Architecture / Type / Religion

Also see Architecture Type index.

Also see Architecture index.

Gottfried, Herbert and Jan Jennings. 1988. American Vernacular Design, 1870-1940. Iowa State University Press.

Center Steeple Church
The steeple dominates the façade of the center steeple church. The entire organization builds toward the steeple, including the gable roof, which helps pull the facade skyward. Designs with higher porches may align the windows and doors to broaden the elevation. Fenestration is symmetrical. Ornamentation is light; most walls and tower portions are framed by cornerboards and fascia. In steeple design the tower is about half the height of the entire structure, which leaves the lantern and spire in equal proportions to the tower. The tower may be built into the wall or stand separate from it. When the tower projects from the facade, it often serves as a vestibule. Despite its vertical accent, this type of church is earthbound, directly accessible, and orderly.
Source: Gottfried & Jennings

Gable-End Church
As indicated by its name, the gable-end church exposes a broad gable to the street, the facade being subdivided into a few simple forms. Three-bay organization—window-entrance-window—is most common. Since the scale of these buildings is often residential, it is not surprising to find residential gable ornament on their facades. The ornamentation scheme includes shingles that divide the gable visually from the rest of the wall, stickwork at the head of the gable, and brackets at the eaves. The small tower, steeple, and spire are rarely taller than the façade itself. There is a two-story version of the gable-end that may not carry any other design element. A large, broad gable rises sharply to the full height, and the wall is pierced by windows, usually stained glass. The entrance is built on the center axis of the facade. This kind of building may not have any tower on the roof nor any other intersecting sections. The side elevations may feature large windows to light the broad central space.
Source: Gottfried & Jennings

Side-Steeple Church
The placement of the steeple to the side requires a bolder window treatment on the facade in order to balance the design. A grouping of windows or a large window with subdivisions is quite common. Other elements that contribute to the unification of the design seem to stem from the power of the gable to focus on simple geometric shapes, many of which can be echoed in the steeple. In churches that have north-south as well as east-west gables, gable-end treatments may vary. North-south gables may also reflect modest transepts; however, transepts are not standard on vernacular churches, as most employ deep, wide naves…
Source: Gottfried & Jennings

Steepled Ell Church
The stepped ell has a different design from other gable-end types. It utilizes larger design elements and bolder massing. The gables themselves are wide, and each section can be built as high as two stories. With this kind of configuration, the design consists of large geometric pieces. Even the trim boards are cut to emphasize the geometry: many are wide boards painted a color complementary to the wall, so that the trim outlines and frames entire sections. At the ell the tower may stand alone or be built partially into the wall. Vertically, the tower and lantern are about the same height as the gable on the facade, with the spire about one third the height of the tower and lantern combined. Steepled ells with high-style intentions often have boxed buttresses at the corners of the tower and along the nave, with surrounds about the doors and windows. Such designs imitate historical masonry construction. The steepled ell was not a heavily ornamented building. Decorative effects were limited to color (whether paint or in the cladding), some trim work, the tower, and the windows. For the latter, stained glass was often used in the gable ends.
Source: Gottfried & Jennings

Temple-Front Church
In Temple-Front churches a large tower projects from the facade. Although the portico derives from historic architecture, the use of orders is not extensive; Tuscan seems the most popular. The portico is frequently tall enough to obscure the roof and the main body of the church, but the side aisles of the nave often project beyond the width of the portico. This arrangement sets up an echo of pediment forms: the raking cornice of the pediment is repeated on the roof of the nave, so that the two forms establish parallel planes. To tie the planes to the same structure, the second cornice—that of the nave roof—may incorporate a return, so that the building’s lines move back toward the center. The focus of this kind of design is on orderly, rational design; a great deal of wall space is given over to windows in order to admit large quantities of light. Light, of course, is symbolically associated with rationality and the power of reason. The walls exhibit little division since the fenestration is the primary organizer of the side elevations, just as the portico is the prime mover of the facade. There is little ornamentation on these buildings. With the emphasis on rational order, even the entablatures are plain. Occasionally one finds an urn or a carved piece in the broken pediment over the entrance door.
Source: Gottfried & Jennings

Twin-Tower Church
The Twin-Tower Church—the most elaborate of all—seeks to enhance the west wall. The towers dominate the whole scheme, but towers and wall are integrated through proportional vertical and horizontal elements. For example, the width of the wall may be one-and-a-half or two times the width of a tower, and sections of the wall and tower may align through string courses and cornices. These churches reflect historical treatments of facades and accordingly have special windows, moldings, and other accents.
Source: Gottfried & Jennings