Architecture Styles – Gothic

This blog will cover two styles of gothic architecture: Gothic Revival and Collegiate Gothic.  

Gothic Revival began in England in the mid-1700s when wealthy landowners began styling their country houses after medieval structures. The style was popularized in America by architects Alexander Jackson Davis and Andrew Jackson Downing, in their house plans and patterns publications. In America, the style was primarily constructed between 1840 and 1870 and is seen most commonly in rural or small-town settings. American Gothic, by Grant Wood, shows a Carpenter Gothic home, made of wood with the distinctive steeply pitched roof and a pointed arched window extending into the gable. The home, located in Eldon, Iowa, is likely one of the best-known houses in this style.

A steeply pitched roof, usually with cross gables[1], is one of the most identifiable features of a Gothic Revival home. Vergeboards[2] and decorative trusses placed where the gables meet, are distinct features that appear commonly in this style. Windows often extend into the gables and a pointed arch window is frequently seen on the front facing gable of homes. A one-story porch, either full-width or just around the entryway, is usually present.

The best example of Gothic Revival in Cañon City is likely 716 Macon Ave. The structure was built before 1882. The lot was originally owned by Samuel Bradbury, but by 1882 the Franck family was living on the property. While the exterior has largely remained the same, the porch has changed a few times. The original porch is only seen from the side in an 1882 photograph, but it appears to have a flat top porch with brackets in the corners of the porch supports. Another porch seen on the side of the house also has brackets on the porch support corners, mimicking an arch. Later, the porch was enclosed and a peaked roof placed on top. In the 2010s, the porch was redone to cover almost the entirety of the first-floor front façade and brackets added to the supports to mimic an arch once again.

Gothic Revival characteristics at 716 Macon Avenue include:

  • Steeply pitched roof with cross gables
  • Windows extending into the gables
  • Decorative trusses in the gables

“Cadets from the Colorado Collegiate and Military Institute and the Cañon City Band at the corner of 7th and Macon,” 716 Macon Ave. in background, ca. 1882. Object ID: 1986.043.077; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center

716 Macon Ave., ca. 1992. Object ID: 2001.0138.014; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center

There are other structures around the city that have elements of Gothic Revival. The Rudd House, located behind the museum at 612 Royal Gorge Blvd., is defined as a vernacular interpretation of Gothic Revival. Vernacular architecture refers to buildings that are created using local materials and are specific to a region. The Rudd House was built in 1881 using locally quarried stone. Gothic Revival characteristics are the steeply pitched roof and a small cross gable. Another example of a vernacular interpretation of Gothic Revival is 221/223 Greenwood Avenue. This structure was built in 1878 according to a historic building inventory. Elements of Gothic Revival include windows extending into paired gables and a steeply pitched roof.

612 Royal Gorge Blvd., 1976. Object ID: 1984.027.001; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center

221/223 Greenwood Ave., 1996. Object ID: 2001.005.410; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center

On the east side of Cañon City sits the Holy Cross Abbey, along Highway 50. The structure is Collegiate Gothic, a style which appeared after usage of Gothic Revival architecture had waned. It is an early 1900s adaptation of Gothic Revival, but with a specific function: educational buildings. Collegiate Gothic is characterized by towers, arched entrances, abundant window openings, tracery windows,[3] and masonry construction.[4]

The Holy Cross Abbey was constructed between 1924 and 1926. The land was purchased from B. F. Rockafellow, who has preciously operated a fruit farm on the site. The Order of Saint Benedict purchased the property in 1923, with the plan to open a boy’s school. The building was constructed of brown bricks, with cast concrete quoins[5] and window frames. The architects for the structure were L. A. Des Jardins, who was born in Fort Collins, Colorado in 1885 and Joseph Dillon of Denver. The First National Bank in Florence was also designed by L. A. Des Jardins.

Characteristics of Collegiate Gothic at the Holy Cross Abbey include:

  • Tower
  • Tracery windows
  • Arched entrances
  • Bas relief decorative panels[6]
  • Masonry construction

Holy Cross Abbey, ca. 1926. Object ID: 1987.089.023; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center

Holy Cross Abbey, ca. 1950. Object ID: 2004.040.023; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center

Below are two more examples of Gothic Revival homes. George Green’s home at the corner of 3rd and Harrison is no longer standing. The second photo is an unidentified home, potentially no long standing.

George Green House, 3rd and Harrison, ca. 1885. Object ID: 2009.067.034; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center

Unidentified house, ca. 1905. Object ID: 2007.022.001a-ho -1

The information presented in this article is compiled using research conducted by the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center.    

[1] A gable is the triangular portion of a wall between the edges of intersecting roof pitches. A cross gable consists of two or more gable rooflines that intersect.

[2] The ornament of woodwork upon the gable of a house, generally suspended from the edge of the projecting roof.

[3] Stonework elements that support the glass in a window.

[4] Brick, stone and concrete blocks are the most common materials used in masonry construction.

[5] Masonry blocks at the corner of a wall.

[6] A type of art in which shapes are cut from the surrounding stone so that they stand out slightly.

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