Wednesday, November 17, 2021

The Old First Church Windows in the Lantern

The windows in the lantern of the Old First Church in Bennington, VT, are pretend,  a frame with black paint in between the  muntins. 

This part of the church steeple has a small trap door, 14 ft above the platform, not an easy access. The post which supports the weather vane is in its middle. Repairing broken windows would require scaffolding.







Look up. Does it matter? Would the effect be different with glass? 






In the 1980's, the church steeple was repaired. In order to replace the rotted frame the lantern was removed. It sat in front of the church for several months. The photograph shows the lantern, suspended from a crane's hook, being lowered onto a base.


 Charles Dewey, a local historian and skilled joiner, created  a wood replica of the false windows' layout for the painters. On it he wrote: "SAVE" and  "template for steeple lantern false windows, 1984 restoration". The template is 33" wide x 72" tall.

This pattern is big enough and simple enough to be a clear, final statement at the very top of the steeple, complimenting the 6 columns, their corbels and capitals, and the lantern's curved dome. 


What was the geometry?

 The first diagrams are the pattern used for all the windows in the church*.  The circles are laid out on a line. Every time a circles cross the line it makes 2 points which can define a new circle - one on either side here.  

The next circle crosses the original circle at 2 points,  making a vertical line, bisecting a shape with 2 curved sides - a 'vesica piscis' (Latin for 'fish bladder') and give a new point where the new line cross the center line. The new point can become the center for a new circle.


The 2nd floor arched windows and the Palladian windows of the church use half of this pattern for their muntins.



If the whole circle is used it looks like this.

Here is the center half of the pattern. This is the shape of the 6 faux windows.





Note that in the diagram above the red arcs cross the underlying circles twice, at the top and bottom. Given 2 points a straight line can be drawn, crossing  the center line, giving a new center for a circle - or here for arcs which outline 4  smaller vesicae piscis.



The curves at the bottom and the top of the window frame come from the geometry of the church design, As seen here the chains of circles which govern the plans and elevations of the church are both horizontal and vertical.




Here are the horizontal circles in my first diagram above turned vertically.





 The vertical series laid over the horizontal series of circles with the interior muntin pattern shown.



4 points marked where the horizontal circles cross, allowing connecting lines to be drawn - light dashed vertical lines which mark the edges of the muntins. The points above mark where the vertical circles cross.




Extend the vertical lines and the horizontal lines so they cross.  The points where they cross are the centers for the circles whose circumferences edge the lantern's vesica piscis faux window.

I have not extended the vertical circles nor drawn the lines for the bottom of the window. It is identical to this pattern. 




Those circles, added here in red, form the lower and upper muntins.

If fully drawn and continued they would add  horizontal chains of circles above and below the original center chain and intersecting that chain.

These patterns were difficult to draw accurately by hand at a small scale.  I plan to lay them out again, full scale, on a framing floor to see how easily they come together.

*Links to those blog posts will be added to this post. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Bibliography for Practical Geometry, aka Architectural Geometry

A list of books by and about builders and architects who used Practical Geometry; many are primary sources.
At the end are other sources, websites, and credits.
It does not include books I refer to in a specific post. For example: Audel's Carpenters and Builders Guide, Theo Audel & Co. Publisher, NYC, 1923, is footnoted at the end of that post:

A few are books on architectural history and technology which I reference regularly:  Bannister Fletcher's History and Knight's American Mechanical Dictionary.


Benjamin, Asher. The Country Builder’s Assistant, 1797, Dickman, printer, Greenfield, MA –
     reprint by Applewood Books, Bedford, MA.
                     *The American Builder’s Companion, 6th edition, RP &C Williams, Boston, 1827
Biddle, Owen. *Young Carpenter’s Assistant, published by Benjamin Johnson, Philadelphia,
Charles, FWB, The Great Barn of Bredon, Its Fire and Reconstruction, Oxbow Monograph 76,
     1997, Oxford Books, Oxford, UK.
Colvin, H.M., A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects,1600-1840, Harvard U. Press, Cambridge, 1954.
Fletcher, Bannister, A History of Architecture on the Comparative Method, Charles Scribner’s
      Sons, NY, 17th Ed. 1967.
Gibbs, James. *Book on Architecture, London, 1728
                       Rules for Drawing the Several Parts of Architecture, printed by W. Bower for the
      author, London, 1732, ECCO print edition  
Green, Bryan Clark. In Jefferson’s Shadow, the Architecture of Thomas R. Blackburn, Princeton
       University Press, NY, 2006
Harris, Eileen, British Architectural Books and Writers, 1556-1785, Cambridge U. Press, Cambridge, 1990
Harris, Leslie. Robert Adam and Kedleston, The National Trust, London, 1987.
Knight, Edward H. American Mechanical Dictionary, Vol I, II, III; J.B. Ford & Co. NY, 1874.
Macaulay, David. Mosque, 2003, Houghton Mifflin co., Boston. His many books are excellent references. 
Nicholson, Peter. The Carpenter’s New Guide, 1793, London; 10th ed., Philadelphia, 1830.
Palladio, Andreas. *The 4 Books of Architecture, 1570, translated and published by Isaac Ware,
      London, 1738.
Serlio, Sebastian. On Architecture, Lyon, France 1530, translated in1611, available on-line. 
       Translated by Vaughan Hart and Peter Hicks, 1996, Yale University Press, New Haven
Shaw, Edward. *The Modern Architect, Dayton & Wentworth, Boston, 1854
Smith, Laurie, The Geometrical Design of St. David’s Cathedral Nave Ceiling, A Geometer’s
      Perspective, The Geometrical Design Works, 2017, printed Exeter, UK.
Vitruvius, Marcus. *The Ten Books on Architecture, c. 10 BCE, translated by Morris Hicky
      Morgan, Harvard University Press, 1914.

*Reprinted by Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, NY

     HABS drawings, Library of Congress, Washington, DC
     Denison Bingham Hull, Old First Church, Bennington, Vermont, c. 1935.
     James Platteter, barn frame for Green Mountain Timber Frames, 2014
     All others: Jane Griswold Radocchia
Web sites: (you are here!)  and
for Laurie Smith: and   
See also : Instagram   'jrarchitect'
This blog post is subject to updating.  
It was first complied to accompany a lecture on Practical Geometry Geometry in 2016. It is now available whenever I present.