What is this jargon!?! Lancet Window Edition

Last post I mentioned the lancet windows located on the Potsdam Civic Center Complex and my jargon senses were tingling.

So you’re probably asking yourself now: “Why are we learning about lancet windows?” and “Why exactly, should I care?” and  “WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN???”

So before that jargon crisis begins, let’s dive into the history of lancet windows and look at some really awesome buildings that display this type of window. I also know your friends are probably interested and excited to learn what a “lancet window” is, so you should probably share this enlightening information with them too.

These windows are pretty easy architectural feature to identify. They basically are tall, slender windows that have a pointed arch, which is also called, wait for it…. a lancet window.

Lancet windows became a thing during the French Gothic Period of 1140-1200 and then was seen across the channel in England during their Gothic Period from 1200-1275.

So the window got its name from the fact that it looks like a lance, which is a kind of spear used by mounted cavalry. Think of a jousting tournament. Do you see the resemblance in your mind? Can you see it?

These types of windows are seen here in Gothic Revival architecture and normally on churches. Lancet windows can be single, paired, or have an odd number of windows with the tallest window being in the middle.i

The following are buildings that I’ve seen in both Northern New York and Canada that have lancet windows.

The Potsdam Civic Center, where the lancet windows are more visible. This section of the Civic Center was originally a Universalist church built in the 1870’s and then renovated into a library in the 1930’s. It’s now the Potsdam Public Museum. This side of the building would have been the original entrance of the building when it was a church.
This is the First Baptist Church located in Ottawa, Ontario. It’s located at the corner of Elgin Street and Laurier Avenue. It was constructed in 1877 and the cornerstone was laid by the Prime Minister during that time, Alexander Mackenzie! That’s a good example of a both a pair and a trio of lancet windows.
This adorable church is located on Wellesley Island. It’s a shingle style take on Gothic Revival. It’s so cute! Again, here we have another example of a trio of lancet windows with the tallest being in the center. This church was constructed in 1902.
This is the one photo of a building with lancet windows that is not a church! This is the East Block of Canada’s Parliament Hill. It’s one of the original parts of Parliament Hill that has not changed since it’s completion. The building was completed in 1866 and is considered a “High Victorian Gothic” style building. It’s built of Nepean Sandstone. Side note, elsewhere on Parliament Hill, Potsdam Sandstone was used as decorative features on windows, I think specifically on the Parliament Library building.
So we’ve looked at a bunch of exterior shots of lancet windows. This example and the next are views of what a lancet window look like from inside a building. These beautiful stained glass windows are located in the Trinity Episcopal Church in Potsdam, NY. The building was first constructed in 1835 and then went through a huge renovation in the 1880’s, which resulted in the church going from a simple Federal style church with some Gothic Revival elements into a full blown High Victorian Gothic Church.
This window is also in the Trinity Church. It’s a Tiffany window by the way and it’s called, “The Angel of Resurrection.” The stained glass windows in the previous image are also Tiffany windows installed during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Those windows are named, “The Good Shepherd” and “Christ the Light of the World.” Most of the Tiffany windows were donated by the Clarkson family, the same family that Clarkson University was named after.

If you have any examples of lancet windows on a building that is not a church building, share it in the comments below. I’d love to see more examples of Gothic Revival homes with lancet windows!

For more information on the buildings presented, check out the following links:

Canada’s Parliament Hill:



Wellesley Island Densmore Methodist Church:


The following is a great article, not just about the Densmore Church but about many of the churches found in the Thousand Islands:


Trinity Episcopal Church, Potsdam, NY:

Their website has a great section on all of the stained glass windows within their church. In May I gave a tour of Potsdam Sandstone structures located in the Village of Potsdam. The Church allowed us to bring the tours inside to see the interior, which was really great and people enjoyed being able to see the interior of the church and the stained glass windows up close!


End Note:

i  I already knew how to explain what a lancet window was but if you’re interested in an actual definition check out the online Encyclopedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/technology/lancet-window, accessed 07/01/2016. I also looked at Wikipedia’s page too because it has some nice examples of lancet windows seen in England and Italy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lancet_window, accessed 07/03/2016.

Mansard Roofs: What is this Jargon!?!

May was such a busy month for me, which was great but also meant I had limited time to write posts. So I’m getting back in the blog posting game this week with a simple post on mansard roofs and that means a “What is this jargon!?!” post!

YAY! You’re excited, Right? Well, at least I’m excited about mansard roofs. I love pointing them out when I’m riding shotgun in other people’s cars.

So anyways….mansard roofs are easy to identify and have a really cool back story.

So the technical definition of the mansard roof is that it is a low-pitched hipped roof with four double-pitched sloping sides. The lower pitch is steeper than the upper pitch and sometimes it can be curved upwards, curve inwards, or be straight. Mansard roofs also can go by the name French roof or curb roof. These roofs are seen on Second French Empire, Beaux Arts, and Richardsonian Romanesque style buildings.i

Let’s get a visual!

This is the Nolan House and it is located at 24 Circular Street and is part of the East Side Historic District of Saratoga Springs, NY. This is an example of the Second French Empire style. This mansard roofs flares out a little and has really nice dormer windows and even iron cresting on the top of the roof. It was built in 1872.

Mansard roofs have a long history. They were first recorded “Mansard Roof” was way back in the 16th century on the Louvre. They were popularized by the French architect François Mansart, who lived in France during the 17th century. Monsieur Mansart’s last name was used to name these roofs that he had made popular.

The mansard roof allows for the attic space to be used as a living area. In Paris a law had been passed during the 1700’s that limited the height of a building beneath the roof line. The mansard roof allowed a way around the height restriction.ii

Plus, adding a mansard roof to an existing building is an easy fix when it comes to needing more living space instead of masonry work. Most mansard roofs have windows, called dormer windows (we’ll check those out on another day) and those windows allow light for the living space.

Check out these other examples of mansard roofs:

This home is located in Potsdam, NY. It’s interesting that the roof does not actually have windows, so it is unclear if the attic area is used for a living space or not.
This building is located at 165 Wellington Street in Kingston, Ontario. It is a former Merchant’s Bank and is currently going through renovations to add two more stories for future condos. It was constructed around 1876 and up until the redevelopment, the commercial block had been vacant.
This is another home in Potsdam, NY located on Main Street. I don’t know a lot about the history of the building but it has a small mansard roof. Just like the previous home photographed in Potsdam, this roof does not have windows. It makes me wonder if the roof was added at a later date when mansard roofs were in vogue.
Look at all those windows! This beauty is located in Troy, NY at the corner of Broadway and Third Streets. It was constructed in 1856 and for most of its existence was a department store. Recently it has been redeveloped and is now the home to Tech Valley Center of Gravity.

Now you know what mansard roofs are and can point them out to everyone you know!

If you are interested in learning more on this type of roof visit the following links:

“Buffalo as an Architectural Museum.” This website has a lot of great information about the architecture of Buffalo. The following link goes to their Mansard Roof page and has a bunch of photos you can look at of mansard roofs in Buffalo NY: http://www.buffaloah.com/a/DCTNRY/m/mansard.html

Mansard Roofs and the Second French Empire Style: http://www.phmc.state.pa.us/portal/communities/architecture/styles/second-empire.html

While researching the history of mansard roofs, I stumbled across this article from the New York Times, “The Heyday of Mansard Roofs,” : http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/06/realestate/06streetscapes-mansard-roofs.html?_r=0

If you’re interested in the Second French Empire Style in Canada, check out this website: http://parkscanadahistory.com/series/chs/24/chs24-1q.htm

End Notes:

i My description of the Mansard Roof comes from two sources: 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 and Virginia and Lee McAlester, A Field Guide to American Houses, (Alfred A. Knopp, Inc., 1991), 241.
ii I found this information by starting at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mansard_roof. Accessed 06/07/2016. Wikipedia is not the greatest source ever but it can be a good way to start research. The footnote in the Wikipedia article points to European Cities & Technology Reader: Industrial to Post-Industrial City by David C. Goodman; Colin Chant, 1999. I did some more research and found another source confirming that Paris did have a law limiting the height of buildings to 65 feet: Cities of the World: World Regional Urban Development, Ed. Stanley D. Brunn, Maureen Hays-Mitchell, Donald J. Zeigler, 5th Edition, 2012. https://books.google.com/books?id=9wega8tQ_wMC&pg=PA211&lpg=PA211&dq=building+tax+on+height+paris+france+18th+century&source=bl&ots=1z6q8xvgVv&sig=pFAZDRDdzZA-EX1RzLfnZJ91tks&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj9_rb6vZjNAhXMRyYKHXZcDhUQ6AEISTAG#v=onepage&q=building%20tax%20on%20height%20paris%20france%2018th%20century&f=false, Accessed through 06/08/2016.

What is this jargon?!

It’s going to be a nice day here in Northern New York, which is always good when exploring towns and villages in the area. This post is a beginning of a series called, “What is this jargon?!”

I’ve read a few guides on how to write about preservation for the general public and most of them say not to use jargon. AKA: the terms that people with preservation degrees use on a daily basis.

I disagree.

I think it’s important that people always continue learning throughout their life. I have a lot of education in history and preservation, so what better way to help people learn about the built environment in their own neighborhoods than by sharing my knowledge and using actual examples I see on my own adventures. Plus, pointing out random architectural features that you learn about, to your friends and family, educates them and makes yourself sound really smart, which is a win-win for all!

So let’s learn about preservation jargon, one word at a time, to make it not jargon.

Check out quoins, pronounced like “coins,” but they’re not the same thing.

Quoins are either blocks of stone, wood imitation stone, cast-iron panels, or brick that are located at the corners of buildings. Typically, quoins are arranged in alternating patterns of large and small blocks. They are a decorative detail seen on a variety of architectural styles including: Federal, Italianate, Colonial Revival, Beaux Arts, Italian Renaissance, and Second Empire. Some day we’ll look at these types of architectural styles one at a time.

There are lots of examples of quoins in the area!

This is a building I saw on Stone Street in Watertown, NY. The quoins are made of what looks like white stone, which makes for a great contrast to the red brick of the building.
This is the Ives Block located on Market Street in Potsdam, NY and it is part of the Market Street Historic District. It was constructed in 1882. When it was first built, the brick was actually yellow and the quoins were red sandstone! Both have been painted to the colors you see today, which is the complete opposite of the original colors.
This is Trinity Hall located on South Main Street in Geneva, NY; it is part of Hobart and William Smith College. It is one of the oldest buildings on campus. The building was constructed in 1837 of fieldstone and the quoins are stone, not sure what kind. Geneva is not really in Northern New York but it just shows that lots of architectural features can be seen all over New York State!

If you have seen any really cool building with quoins as a decorative feature share its location in the comments. On that note, if you have seen something interesting on your adventures and you don’t know what it is, send me a message and we can figure it out!