National Heritage Area

(814) 677-3152

217 Elm Street

Oil City, PA 16301-1412


The Shingle style of architecture was created and perfected by New England architects in the 1880's. Above all, it was an attempt to impose order and discipline on the building mass and to do it in new abstract ways with no reference to historical precedent. Where opportunities occurred, outside space was brought into the interior volume. Innovative interior floor plans were attempted with multi axes. The building was designed from the inside living space; windows were placed in the facade where there was a need for interior light with no regard to ranking or classical proportion. The roof forms tended to flow downward to command as much of the volume as possible. Horizontal volumes were introduced and then emphasized. Cornerboards and cornices were minimized or eliminated. In most cases, not all, wood shingles were used extensively to create a plastic skin around and over the frame. Stone was often used on the lower floor and the semicircular arch was a commonly used form somewhere on the building exterior such as verandas and loggias. Details were plain and thin in dimension . Some restrained Colonial Revival classical decoration was used. For the Victorian period, this architecture was considered very modern. At first, it is a difficult architecture to grasp, but it is perhaps the most satisfying to master.

When away from the East Coast, particularly New England, fully developed examples of this architecture are difficult to find. In the Northern Pennsylvania Victorian Region, a few relatively small examples can be seen. The Shingle influence can also be encountered on some of the Queen Anne forms in the Region.

The Mary Judd House at 115 Reed Street at the corner with West Second in Oil City is a nice example of a Shingle style house built on a city lot.

Note the mass of this building is disciplined and controlled beneath the long roof ridge and defined at the ends by a large and simple gambrel roof shape. In the Shingle architecture, the gambrel shape went beyond old colonial expressions and evolved into abstract forms such as massive, triangular gable sides and other simple shapes with no reference to the past. There is a powerful horizontal character to this structure with the line formed where the second floor shingle wall cladding meets the first floor brick wall serving to accentuate this horizontality. The windows are placed in the facade in a somewhat irregular fashion with the intention of providing light where needed. The window frame details are simple and light. Some classical detailing in the Palladian outline of the loggia on the third floor and the columned veranda facing Reed are consistent with the Colonial Revival interest of the day. This Reed Street house was built in 1891. Phillip H. Judd, a wealthy young oil producer, and his wife, Mary, bought the land in 1889 and began construction in 1890. Mr. Judd died in February of 1891 while the house was still under construction. Mary Judd moved into this house a young widow.

Dr. Clarence Coulter, prominent and a railroad surgeon for the Pennsylvania Railroad, built an impressive house in 1894 at 302 West First Street in Oil City.

When viewed from the front, this house shows strong Queen Anne influences with its complex massing and projecting gable. The columns, garlands, swags and oval window are all classical features which appeared on later Queen Annes. Viewed from the side, the house takes on a different character. The roof line extends down past the huge side gables at a different angle and essentially encloses and controls the entire mass. This house appears to be searching for a large expression of order. Such a design concept is consistent with the Shingle architecture, not Queen Anne. Three loggias at different levels pierce the walls of the Coulter House bringing exterior space into the mass of the building, another Shingle element. This house has a brother, a very similar house built in Titusville at 332 W. Main Street and known as the Dr. Quinby and Lillian Seep House.

The Jane Woodburn Glines House at 953 Elk Street in Franklin is another example of a structure demonstrating both lingering Queen Anne and emerging Shingle architectural influences.

Built in 1900, this splendid home displays a commanding roof which flows down from the roof ridge uninterrupted to spread out over the veranda across the front facade. A large second floor loggia is contained beneath the gable roof above and brings outside space in. The classical veranda and loggia columns and the extensive dentil molding are appropriate for both architectures.

The house at the corner of Moran and W. Third in Oil City is an expression of Shingle architecture built on a city lot.

When viewed from Moran, the mass of the house stretches out horizontally beneath a main roof ridge line with the left portion of the volume totally controlled by a cross gambrel roof form with shingles all over the wall sides as well as the roof. Most of the house is surrounded by a drip line formed by overhangs just above the first floor. This line emphasizes the horizontal character of this very early 1900's house. The window placement on the Moran Street facade is highly irregular and clearly reflective of the arrangement of the living space within. The building shows on the W. Third St. facade some restrained classical details including an oval window and a Palladian window form at the attic level. Note the eyebrow dormer facing Moran. Some rough field stone was creatively used in this house, a use consistent with the Shingle architecture.

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