National Heritage Area

(814) 677-3152

217 Elm Street

Oil City, PA 16301-1412

Gothic Revival

The Gothic Revival began in England in the mid eighteenth century. It evolved architecturally in England for some fifty years before crossing the Atlantic to America. In England, the Gothic Revival architecture was a derivative of three distinct building forms found in the English past: the church, the castle and the cottage. What these three structural types had in common was they definitely were not classical and they were from England’s own unique past. In America, a few Gothic Revival experiments were attempted as early as 1798. However, it wasn’t until the 1830's when a significant Gothic Revival presence could be seen in the United States. Much of this was due to the work of Alexander Jackson Davis.

Davis clearly designed his American Gothic Revival homes after the very ornate and sophisticated English cottages so popular during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Davis’ best cottages were quite elaborate, expensive and the rival of some of the best English cottages. Homes like that were not built in the near wilderness of the Northern Pennsylvania Victorian Region. However, Davis designed more affordable derivatives and representations of these can be found in the Region.

A merchant, Peter McGough, built the Gothic Revival cottage at 917 Elk Street in Franklin in 1862. (See left Photo) This simple cottage consists of two rectangular volumes arranged in a more complex “T”-shaped plan. The roof ridge lines are equal in height. Gable ends and a central gable dominate with the wall surfaces passing the eave line unbroken all the way to the peaks. Decorative vergeboards have been applied along the gable roof edges and shallow Tudor arches highlight the porch entrance. Four-part quatrefoils have been pierced through the panels above the porch roof. Note the obviously old foundation and the board and batten vertical siding.

The Charles Lay House at 114 Petroleum Street in Oil City (As Shown To the Right) is another example of a simple Gothic Revival cottage. This house consists of a primary “L”-shaped, asymmetrical mass with a parallel mass behind. A full display of gables can be seen with the wall surfaces unbroken as they rise to the gable peaks. Decorative braced pendants are located at the gable peaks. The porch roof supports are detailed with Tudor arches. Charles and William Lay were early real estate developers on Oil City’s South Side, a place known as Laytonia in the late 1860's.

The big house at 1415 Elk Street in Franklin (As Shown to the Left) is an example of a very late period Gothic Revival Cottage. Built in 1875, this house features a relatively simple crossed mass and plan with a uniform ridge height and the expected arrangement of gables with unbroken wall surfaces. The veranda roof is supported by squared posts detailed with appropriate Tudor arches.

The Christ Episcopal Church (As Shown to the right) on Oil City’s South Side represents the High Victorian Gothic style of the late 1800's. This edifice of different colored stone and brick is referred to as Ruskinian.

Of a different character is the First Baptist Church on Liberty Avenue in Franklin (As Shown to the left). This church was designed with Gothic windows of the late English vertical type, a style dating to the 15th century. The church was also given castle battlements suggesting a mighty fortress.

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