What is this Jargon in Austria!?!?! Hallstatt Edition

It’s taken me a few days to collect my thoughts and ideas on how to share the history and photographs I took on the second leg of the trip in Austria. After spending two full days in Vienna, I hopped on a train and headed to Hallstatt, which is located in the Salzkammergut region of the Eastern Alps!

The next post I’ll go into more detail about the train traveling from Vienna, arriving in Hallstatt, and some of the attractions in the picturesque village. This post I just wanted to use, as a way to broaden everyone’s architectural terminology knowledge and give a glimpse of what I saw in Hallstatt!

So today is brought to you by the letter “J,” as in “jerkinhead roof.”

So you’re probably thinking: “WTF is a jerkinhead roof”…. “This sounds made up!”…. “Who comes up with these things!?!?!?!”

It’s not a made up term.

It seems to have been around for a long time though the exact origins of the roof style are not clear. In 1902, the definition for the roof went like this, “A ridge roof of which the ridge is shorter than the eaves, having with a single slope from the wall of the clear story outwards.”i Let’s be honest, I have no idea what that actually means. It’s confusing. My trusty, Guide to Vermont Architecture, gives the following, clearer definition, “A gable roof in which the gable peaks are clipped off and inclined backward.”ii That makes a little more sense.

Here’s a photo that helps show what we’re talking about:

Jerkinhead Roof
This is a building that was located behind the inn I was staying at, Gasthof Bergfried. Behind the building in this image is the Salt Mine Museum.

This type of roof is also occasionally called, “half-hipped” and “clipped gable” or even “jerkin-head roof.”

As already mentioned, there seems to be no clear indication on where this type of roof originated from. The one source I found that gave some idea of the roof’s origins was Early American Architecture: From the First Colonial Settlements to the National Period written in 1952 by Hugh Morrison. Morrison makes the suggestion that the style, during the medieval period, may have helped protect the gable-ends of walls that were built of wattle and daub.iii The roof style can be seen in many European countries such as England, Germany, Denmark, Slovenia, and obviously Austria. The roof is typical in timber-framed buildings and historically would have been seen on thatch-roofed houses.

Hallstatt Roofs
There are a number of jerkinhead roofs in this image.
Old Town Market
So many colors and jerkinhead roofs! The Cafe Derbl, the yellow building on the right, has a very long history and apparently has been in existence since the 15th century when it was a bakery.
Row of Jerkinhead Roofs
Another close-up of some of the buildings around the Old Market Square of Hallstatt. The history seems a little unclear, but a fire in the 1700’s destroyed much of Hallstatt, resulting in most of the town being rebuilt during the Baroque era. There are some buildings that survived the fire, not sure if these are some of those earlier buildings from the 15th century or from a later date.
Cafe Derbl
Another view of the Old Market Square.
Rooftops of Hallstatt
This image was taken from the Catholic Church located above the Old Market Square. Some of the brightly colored buildings in this image are seen close-up in following image; they surround the Old Market Square. The Church in this picture is the Protestant Church,
Close-Up of Bright Colored Buildings
Theses are those brightly-colored buildings seen in one in the previous image.

Since I’m still focusing on my trip to Austria, I shared a lot of images of jerkinhead roofs from Hallstatt. In my adventures around Northern New York, I don’t recall seeing these types of roofs but I know I now will keep a lookout for them! Do you have any examples in your neighborhood, if you do, share your examples in the comment section below!

Now with your new knowledge of Jerkinhead Roofs…can you spot that type of roof in this image. There are a couple of them!

Thanks for reading 🙂


i  A Dictionary of Architecture and Building: Biographical, Historical, and Descriptive, Russell Sturgis, (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1902), 359-360. https://books.google.com/books?id=J58aAAAAYAAJ&num=5

ii  The Historical Architecture of Vermont: Guide to Vermont Architecture, Curtis B. Johnson, editor and Elsa Gilbertson, Prinicpal Author, (Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, 1996), 26.

iii  Early American Architecture: From the First Colonial Settlements to the National Period, Hugh Morrison (New York: Dover Publications, 1987), 143. https://books.google.com/books?id=Dk1qhPyIPfQC&pg=PA625&dq=early+american+architecture&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiEyf28g-XQAhXG6iYKHezRDFMQ6AEIJzAC#v=onepage&q&f=false


3 thoughts on “What is this Jargon in Austria!?!?! Hallstatt Edition

  1. Tim

    Courtney, I thoroughly enjoyed this post! Hallstatt is charmingly beautiful and I’ve always dreamt of visiting.

    My wife and I are building a home in Utah with jerkinhead gables. I know that historically, jerkinhead gables were a way to reduce wind resistance on the gables. In modern times, they’re used for aesthetic reasons, including the fact that that they’re less imposing than open gables and also reminiscent of historic European architecture.

    In your experience, did you ever come across any buildings which feature jerkinhead gables that had the jerkinhead gables on just one side (maybe the windy side)? I ask because we are considering doing open gables in the back of the house, maybe with some decorative elements.

    While I favor continuity in design, I also respect historical trends. Curious if you have any insight on this.


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