Friday, November 1, 2013

Luykas Van Alen House, 1737, Kinderhook, NY, Part 4 of 4

In January and February, 2012, I wrote about the geometry of the Luykas Van Alen House.
The daisy wheel of circle geometry fit the plan and elevations - mostly. The right hand side didn't work. Or rather, I didn't see a consistent geometry.
To see the earlier posts, search using 'Van Alen'. 

Since then I have toured the house twice.

Once arriving early, I had a private  tour with a knowledgeable docent. After the tour she handed me a 2" thick report on the house and left me happily engaged as she gave the next tour.

The house has been measured at least 2 more times since the HABS  documentation in 1934, and the field notes of Gerald Watland and MC Hopping in 1958. Each time the chimney configuration  on the north end of the house - the right end in the drawings - is slightly different. Recently the exterior chimney visible in the field notes has been removed along with the English fireplace.
The drawing here is from Watland and Hopping's field notes reproduced in John Steven's Dutch Vernacular Architecture in North  America, 1640-1830.
Note that it shows a traditional Dutch fireplace whereas the HABS drawing shows the later, remodeled English fireplace.

 Click on the drawings to enlarge them.

Where might the original wall have been?

I have 2 suggestions. Both are shown on the second drawing.
1) The circle geometry - shown in red - used for the first wing (see Part 1) if rotated 90* could have been used to determine the north foundation wall before the firebox was rebuilt.
2) A 3-4-5 triangle - shown in green - might also have been used. It fits quite well.

The family history says the north wing was added or rebuilt to be living space when the son and his family joined the father. If the foundation was already here, as shed space, then the fireplace and flue would have been added to the existing masonry.
If the wing dates from the arrival of the son, the questions are: How did the builder make it square? How did he fix the proportions when the left wing was already there? To use the same circle geometry he would have had to set the radius. He could have done that by locating the center of the circle from the corners of the existing foundation. The length of that wall is the radius.
Or he could have relied on the 3-4-5 triangle to get his corners square.

Once the foundation is in place the next step is the first floor framing.
Here is the geometry:
Shown in red: The circles based on the interior width of the house determine the wall between the hall and the parlor, the north wall and the location of the floor beam in the hall.  The center lines -'a' and 'c' - locate the wall between the left and right wings and the wall at the parlor. The intersections - 'b' and 'd' - locate the hall floor beam and the edge of the exterior wall.
Shown in green: -The parlor needed closer framing. The space, a 3-4-5 rectangle, is divided in 4 parts which determine the beam locations - 'e' .

Finally the window placement:

Here the 3-4-5 triangle determines the size of the space, the location of the windows and door, maybe even the depth of the side walls of the English hearth. That may be later. If so not a valid dimension. Here the red lines show the 3-4-5 triangles, the green: a right triangle (half a square). The dotted black line is the center line through the wing.

Monday, October 21, 2013

C. 1825 workman's cottage, north of Boston

This small house, built about 1825, was one of several built on a country road across from a factory.
Today a park has replaced the factory. The house is in-town. Over the years wings have been added on 3 sides. I have cropped the photograph in order to focus on the original  house.

The post and beam frame includes recycled beams. 2 have beaded edges - probably recycled from the best room of a pre-1760 house.

Here is its section - a slice through the house showing its basic layout.

Here is the 3-4-5 triangle used to determine the size and location of the walls, the pitch (angle) of the roof                       

Here is the 3-4-5 triangle used to locate the 2nd floor joists and the ceiling joists.
The dot and dash triangle determines the height of the collar ties (ceiling joists). Its
vertical leg crosses the first triangle at the location of the second floor. The second floor window locations are also set by this line.
All this also makes me think that the house frame was laid out in the traditional way, on a flat space called a framing yard and then dismantled and re-erected on site. Contractors lay out rafters in this same way today as they frame a roof.  They use the floor of the house just below the roof as their framing yard.

Here is the floor plan. I've noted the chimneys. The lathe and plaster box around the lower one includes modern plumbing, heating and electrical systems.

And here is how the 3-4-5 triangle was used to layout the floor plan. Just as the exterior sills and walls were placed inside the box determined  by the triangle, so the beams on either side of the stair were placed inside the box. The walls, set above the beams, are on the inside edge.

The chimney locations are set by the triangle, but the windows on the opposite wall are not. They are centered on the rooms.

The windows on the side walls are located by a square -  in green - based on the shortest leg of the triangle.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Cobbler's house north of Boston, c. 1840 - Part 3 of 4

I have just finished writing about the Arnold House: how it uses the 3-4-5 triangle as a regulating principal and how it is almost but is not the same as the Golden Section.

If you don't know what that is, please read the posts on the Arnold House. Thank you.

I said the same thing about this house: it 'almost used Circle Geometry', but didn't. I realized I needed to look again.

I do love the grace of the Golden Section and Circle Geometry.
But look at how the 3-4-5 triangle fits.
(A)  marks the diagonal of the rectangle created by the 3-4-5 triangle. It's half the house. The other side matches it.
(B) marks the corner of the smaller room on the right, its size determined by the triangle. The larger rectangle forms half of the house footprint. The room's proportions are determined by the proportions of the house itself.
The back wing, a rectangle that matches the 2 front sections, is a little longer. (C) shows how the extra space is determined by half a 3-4-5 rectangle.

I rather hoped the end elevation wouldn't fit the pattern!
It does.
(A) shows the rectangle created by 2  3-4-5  triangles. It fits the size of the house, easily giving the master carpenter the dimensions he needed for post and beams. It even determines the roof pitch! Not a 9/12 or a 10/12 pitch, ratios commonly used today, but the 3-4-5 triangle.

However, the floor heights, the window placement, the elevations still seem determined by both circle geometry and the Golden Section.

The house's outline - its footprint, height and roof pitch - do seem governed by the triangle.

How nice it would be if I could teleport back to 1840, watch the house-wright at work, and ask questions!

My great thanks to Jay Cougar White Cloud for his good questions that pushed me to consider the simplicity of  framing with the 3-4-5 triangle.

For the next post, and a more thorough analysis of the house click here:

Arnold House, Westfield, Massachusetts - Part 2

Here is the Arnold House around 1933.

And below is the measured drawing of the front done at the same time for the Historic American Building survey, a project of the WPA. The drawings and picture are available at the HABS website.

In the upper left corner of the drawing I have added the 3-4-5 triangle with its 90*, right angle. To see why I think this house was designed using that ratio see the previous post, Arnold House, Part 1. Click on the illustrations to enlarge.

On the left side I have drawn in red dashed lines the 3-4-5 triangle using the first floor as the base and the ceiling of the second floor as the top. A house-wright would have used that line to determine his top plate. See (A).

The center of the  resultant rectangle is marked by the red 'x'. The 'x' is the location of the second floor beam.
The right hand edge of the rectangle is the edge for the door, telling the framer where to locate the rough opening. The windows and doors do not appear to be determined by the elevation, but by the plan. See my earlier post on the Arnold House - Part 1.

As drawn on the right side - see (B) a red dash and dot line - the space on either side of the door is a square. But the windows are not symmetrical within the box. I tried using the Golden Section. It doesn't fit. Circle geometry - here a circle based on the square - almost fits: several inches too large.

Here I used the 'face' of the house clapboard from foundation to eaves, as I think the concern of the master carpenter would have shifted from framing to presentation - how the house appears to the community.

Two squares with the arcs from their circles would have fit across the front of the house, meeting at the middle of the front door IF the house had been 9" longer - 40 ft, not 39'-3", a true 3-4-5 rectangle. Was the foundation not true? The house-wright inexperienced or lax? If the wood was green would it have shrunk 9"? Or?

For reference I have added a diagram of a square with the circle whose radius is half the square's diagonal.

This house is no longer there. I would very much like to be able to see it,walk through the rooms, sense the proportions. I want to know if it feels differently because the ratio is mathematic, not geometric.

The 3-4-5 triangle is not the Root-Two Rectangle. The diagram here shows the difference geometrically : the triangle is marked off in red, the ratio (a square and the length of it's diagonal) in black.

 In algebraic language : (a x a) + (b x b) = (c x c)
                            (3 x 3) + (4 x 4) = (5 x 5)  or   9 + 16 = 25

For the Root-Two Rectangle to equal the triangle, if the side were 3 then  the diagonal of the square would have to equal 4. It doesn't.
                    (3 x 3) + (3 x 3) = 18   the square root of 18 is about 4.25

I think the evidence is too strong that the house-wright was using the  3-4-5 triangle to put together a traditional looking house. The fact that circle geometry almost works is just that - it is almost the same. But it isn't.

updated 12/31/15

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Arnold House, Westfield, Massachusetts - Part 1

The Arnold House,Westford, Mass. c. 1800, was measured by Edward E. Jordan for the Historic American Building Survey.
On the first HABS sheet is written: "Note: house partly destroyed by fire during winter of 1933-34." I know very little about the house or the family. Probably the builder was Joseph Arnold who died in 1823.

While I was thinking about how this house was laid out, a friend asked if I had ever seen the 3-4-5 triangle used for design. Like the circle and the square it is independent of fixed dimensions. It is simply a ratio that always produces a right (90*) angle.

I had not seen it, but I began to pay attention.

So - look at this house. Click on illustrations to enlarge.
Note the outside dimensions -
 30'-6"  by  39'-3".
For a wood frame, post and beam, hand hewn house that's close enough to 30ft. and 40 ft. So for the 3-4-5 triangle the diagonal across the house, (A), should be about 50 feet long. It is.

Then look at (B), the diagonals of the front rooms. The same angle gives the dimension of the parlor. The diagonal (B) in the Living Room is not as clean, but still defines the size of the fire places and chimneys and the post location at the rear of the house. (C) determines the post location in the Dining Room.

The 3-4-5 ratio also gives the locations of the windows, at least one door and the size of the Room behind the Parlor.
Here I have added what I think was the original back wall of the Parlor for clarity (X). I have also used a red line with a dot for the rectangles created and the center lines of the doors and windows
(D) shows the Parlor window placement on the side directly on the center of the room, the front windows equidistant from the center.
(E) shows the window spacing in the Living Room determined by the rectangle turned on its side
(F) places the center line for the Dining Room window and door at the edge of the rectangle.
(G) determines the size of the Room behind the Parlor and the location of the stairs.

Next I will post the front elevation and add some ideas I have about the house design.

Monday, June 17, 2013

cobbler's house north of Boston, c. 1840 Part 2 of 4

Note: I have extensively revised the posts on this house. I thought at first circle geometry had been used even though it didn't quite fit. Then I tried using the 3/4/5 proportions of a right triangle. Those proportions do work. The new post can be found here: .
I have left this post because of its introduction to the house and the floor plan with circles.

Here is the farm house, a story and a half cape, the contemporary shape for 1840, but in the old fashioned pattern: center entrance, 2 windows on each side.

Its first owner is listed as a cobbler. There is a spot to the side of the house where a very small work shop probably stood. He may have made shoes for the community or done piece work for a jobber who took the work to a factory in a near by town. Often men worked in the shop  while women did similar work in the house.

In 1837, the market for wool which had made fortunes for New England farmers,- including the farms in this neighborhood - disappeared. Australia could produce wool cheaper. A 'Panic' ensued  - today we would call it a depression.

So the owner of this house was cautious and frugal. The house is small. Its windows are tiny with 27" x 22' sash - the part that goes up and down - in an era when most sash were about 30" x 30".

In my last post I wondered if my measurements were off. So I checked, redrew very carefully, and then laid out the circle geometry: 2 circles with the same radius, each circumference running though the center of the other. My last post includes a diagram of this.

It is off, just barely. If the house were 4" smaller the circles would overlap as they should on their centers.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Cobbler's house north of Boston, c. 1840 Part 1 of 4

This post was definitely a work in progress. For some of the answers please see the next posts, especially Part 4.
 I have kept this post because it shows how the different geometries are almost the same, and how they were used in similar ways.
The new post can be found here: 

Here is a simple farm house c.1840, about 40 miles north of and 10 years newer than the house in the last post.

I know the house quite well, and have measured it.
 Please click on the pictures to enlarge them.

As is clear in the photograph it is well sited, with graceful proportions, a late Georgian cottage at a time when more urban houses were Greek Revival. The shutters are updates.
It is in the Merrimack River watershed, as is the Locke Tavern  - see previous posts. I wondered if  the Golden Section used by the Tavern had perhaps migrated with a house wright up river to be used here.  Or whether the builder used a variation of circle geometry, or maybe, due to the advent of the Industrial Revolution, neither.

The floor plan shows the main  house with walls and stair. The back wing is indicated only by its exterior walls since the inside has been extensively remodeled. It was probably a summer kitchen, shed and storage space, the covered way to the barn. There is no fireplace. A chimney was most likely beside the stair. A modern stack is now outside the original footprint.

When I think about the geometry I also think about the owner and the house-wright. This small house has 7 ft. ceilings on the first floor and little windows. It lacks the frills the owner would have seen on other houses in the neighborhood and on trips to market. So I think the geometry used would have matched the house: bare and simple.

The 2 circle pattern works here. The circles are within the frame. I think of the framer, knowing how deep the house would be, laying out the circles in his framing yard to determine its length and height. The interconnection of the proportions gives the house its grace.

 The intersection of the circles - the vesica piscis - is the middle of the house, the position of the front door - see 'a'. It also determines the width of the back wing - see 'a' - and the front windows' placement - see 'b' .
I have drawn one of the squares which fits around the circles - the green x.  The front hall walls and the left front windows - see 'd' in green - seem determined by the intersection of the diagonal of the square and the the circle. The side window - see 'e' in green - is centered by the circle and the square.
The shed's width follows the  geometry of the main house, but its length doesn't quite - Two of the windows in the shed seem to determined by the circles' intersections - see 'c' in red.

 I wonder if my dimensions are off: the house is swathed in vinyl. The main wing has been expanded which makes accurate measurement of the original size somewhat problematic. The back wing has been rebuilt at least twice in the last 170 years. The length of the wing is off by about 12". If my circles are 4" too small, or I've missed the extra thickness of a plumbing wall, the geometry fits.   
Or as I found out, I was using the wrong geometry!

Unlike the 1830's house which used one geometry for the plan, another for the elevation, this house uses the same pattern for both. Here is the side elevation with dot and dash lines to indicate 1st and 2nd floors.

 The red circles are the two circle configuration that was used for the floor plan. Here the intersection of the circles marks the height of the front and back walls, the beginning of the roof. The center of the circle marks the placement of the 2nd floor; the top of the circle, the collar ties for the roof.

I am not sure how the roof pitch and the ridge were determined. I have rejected several possibilities as being too complex for this simple house. This one may the answer:
 The top of the wall , which is also the centerline of the vesica piscis, is obviously the beginning of the roof , therefore, one point - see 'a'. If the square of the house is  divided in half and a diagonal drawn -  see green square, rectangle and diagonal -  a second point is determined by the intersection of the diagonal and the circle  - 'b' in green. The line through 'a' and 'b' is the roof slope, about a '9/12 pitch' in modern terms.

Does the geometry determine the design or the structure? In this case I think both.

Why doesn't this geometry show up in the pattern books? Was it just something that was common knowledge? Or was it passed from master to apprentice as privileged knowledge?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

1830's cottage north of Boston, Part 2

This is an update to the post about the floor plan of this house written in August, 2010.

 Last week I realized that the builder of this cottage would probably have used the same kind of geometry for the elevations that he used for  the floor plan.

This is an obvious observation. Really! Makes me roll my eyes to know that it only took me 3 years to figure this out!
It is clear from the photograph that the house has been expanded over the years. The siding was 'updated' about 40 years ago. My diagrams refer only to the part of the house under the gable, to the right.

So here are the diagrams and drawings - click to enlarge:

The floor plan is shown with the complete daisy wheel for reference. The main rectangle of the house plan is determined by where 4 petals of the daisy touch the circle; the wing's size determined by the arcs of 2 of the outer circles. This is a straight forward use of circle geometry. The elevations use a slightly different pattern.

The side elevation measure by me and drawn to scale:

The circle geometry I think the builder used for the elevations:
The upper diagram shows 2 circles intersecting - the outside of each touches the center of the other. The place where the circles overlap is called a vesica piscis ('fish bladder' in Latin). The red line bisects the vesica piscis.
The lower diagram shows one circle with 4 circles intersecting it, creating 4 intersecting vesicae piscis. The red lines are only partially shown for clarity.
The diagrams show how the shape and dimensions of the elevation were determined.

On the elevation the circle is the same size as that used for the floor plan. Its radius is the length of the wall. It surrounds the house. Its center is the fat red line between the second floor windows. The upper circle is drawn in full, but only part of the lower circle is shown. The lines through the vesicae piscis determine the peak of the roof, the center of the first floor windows.
I have drawn only part of one of the circles on the sides, the left one. The vesica piscis there follows  the wall of the house.
 Note that the center of the main circle not only positions the 2nd floor windows but also marks the square of the wall, the top of which is where the builder will set his rafters.The square is outlined in green. The circle which determined the floor plan, its dimensions, is also used to determine dimensions of the elevations.

for part 1 see:
for Part 3 see:

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Reading House, c. 1795, Part 2: Plan

Here is the house -  about 5 years ago . 
When the owners finish working on it, I'll photograph it again.

Its form - 2 stories, one room deep, 2 rooms wide with a center entrance - was by 1790, a design in use for over 100 years.

Over that time placement of the chimneys and the fireplaces had changed, first to the center and then to the rear of of each side - allowing a central hall where the chimney had been -  as is seen here.

The original floor plan is seen in the Locke Tavern, c. 1740 -to the right.  It has its 2 fireplaces and central chimney in the center behind the stair. The plan consists of 2 equal squares - on the right side in red  - and a square rear wing to the lower left.

Note the location of the corner windows -'d' - determined by the diagonal and the arc of the length of the side of the square.

The plan of the Reading house, 50 years later, is also made up of 2 squares -in red. The placement of the outside windows on the front facade - see 'a' - is similar to the Locke Tavern placement on the side walls – ‘d’.  The second windows in both houses seem to be set by how the house will look from the outside, not how a room will feel inside. Or the rectangle may have determined framing dimensions. The appearance might have been secondary, as it was traditional and what was expected.  .  

The placement of the chimneys and the center hall has complicated the relationships. The front hall requires enough width for a stair and passage to the back wing, about 8 feet. The fireplaces make the rooms shallower than the box of the house suggests from the outside. The square and its proportions needs to be adjusted, tweaked. The contractor and I know from working on the house that the hall is bound on each side by 8”x8” beams. This is not seem in the rhythms of the exterior, but does create the square rooms on both floors.

The first floor formal room  - the top room - is square, its fireplace centered on the back wall. However,the second front window is not quite within the symmetry of the first by about 3 inches.  The side window does sit on the center line of the square of the room -see 'c' in green - on both sides.
The room below - outlined in green - is 3 inches longer in one direction than the other. It has a cooking fireplace with a brick oven on the right side. The front windows are almost symmetrical to each other, but not quite: off again by a few inches. They also don't quite sit on the lines dividing the room into the parts of the rectangle -see 'b' in green. The small squares within the larger one which seem to define the window placement on the exterior -  see previous post - seem not to be part of the interior layout.

Nevertheless, the rooms are lovely. They feel fine. Why?
I think the symmetry overrides our ability to see the imbalance. And the imbalance is too small.
I have measured many rooms in old houses that feel symmetrical but are not. While a row of  paintings hug with uneven spacing would be immediately noticed, somehow we have trouble distinguishing 3 inches of difference at the scale of a room. Surprisingly, 4 inches of difference is obvious, easy to catch.

  To read about the design of the front entrance, see my '1795 House' posts from late 2009 through early 2010.

12/31/15: updated

Reading, MA, House c. 1795, Part 1: Window Placement

In 2009,  I was asked to replicate the entrance in this photograph. The  house in Reading, Massachusetts, c. 1795, had lost the original front door, fanlight, columns and architrave in the 1950's.

I found then that the regulating lines of the house told me what the dimensions of the entrance should be and determined the curve of the fanlight.

Recently I realized I had not looked at the placement of the windows in this house. I wondered if the proportions here would match those of the Locke Tavern.
The basic pattern is similar: a square on each side of the front door, the entry dimension determined by the diagonal ( the Root 2 Rectangle). The windows for both houses are balanced around the center of the squares. Did the master carpenters, the house wrights, use the same regulating lines?

Not quite. The Locke Tavern elevation shows the diagonal and the arc marking the center line for the windows. The Reading house elevation shows that the intersection of those lines - 'a' in red on the left side  - doesn't seem to mark anything.

However, the square divided in half -'b' in green on the left side - determines the top of the windows.
The right side shows the large square divided into 4, the length of the side of the smaller squares laid out as an arc,
The intersection of the two falls is the vertical center line for the width of the windows - 'c' in green on the right side. Then notice how the horizontal center line - 'd' in green on the right side - determines the center line for the height of the windows, both on the first and second floors.

The settlers in Reading came from Berkshire, England. They named their new town after Berkshire's county seat.The settlers in Andover, 10 miles north and the location of the Locke Tavern, came from Hampshire, England, the county next door to Berkshire. Did they have different framing traditions? Could the house wrights have come from other parts of England and been trained in other layout methods? Or did the method for designing the 1740 elevation in Andover evolve over 55 years to produce the elevation in Reading in 1795?

I inch along with this...finding the lines for one building, then finding the next building uses the geometry differently. I think I've solved a riddle, but discover another. I have deliberately focused on  designing (layout), not framing - although I am quite sure they are intertwined.
I do trust my eye. I feel the proportions. When I find the lines that validate that feeling I laugh! Joy!  I post so that others can see the ideas and continue the exploration.

To read more about that design see my '1795 House' posts from late 2009 through early 2010.

12/31/15: I have corrected my post.
The ratio used here is often referred to as the Root-Two Rectangle as it derives from the diagonal of a square.
I doubt the carpenters laying out this work used that name - it's cumbersome. Unfortunately  we do  not know what they called that ratio or any of the others.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Locke Tavern - part 3 of 4

The front elevation of the Locke Tavern has 5 windows across on the second floor and 2 on either side of the front door on the first floor.  This is the standard look of a 'Colonial' house. 
So why do I recognize immediately that this is an old house, not a modern reproduction?
Before I began to measure and draw the geometry of these houses, I would have said, "It feels right".  I could have cited the window sizes, the clapboard width, the casings and the corner boards, the space between the top of the windows and the eaves, etc... but I couldn't have discussed the shape.

However, now I also see the proportions of the facade, how the windows were placed symmetrically around the center of  each square side of the house and were set to reinforce that shape.
I have added the lines that show this on the elevation. They are the Regulating Lines for this house.

I have drawn the arcs only on one side - in green - for simplicity - it's getting crowded!

To help explain this here is a square and its diagonal - in blue. The radii of the arcs - in red and green - are the length of the side. The point of intersection is where the arc crosses the diagonal - one side in red, the other in green. The resulting lines - red and green center lines - are the locations for the windows. The ratio between the side (a-a') and its length thus divided (a-b, b-a')  is the Golden Section.

 It still "feels right." Now, however, I follow the rhythms. I see the pattern.
  I can even tell you about it, although maybe not without paper!

The relationships on the side elevation are not pure. While the room  to the left does follow the pattern. The window placement for right square doesn't 'compute'.
The windows are, however, balanced across the length of the wall.

I looked at the floor plan -

The placement of the windows on the front of the house - to the right -  so clear in the proportions of the elevations, is not echoed the floor plan - none of the windows line up with the proportions of the plan. The west windows - lower right room - are clearly determined by the diagonals: the room has balance. But those in the back - left - room: one does, one doesn't.

I wonder if perhaps the 2 squares which make up the plan were mainly used to determine the foundation, the center of the support for the fireplaces and chimneys, but not the framing or the window layout.

As a check, I laid out the geometry on the 1/4"=1'0" measured drawings for this house. The proportions remain just as clear.  
Please remember when you look at the drawings that exterior shutters were not in use in New England until after the 1820's. They are an addition  - not part of the original design.  

Friday, February 15, 2013

Locke Tavern geometry, part 2 of 4

The geometry of the Locke Tavern is based on the square, but it is interesting to see how the circle that fits around the square was used.

On the front facade, I have labeled the circles 'c' . The length of half the diagonal is the radius of the circle. The edge of the circle determines the space between the two squares, how the squares relate to each other. It is also where the front door is.
The men who updated the house in the 1790's clearly recognized the original pattern: they worked with it, using the square's diagonal to determine the size of their additions.

This is not design based on the 6 part geometry of the Daisy Wheel. The layout may have begun with a circle, but its use seems subservient to the square.
We know that house-wrights brought their knowledge with them from not just the 'old country' but specifically from their old neighborhood. And they passed their way of building on to their apprentices. Differences based on the origin of the colonists are visible in timber framing, barn and house layout. They are also visible in little things, like the shape of trunnels - the wood pegs that hold mortise and tendons together. Is this another regional variation?

On the floor plan the arc of the square -marked 'c' - of the smaller room to the left includes the chimney stack.

So, is that fireplace part of the 1740 house?
The room needed heat. But in cold New England fireplaces were never built outside the frame, even in half houses, where the second part came later.
Was there a little entry to the left, since enlarged?

I doubt this room was part of an earlier house (that the front is a newer wing) as it lacks southern orientation.

All this, of course, makes me wish I knew more about the construction of that part of the house and its foundation.
Ah, the joy of being present when things are taken apart!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Locke Tavern geometry, part 1 of 4

Here is the Locke Tavern, Andover, MA.
It is thought to have been built about 1740, maybe before 1700, expanded about 1790. George Washington stopped for breakfast here on his Farewell Tour.

For more history:

The measured drawing is the first floor plan of the original 1740 house: 3 main rooms with a center chimney, and a rear lean-to. I show here the way I believe the 1740 house was laid out: in three squares - drawn in red. It is a very straight forward design.
The room shown by the blue squares - shown by their diagonals and marked 'b' - may have had a salt box roof on that side with a third fireplace leaning against the main stack. It has no basement. Many similar houses have basements only under their front section. Back sheds like this regularly morphed into living spaces.

The house reflects what I see here. The moldings and framing, the low ceiling, central chimney, front stair, the tight space between the roof and the second floor windows, are typical of 1740 construction north of Boston. The small rear space has been upgraded many times. As the house is repaired more information may be uncovered. If so I will add it here.

The basement follows the original footprint. The stone work under the wing - the smaller square to the left - is part of the original house. The only concern for me is that the fireplace in that room and its chimney are outside the shape. Why?

The  elevations show the same pattern - squares for the 1740 layout - the diagonals marked 'a'. The squares leave space  for the front door. I thought a square with sides the same length as in the floor plan might be used for the height, but that length doesn't work.
How was the size for the new 1790 front entry determined? The diagonal of the square was extended on both squares. The space between them gave the width of the entry. For clarity I have drawn only one (marked in blue with 'b'). The dimensions across the base, marked 'a-a' and 'b-b', are the Golden Section. I find myself delighted to see that the additions were proportional to the original design.

The 1790 improvements included changing the roof  to a hip from a gable. The chimney stayed where it was, of course. The ridge which needs to be in the center of the roof  moved from in front of the chimney stack to behind it.
The front entrance and side entrances with  classic columns and pediments, the rear rooms (second floor) were added.  Larger windows replaced the originals - inside they feel almost too big for the rooms.

Here on the side elevation the squares - in red - and the diagonal - 'b' in blue, left - determine the size of  the entry and back closets, maybe the fireplace as well. I have drawn in an arc - 'b', right - determined by the center of the square which includes the depth of the front entry. For me this dimension is problematic: I've not encountered its use on other houses.

The rear wing - not shown - is one part later addition, one part building moved to the site. The proportions aren't the same. It has also been greatly remodeled which is common with many houses built before central heating and plumbing.