Carpenter Gothic, also sometimes called Carpenter's Gothic, and Rural Gothic, is a North American architectural style-designation for an application of Gothic Revival architectural detailing and picturesque massing applied to wooden structures built by house-carpenters. The abundance of North American timber and the carpenter-built vernacular architectures based upon it made a picturesque improvisation upon Gothic a natural evolution. Carpenter Gothic improvises upon features that were carved in stone in authentic Gothic architecture, whether original or in more scholarly revival styles; however, in the absence of the restraining influence of genuine Gothic structures, the style was freed to improvise and emphasize charm and quaintness rather than fidelity to received models. The genre received its impetus from the publication by Alexander Jackson Davis, Rural Residences and from detailed plans and elevations in publications by Andrew Jackson Downing.
Carpenter Gothic houses and small churches became common in North America in the late nineteenth century. These structures adapted Gothic elements such as pointed arches, steep gables, and towers to traditional American light-frame construction. The invention of the scroll saw and mass-produced wood moldings allowed a few of these structures to mimic the florid fenestration of the High Gothic. But in most cases, Carpenter Gothic buildings were relatively unadorned, retaining only the basic elements of pointed-arch windows and steep gables. Probably the best known example of Carpenter Gothic is the house in Eldon, Iowa, that Grant Wood used for the background of his famous painting American Gothic.
Carpenter Gothic structures are typically found in most parts of the U.S., and in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime Provinces in Canada. In British Columbia, the remarkable Church of the Holy Cross, Skatin is a Canadian national historic site. A campaign is underway to restore it to its former glory. Also in British Columbia is the Church of Our Lord, built in 1874 in Victoria.
St. Luke's, Cahaba, Alabama has had an interesting history of moves. In 1876, due to the danger of flooding in Cahaba, it was dismantled and moved from its original location 25 miles or so to Browns where it was reassembled. In 2006-2007, it was carefully dismantled by students from Auburn University and moved back to Cahaba, where it is now being reassembled by the students on the Cahaba State Historic Site not too far from its original location.
Local color: five custom projects show the range of architectural styles--from craftsman to cottage to carpenter gothic--that are right at home anywhere in the United States.(Cover Story)
Feb 01, 2004; THE LAST 20 YEARS HAVE SEEN THE LINES BLUR somewhat when it comes to regional architectural styles. Home buyers are as likely to...