Author: Raina Regan

Building Language: Dormer Windows

Dormer windows on the Ovid Butler House (1306 N Park Avenue) Dormer Windows. A dormer window is a window that projects out from a sloping roof, vertically placed, featuring its own structure with sides and a roof. The dormer window may feature a small gabled end over the window depending on its design and structure. A dormer window can provide light into an otherwise unlit attic space found within. Dormers will often take the same design and roof as the rest of the structure, but some examples may use different ornament to act as a contrasting feature. The dormer...

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Building Language: Frieze

Frieze on the Indiana World War Memorial Frieze. A frieze is another architectural term with roots in classical architecture. A frieze is a horizontal band, often decorative or ornamental in nature, located along the top of an exterior or interior wall. Classically speaking, the frieze would be part of the entablature, which is the architectural features found above the columns, which also included a cornice – the top molding of the classical order. However, a frieze can be generally applied to a horizontal band of ornament found in many locations on a historic building. Some friezes may feature some...

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Building Language: Coping

Coping. The architectural term coping refers to the top course of masonry used to “cap” the top of an exterior wall. Coping is commonly sloped or curved to help divert water away from the building. Splayed coping refers to a coping that slopes only in one direction, while saddle-backed coping is sloped on both sides of a common ridge. Coping is frequently found whenever there is a parapet wall, serving to visually complete the parapet design. On parapet walls, the coping regularly uses a contrasting building material, for example, if the exterior walls are brick, the coping will be limestone....

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Building Language: Modillions

Modillions. The architectural term modillions refers to architectural brackets that are placed horizontally instead of vertically. Typically, like brackets, modillions are placed at the roofline or on a soffit, regularly spaced, and may feature coffers between each modillion. Although modillions are a classical architectural term, they have been used in a wide variety of American architectural styles, including the Classical Revival to Italianate. The tip to determining if it’s a modillion – is the long end of the bracket horizontal instead of vertical? Then it’s a modillion! A great example of the use of the modillion is found at the historic...

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Building Language: Steeple

Steeple. The architectural term steeple refers to the entire tower and spire as found on religious architecture. The steeple will rise above the roofline of the building and can vary in height. The tower is determined to be the base of the steeple and often may house the church bells. Then, the polygonal/ circular/ square/ octagonal pointed structure on top of the tower is known as the spire. A spire may be topped with a finial featuring some type of cross. The tower will often retain the architectural design and materials of the primary structure, while the spire may use...

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Building Language: Window Sash

Window Sashes on 1060 Virginia Avenue, Fountain Square Window Sash. You might have heard the term “sash” used in reference to windows, but were you unsure exactly what the term indicated? Have no fear – we’ll clear that up in today’s Building Language. A window sash is one (singular) frame used to house the glass panes and muntins of a window. Another way to look at it – the sash is the individual, moveable section of a window. Windows may have multiple sashes (many have two) to create an operable window that can open and close. A window with...

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Building Language: Festoon

Festoon on 1400 Block of Broadway Street Festoon. Recently, I covered the term ornament as it pertains generally to historic architecture. Today’s Building Language is a specific type of architectural ornament that is certainly fun to say! A festoon is ornament representing a string or garland hanging in a curve between two points, appearing tied on each end with a ribbon. This is a type of classical ornament, so it is very popular on Classical Revival styles throughout Indianapolis, although it can be found on other architectural styles including the Tudor Revival and Queen Anne. The garland might feature ornament...

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Building Language: Bay Window

Bay Window. The bay window is a favorite feature of mine on historic buildings. A bay window is a set of windows that project out from the primary wall of the structure, creating an alcove within an interior room. Bay windows can help make a room appear larger by capitalizing on a little extra space available in an alcove or window seat. Bay windows can take several forms, a completely rounded bay window is termed a bow window, while a cant bay window features three sides (two diagonals and a flat face – canted sides). Bay windows are a...

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Building Language: Ornament

Ornament. I’ve realized I’ve thrown this architectural term around with some frequency without really analyzing what it means to the historic architecture of Indianapolis. Ornament is a broad term that applies to architectural detail that is primarily decorative in nature that can serve to emphasize or accessorize the architecture of the building. Ornament can help highlight important architectural features, while certain types of ornament can indicate architectural styles or even ownership, uses, and other important details of the building. Most architectural styles throughout history have some architectural ornament that is identifiable to that specific style, the exception being the...

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Building Language: Italianate

Italianate. Driving through the older historic neighborhoods of Indianapolis, you will realize that Indy has some amazing examples of the Italianate style. To give you a better understanding of the Italianate, let’s look at the major features of the style. The Italianate was popular in the United States from approximately 1850 to 1880 – and most notably in towns throughout the Midwest. The style recalls the Italian farmhouse and gained popularity in the US through the pattern books by Andrew Jackson Downing. So, what are the basics of an Italianate? Two or three stories Low-pitched roof with widely, overhanging...

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Building Language: Soffit

Soffit. A soffitdescribes an exposed underside of an architectural element, such as an arch, cornice, eave, staircase, balcony, or beam. The underside could be elaborately ornamented or unadorned. It’s likely you’ll find a soffit in almost every historic building if you are looking in the right place. This is an architectural term with a wide range of uses, so let’s dive into examining a few. The term soffit has ties to classical architecture, so we’ll start there. The Neo-Classically designed Indianapolis-Marion County Central Library (40 East Saint Clair Street) is a great example of a classical use of the...

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Building Language: Leader Head

Leader Head. Here’s a little known architectural term that provides important support to historic buildings. A leader head refers to the box like structure found on a downspout, connected to either the gutter or a scupper. A leader head helps distribute water from the roof or gutter into the downspout. A leader head can be plain to match the adjoining gutter and downspout or may feature some type of ornamentation. The leader head will typically use the same type of metal found on the gutters/downspouts. The leader head is a simple architectural feature that serves an important role in...

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Building Language: Muntin

Steel windows with muntins, Virginia Avenue State Bank building, 630 Virginia Avenue Muntin. I was recently asked about this architectural term and figured it would be a great one to feature for today’s Building Language. A muntin is a term used to describe the piece of wood or metal that serves to hold the edges of a single window pane within an entire window sash. To clarify even further, muntins separate individual pieces of glass within one single window frame. The piece of wood or metal helps hold the piece of glass in place, while often providing some type...

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Building Language: Brick Courses

Brick Courses. Everyone has some understanding of brick as a building material. A wide range of building types, from small to large, residential to commercial, old and new, use brick as a primary structural or ornamental material. A brick course is the design the bricks would be laid in rows (or courses) to cover the entire wall. Historically, brick courses played a vital role in the stabilization of a wall, more notably, different brick courses could help support a wall at a window or door opening. Although there are many different types of brick courses, I thought we could...

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Building Language: Keystone

Keystones in South Elevation, Alumni Hall, Indiana School for the Deaf (1200 E. 42nd Street) Keystone. No, today’s Building Language term is not in honor of Keystone Avenue that runs north to south in Indianapolis. A keystone in architectural language refers to a wedge-shaped block or stone that sits at the center of an arch or stone feature. The keystone serves an integral function in the structural stability of a stone arch, helping to lock the other voussoirs into place. Keystones may also serve in a more ornamental capacity, placed in the center of a door or window lintel...

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Building Language: Gothic Revival

Gothic Revival. Let’s travel a little farther back in time to discuss the wonderful architectural style of the Gothic Revival. This architectural style was common in the middle decades of the 19th century, featured on both residential and religious architecture. The roof of a Gothic Revival structure is typically gabled, with a steep pitch, and many include ornamental features such as bargeboard. The Gothic Revival structure may feature a first story porch. The windows on a Gothic Revival structure will frequently feature some type of “Gothic” detailing, ranging from pointed, arched windows, a bay window, or an oriel window....

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Building Language: Rustication

Rustication. Rustication is found in ashlar masonry, a finished, stone block laid in horizontal courses with mortar. The term rustication applies when ashlar masonry is arranged so that the face of the stone projects out, typically accomplished with deep joints separating each stone block. The face of the block can range in design, but will at least provide some contrast to ordinary stonework. Rusticated masonry can feature a rock-face or a diamond point on the stone face. Overall, rustication applies to a wide variety of stonework found throughout Indianapolis. Let’s see some examples. The foundation level of the Athenaeum...

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Building Language: Italian Renaissance

Italian Renaissance residence on North Meridian Street at 46th Street Italian Renaissance. Another revival style found in Indianapolis is the Italian Renaissance – which draws its details from traditional Italian architecture. American architects in the last decade of the 19th century and first decades of the 20th century used Italian architecture as the inspiration for major residential projects. Visits to Italy by American architects during the period directly resulted in the Italian Renaissance style employing more traditional Italian features. Residential architecture, primarily in large metropolitan areas, were most likely to feature the style. An Italian Renaissance residence typically features...

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Building Language: Chimney

Chimney. I highly doubt many of you are using today’s Building Language term – the chimney – in the midst of our July heat. Although buildings old and new feature chimneys, there’s still plenty to explore about something as simple as a chimney. A chimney is a masonry structure, hollow to allow the exit for smoke and fumes for fires, cooking, or heating units. Chimneys can feature wood with clay, stone, or brick construction. A chimney can be placed in the center of the structure, with only part of the chimneystack visible rising from the roofline. Chimneys that rise...

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Heritage Steward: Raina Regan

NAME: Raina Regan TITLE: Architectural Historian FOR: Indiana Army National Guard SINCE: June 2010 ORIGINALLY FROM: Fenton, Michigan, although I was born in Carnegie, Pennsylvania YOUR JOB DUTIES INCLUDE: Widespread cultural resources management, including advising civilian and military staff to comply with Section 106 of the National HistoricPreservation Act (NHPA) of 1966, completing projects related to Section 110 of the NHPA. YOU WORK HOW MANY HOURS WEEKLY: 40 + 10-15 on freelance work. PROJECT/S YOU ARE MOST PROUD TO HAVE BEEN PART OF? Surveying and researching the former Indiana Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s Home, now an Indiana National Guard...

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