The Stick style Architecture
Updated: Mar 3, 2022
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The Stick style was an American architectural style predominantly found during the late 19th century and is believed to be the transitional style identified between the 1890s Queen Anne Architecture Style and Carpenter Gothic architecture style of the mid 19th century. The name ‘stick’ is given to this architecture due to the usage of a linear "stickwork" on outside walls which resemble an exposed half-timbered frame. The style embodied the most groundbreaking design trends and construction technology of its time, but it didn't attract serious study—or even a commonly recognized name—until a hundred years later. It is apparent that the Stick style would have been known much earlier because of its original identity, as well as the entirely American idea if it had not been dominated by a similarly outgoing Italian, queen Anne style and second empire in 1880, and most of the 20th century.
In California, buildings constructed with Stick style architecture are often referred to as Stick-Eastlake even though they lack distinctive Eastlake details.
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Undoubtedly, Stick style buildings are famous for carpentry - the latest developments from a nation that had plenty to offer in wood technology. Stick style buildings are typically light and uneven in look, unlike the bulky and ground-hugging Greek revival and Gothic architecture styles that imitated the massing of brickwork even though constructed of wood; freedom of shape made possible by the modern balloon frame construction method of milled 2' x 4' lumber and nails. Instead of splitting the space into halls and rooms within a cross-shaped plan or simple rectangular, Stick-style structures sometimes extended the area outside the footprint; so much so that from outside the building you could often see the interior space.
Like the Queen Annes to come, Stick-style buildings typically show a heavy vertical focus, with tall windows, several stories, and surface ornaments rising to the sky with steeply pitched roofs and majestic towers. Stick-style houses, however, are more angular than Queen Annes. Roof plans are confusing, often with gables and roof effects that overlap, such as clips, hoods, and kicked eaves/bonnet roofs. Usually, the towers and window bays are square in shape and with roofs that are pyramids.
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Fortunately, the defining characteristic of these buildings is stickwork: decorative wood facing and detailing that evokes in their layout the grids and angles of structural framing. The exterior clapboards and shingles in Stick buildings are split into panels by vertical and horizontal boards, adding to the façade the symbolism, if not the actual location, of the underlying posts and joists. Note that the decoration of the stickwork is not structurally significant, but instead narrow planks or thin projections applied over the clapboards of the wall.
Diagonals are usual, enhancing the sense of order with a hint of medievalism. In rectangle panels, the beaded siding is always positioned diagonally and is mirrored in a neighboring panel. More diagonal brackets appear as pseudo-structural brackets supporting eaves of the roof or braces covering the ends of the gable—which were simple to build in mass with modern steam engineering. Curves are uncommon except for occasional semi-circular porch brackets or window tops.
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