Architecture / Style / Shingle Style

Isaac Bell House, Newport, Rhode Island.


1860-1890 (Whiffen)
1880-1900 (Blumenson)
1880-1900 (McAlester)
1879-1900(ca) (Roth)
1880-1905 (Baker)


An architectural style characterized by: uniform wall covering of wood shingles, hip or gable roofs with dormer windows, irregular roof line, small-paned windows, no corner boards, and a generally toned down appearance from that found with the Queen Anne style. (Phillips, 1994)

An American style that evolved out of the Queene Anne, was the Shingle Style. It was born in New England, where the fondness for natural wood shingles reflected post-Centennial interest in American colonial architecture, especially the shingle architecture of the coastal towns that were being rediscovered as fashionable resorts. The reappearance of the gambrel roof in some Shingle Style structures was also a result of this antiquarian interest. (Poppeliers, 60)

Although many Shingle Style buildings fall somewhere along the line of evolution from the Queen Anne, the first examples of the fully developed style appeared in the 1880s. Among the important practitioners of the style were architects Willis Polk in the West and H.H. Richardson, Bruce Price, William Ralph Emerson, John Calvin Stevens and McKim, Mead and White in the East. (Poppeliers, 60)

Shingle Style buildings were tamer and more horizontal than their Queen Anne predecessors. Roofs continued to be prominent and complex, but dormers were often hipped or eyebrow rather than gabled. Ornament was reduced. Circular turrets and verandas remained popular but were integrated more fully into the overall design. Most important, the entire building was usually covered with wooden shingles. When a contrasting material was used, as for porch columns and foundations, it was often rough-surfaced, coursed stone or fieldstone rubble, which complemented the rough natural textures of the shingles. The emphasis of the Shingle Style was on the surface – the shingle covering that unified all parts of the building. The interior plan continued the Queen Anne trend toward openness and informality. (Poppeliers, 60)


Leading Examples

The William G. Low House (1887, McKim, Mead and White), Bristol, Rhode Island, was one of the great Shingle Style monuments. A myriad of window forms, an ample veranda and projecting bays were all controlled by the simple roof and the shingle covering. (Poppeliers, 61)

The Sea Cliff Inn (1886), Nantucket, Massachusetts, was a typical Shingle Style hotel, a style closely associated with northeastern resort architecture. Both the shingle covering and the Palladian windows in the gables indicated renewed interest in American colonial architecture. (Poppeliers, 61)

Isaac Bell House, Newport, Rhode Island, March 31, 2021.

The Isaac Bell House (Edna Villa) (1992-83, McKim, Mead and White), Newport, Rhode Island, has a relatively calm silhouette and a distinctive horizontal massing. The shingle covering unifies the somewhat disparate massing of the windows. Isaac Bell, Jr. was a cotton broker descended from a prominent colonial Connecticut family. He retired at age 30 with a fortune he made, inherited, and acquired by marriage. His wife, Jeanette Bennett, was sister of James Gordon Bennett, heir to the New York Herald fortune and builder of the Newport Casino. In 1881 he hired McKim, Mead & White to design a summer house. This commission reflects the highly experimental nature of the firm’s work in the 1880s. The open-plan house – partly inspired by traditional Japanese houses and the building’s organic relationship with the landscape made a revolutionary architectural statement in 1883. The house survives as one of the best examples of Shingle Style in America. After a series of owners and a period as a nursing home, The Preservation Society of Newport County acquired the building in 1994. The Isaac Bell House is a National Historic Landmark.

Sagamore Hill, Oyster Bay, New York, has Shingle Style and Queen Anne details.


Sources Cited

Also see Architecture / Style index.

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