Traces of Half-Timbering

I was running along the ocean on Lynn Shore Drive when I became progressively 1) tired; and 2) bored so I stopped running and started walking, into the adjacent “Diamond District” of Lynn. Yes, I’m embarrassed to admit that, after a lifetime of living alongside it, I do take the ocean for granted, but I never, never grow tired of walking up and down streets lined with historic structures. I can never run on those streets, though, because there is too much to see, and the eclectic Victorian architecture of this neighborhood is particularly eye-catching. The Diamond District is large, encompassing nearly 700 buildings, so you need to break it up into sections or styles to be able to take in all in, and on this particular morning all I could see was ornamental half-timbering on the third stories of sprawling houses built in some composite “Victorian” style: are they Queen Anne, Stick, or some form of “English Revival”? I can never get all those late nineteenth-century categorizations straight! In my own mind I classify them as Tudor-Victorians, but that’s just because I like to assign the characteristics of “Tudor” to anything and everything.









20190614_150050This last house tricked me: I turned the corner and thought I was seeing TWO houses ahead of me, but there was only one!

Well whatever style this is, it definitely dates from the 1880s and 1890s. I looked through some architectural catalogs in the vast Building Technology Heritage Library at the Internet Archive and the earliest example of half-timbered embellishment I could find was from the early 1880s, though I didn’t really conduct an exhaustive search. These homes are described simply as “modern” in contemporary texts, though the addition of the half-timbering detail also seems to have called for the addition of the adjectives “cozy” and “comfortable”. They are all cottages, of course, whether consisting of four rooms—or forty.

Cottage on a SIde Hill

Lynn CollageHalf-timbered cottages from William T. Comstock’s Cottages (1884) and Lambert’s Suburban Architecture (1894).

14 responses to “Traces of Half-Timbering

  • Eleanor Lynn

    Were these called “cottages” because they were on the ocean? Not year round residences? or why? Tks

    • daseger

      I don’t know, Eleanor! Hopefully someone will comment here as there are some wonderful architectural historians who chime in from time to time. I grew up in a “cottage” in York Harbor with 20+ rooms which was definitely built as a summer residence but (semi-) converted to year-round use in the middle of the 20th century. The contemporary catalogs seem to refer to both seasonal and year-round residences as “cottages” and these houses were built as year-round residences I believe.

  • Helen

    For visual description only I would call them Queen Ann. These embellishments being so clearly English. Shingle Style is all American.
    And then both are Victorian. A giant category indeed.

  • Helen Breen

    Hi Donna,

    Glad that you made it over to Lynn and enjoyed the scenic Lynn Shore Drive. The road, opened in 1907, is part of the Metropolitan District Commission. Before that, the shoreline was basically unavailable to the public since most of it was part of large estates that ran down to the ocean’s edge. Many were built by the city’s shoe barons as year round homes. Some may have been seasonal like those in the nearby Swampscott estates. (Now there is an area you would love to photograph!)

    I would say that most of these properties in Lynn’s Diamond District have been cut up and made into condominiums of late years. For example, a friend of mine owned a condo that included the whole second floor in that gray house with the large porch (4th from the top) on Ocean Street. The Diamond District is a lovely area.

  • artandarchitecturemainly

    Beautiful houses, presumably designed for very comfortable families. The simpler examples seem to have started as Californian Bungalows, then added a second floor and became a bit fancier.

  • Helen Breen

    True, Donna, most of the old “estates” are gone but the winding roadways, stone posts and fencing, lovely trees and plantings remain as echoes of the past. The views on the rocky shores of Little’s and Galloupe’s Points remain breathtaking as ever.

  • Helen Breen

    Donna, for those interested in the old Swampscott estates, not far from Lynn’s Diamond District –

  • Lenore Greensides

    It probably doesn’t help your dilemma, but in England this style, particularly as shown in the ‘Cottage’ drawings, is known as tudorbethan. It was used frequently as pub architecture, as well as for domestic artiness.

  • Helen Breen

    Lenore, “tudorbethan” LOL – I like that. It covers all the bases.

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