Stone arched entrance with rough-faced voussoirs, Blacherne Apartments, 402 North Meridian Street

Voussoirs. The use of arches in masonry is widespread across historic buildings in Indianapolis. However, today’s Building Language term explores the vocabulary associated with the elements of a masonry, stone, or terracotta arch. A voussoir is a single wedge of brick or masonry used to create an arched opening or detail. The term springer implies the first voussoir that is placed at the base of the arch. The use of several consecutive voussoirs ultimately creates the masonry or stone arch. Some masonry arches include a keystone, which is a wedge-shaped piece that is placed in the center of the arch, used to assist in stabilizing the voussoirs.

One example of a stone arch with rough-faced voussoirs is found on the Blacherne Apartments at 402 North Meridian Street. The arch rests on small cushion capitals and columns on each end, with elaborate ornament bands surrounding the voussoirs. The rough stonework is typical of voussoirs and helps to accent the entranceway of the building. Additionally, this stone arch features a keystone with a grotesque figure as an added detail.

Detail of Voussoir, Union Station, 39 Jackson Place

Voussoirs are synonymous with the late nineteenth century architectural style the Richardsonian Romanesque. It is not surprising then, that the most iconic Richardsonian Romaneque structure in Indianapolis, the 1888 Union Station (39 Jackson Place), features several arches with both rough faced stone and brick voussoirs.

Paired arches with voussoirs on Union Station, 39 Jackson Place

The arches on Union Station are found primarily above window openings with a handful of paired, double arches. Although some arches feature simple brick voussoirs, the primary voussoirs include rough faced stone work, which is also utilized as ornament throughout the structure’s exterior.  The paired arches include unique voussoir pieces that allow the two arches to conjoin at the center.

Add it to your vocabulary – how might one use today’s Building Language term in their everyday life?

The loose voussoir threatens the structural condition of the arched opening at the building’s entrance.

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