tour of the property whose main feature is the 1845 English-styled plantation house built by Jacob Strayer.   From the upper front balcony of Bogota the family viewed, and later described, the Civil War battle of Port Republic on June 8 and 9, 1862.  Of interest, in addition to the original architectural features, is a pictorial time-line showing modifications to the property and the adaptive-use made to some of the dependencies on the property. 

On October 16, Dr. Paul J. Murphy owner of Rosendale will describe the evolution of this property near the Rockingham-Shenandoah County line.  The oldest part of this house is a 1790 log structure, to which additions were added over the years.  Rosendale is associated with the development of education and agriculture in the region.  Joseph Salyards, the prominent local educator in the mid-1800’s, ran the Smith Creek Seminary from Rosendale.  Also, during the middle of the 19th century, the owner of Rosendale, George W. Rosenberger, was well-known for his pioneering husbandry, especially of cattle.

Shelvie Carr, the owner of Maplewood, will lecture on October 23.  Since 1981, the Carrs have owned the 1759 house near Singers Glen.  The small original house of Archibald Hopkins is now an “ell”  between two larger, later additions.   The Archibald Hopkins family owned the property until 1877 when it passed to the Chrisman family.  The restoration of this house is ongoing.  Mrs. Carr is careful to document and photograph her findings during deconstruction and subsequent preservation of original features, which she will share with the audience. 

The Massanutten Regional Library invites you to these lectures beginning on October 2.  Each presenter will discuss the architectural features of the property with photographs.  Additional historical context related the properties and Rockingham County will appear in the Reference blogs during this series.

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