Shingle Style of Architecture

“Shingle Style,” generally refers to an architectural style popular in the late 19th Century. But the style has also had a revival in recent decades, particularly in the northeastern United States. 29 Witherbee embodies both the original style from its construction in 1892 and, with its recent addition, represents one of the region’s most outstanding examples of the Shingle Style Revival.

The Shingle Style was named by Yale University Architectural History Professor Vincent Scully who gushed over it as “the best [architecture] this country has ever produced.” He placed on the cover of his definitive book on the style an image of a Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts house called “Kragsyde,” designed c. 1882 by the Boston architectural firm of Peabody and Stearns. The house is such a unique icon known to virtually every student of architecture that there can be no doubt but that it was the inspiration for John R. Mastera when he designed a major expansion to 29 Witherbee Avenue in 2008. 

Left:  "Kragsyde," Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, designed by Peabody & Stearns, c. 1882.

Shingle Style homes are characterized by their simplicity -- in stark contrast to the “gingerbread” decoration found on rival architectural styles of the late 19th century. The shingle itself becomes the only form of ornamentation as it combines into undulating patterns that ebb and flow and push out and recede in across the entire exterior building surface. There is no symmetry, but a composition of distinct parts pulled together by the shingling material.

The style is uniquely American, relying on a staple among native building materials, dating back to the earliest Dutch Colonial homes in (then) New Netherlands and English Colonial homes in New England. When the centennial celebration of 1876 created a renewed interest in our nation’s architectural roots, this seemingly simple chunk of wood became the basis for a new American architectural expression. Professor Scully explained that “Shingle style architecture came along in a period when America developed its own characteristics, in literature, in architecture, in everything… It embodies all the symbols and aspirations of the middle class, including pride. It represents who we are, and it means as much to us now as it did back then." 

Arthur L. Scinta, Town Historian

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