Illustrated Architecture Dictionary

Vernacular style


Architectural Style and Form: Vernacular Architecture (ca. 1800-1900)

Designation of historical landmark 78 Spring Street East, Williamsville, NY

As defined by the Vernacular Architecture Forum (VAF), vernacular architecture refers to ordinary buildings and landscapes.

Typically designed and constructed by local builders and contractors often with little or no formal training and experience with high-style architectural design, vernacular architecture was once rejected as crude and unrefined but has gained a more widespread consideration and appreciation in recent decades.

Vernacular architecture comes in many stylistic variations, but is commonly found in gable-front, gable-front-and-wing, hall-and- parlor, I-house, massed-plan-side-gabled, and pyramidal massing types. Detailing was frequently minimal, or was derived from popular architectural trends, often simplified based on available skill and materials. In Western New York, vernacular architecture is extremely widespread and very common.

Since the majority of early settlers to the area arrived from eastern areas such as Massachusetts and Connecticut, the New England tradition was predominant in Western New York. These early buildings were built of wood or logs, a widely available building material and byproduct of clearing forests for farm land, and were often of the I-house, saltbox or gabled box form. It was often the earliest type of architecture present in the largest population centers, including Buffalo, built quickly and inexpensively before skilled architects, experienced labor, and sophisticated building materials were available.

Page by Chuck LaChiusa in 2017
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