Rural Architecture - Being a Complete Description of Farm Houses, Cottages, and Out Buildings
by Lewis Falley Allen
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[Transcriber's Note:

Typographical errors and inconsistencies are listed at the end of the text.]

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Being A Complete Description of FARM HOUSES, COTTAGES, and OUT BUILDINGS,


Wood Houses, Workshops, Tool Houses, Carriage and Wagon Houses, Stables, Smoke and Ash Houses, Ice Houses, Apiary or Bee House, Poultry Houses, Rabbitry, Dovecote, Piggery, Barns and Sheds for Cattle, &c., &c., &c.

Together With

Lawns, Pleasure Grounds and Parks; The Flower, Fruit and Vegetable Garden. Also, Useful and Ornamental Domestic Animals for the Country Resident, &c., &c., &c.



Beautifully Illustrated.

New York: C. M. SAXTON, Agricultural Book Publisher. 1852.

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1852. By LEWIS F. ALLEN, In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York.

Stereotyped by JEWETT, THOMAS AND CO. Buffalo, N.Y.


The writer of these pages ought, perhaps, to apologize for attempting a work on a subject, of which he is not a professional master, either in design or execution. In the science of Farm buildings he claims no better knowledge than a long practical observation has given him. The thoughts herein submitted for the consideration of those interested in the subject of Farm buildings are the result of that observation, added to his experience in the use of such buildings, and a conviction of the inconveniences attending many of those already planned and erected.

Nor is it intended, in the production of this work, to interfere with the labors of the professional builder. To such builder all who may be disposed to adopt any model or suggestion here presented, are referred, for the various details, in their specifications, and estimates, that may be required; presuming that the designs and descriptions of this work will be sufficient for the guidance of any master builder, in their erection and completion.

But for the solicitation of those who believe that the undersigned could offer some improvements in the construction of Farm buildings for the benefit of our landholders and practical farmers, these pages would probably never have appeared. They are offered in the hope that they may be useful in assisting to form the taste, and add to the comfort of those who are the main instruments in embellishing the face of our country in its most pleasing and agreeable features—the American Farmer.


Black Rock, N.Y. 1851.

NOTE.—For throwing the Designs embraced in these pages into their present artistic form, the writer is indebted to Messrs. Otis & Brown, architects, of Buffalo, to whose skill and experience he takes a pleasure in recommending such as may wish instruction in the plans, drawings, specifications, or estimates relating to either of the designs here submitted, or for others of any kind that may be adapted to their purposes.

L. F. A.


Page. PREFATORY, 9 INTRODUCTORY, 13 General Suggestions, 19 Style of Building—Miscellaneous, 23 Position of Farm Houses, 29 Home Embellishments, 32 Material for Farm Buildings, 37 Outside Color of Houses, 42 A Short Chapter on Taste, 48 The Construction of Cellars, 54 Ventilation of Houses, 56 Interior Accommodation of Houses, 65 Chimney Tops, 68 Preliminary to our Designs, 69 DESIGN I. A Farm House, 72 Interior Arrangement, 75 Ground Plan, 76 Chamber Plan, 77 Miscellaneous, 80 As a Tenant House, 81 DESIGN II. Description, 84 Ground and Chamber Plans, 89 Interior Arrangement, 90 Miscellaneous Details, 95 DESIGN III. Description, 101 Ground and Chamber Plans, 105 Interior Arrangement, 106 Miscellaneous, 111 DESIGN IV. Description, 114 Interior Arrangement, 118 Ground Plan, 119 Chamber Plan, 120 Surrounding Plantations, Shrubbery, Walks, &c., 125 Tree Planting in the Highway, 129 DESIGN V. Description, 133 Interior Arrangement, 135 Ground Plan, 136 Chamber Plan, 142 Construction, Cost of Building, &c., 147 Grounds, Plantations, and Surroundings, 149 DESIGN VI. A Southern, or Plantation House, 154 Interior Arrangement, 159 Chamber Plan, 162 Carriage House, 163 Miscellaneous, 163 Lawn and Park Surroundings, 166 An Ancient New England Family, 168 An American Homestead of the Last Century, 169 Estimate of Cost of Design VI, 172 DESIGN VII. A Plantation House, 175 Interior Arrangement, 176 Ground Plan, 177 Chamber Plan, 178 Miscellaneous, 179 LAWNS, GROUNDS, PARKS, AND WOODS, 181 The Forest Trees of America, 183 Influence of Trees and Forests on the Character of men, 184 Hillhouse and Walter Scott as Tree Planters, 187 Doctor Johnson, no Rural Taste, 188 Fruit Garden—Orchard, 194 How to lay out a Kitchen Garden, 197 Flowers, 202 Wild Flowers of America, 203 Succession of Home Flowers, 206 FARM COTTAGES, 208 DESIGN I, and Ground Plan, 213 Interior Arrangement 214 DESIGN II, and Ground Plan, 216 Interior Arrangement, 216 DESIGN III, and Ground Plan, 220 Interior Arrangement, 220 DESIGN IV, and Ground Plan, 226 Interior Arrangement, 229 Cottage Outside Decoration, 231 Cottages on the Skirts of Estates, 233 House and Cottage Furniture, 235 APIARY, OR BEE HOUSE, 246 View of Apiary and Ground Plan, and description, 249 Mode of Taking the Honey, 252 AN ICE HOUSE, 258 Elevation and Ground Plan, 260 AN ASH HOUSE AND SMOKE HOUSE, 264 Elevation and Ground Plan, 265 THE POULTRY HOUSE, 267 Elevation and Ground Plan, 269 Interior Arrangement, 271 THE DOVECOTE, 275 Different Varieties of Pigeons, 278 A PIGGERY, 279 Elevation and Ground Plan, 281 Interior Arrangement, 282 Construction of Piggery—Cost, 283 FARM BARNS, 286 DESIGN I. Description, 291 Interior Arrangement, and Main Floor Plan, 293 Underground Plan, and Yard, 295 DESIGN II. Description, 300 Interior Arrangement, 303 Floor Plan, 304 BARN ATTACHMENTS, 308 RABBITS, 311 Mr. Rotch's Description of his Rabbits, 313 Rabbits and Hutch, 315 Dutch, and English Rabbits, 318 Mode of Feeding, 319 Mr. Rodman's Rabbitry, Elevation, and Floor Plan, 322 Explanations, 323 Loft or Garret, Explanation, 324 Cellar plan, Explanation, 325 Front and Back of Hutches, and Explanation, 326 DAIRY BUILDINGS, 330 Cheese Dairy House, 330 Elevation of Dairy House and Ground Plan, 331 Interior Arrangement, 333 The Butter Dairy, 335 THE WATER RAM, 237 Figure and Description, 338 GRANARY—Rat-proof, 343 IMPROVED DOMESTIC ANIMALS, 345 Short Horn Bull, 349 Short Horn Cow, 352 Devon Cow and Bull, 355 Southdown Ram and Ewe, 359 Long-wooled Ram and Ewe, 362 Common Sheep, 364 Remarks, 365 WATERFOWLS, 370 The African Goose, 370 China Goose, 371 Bremen Goose, 372 A WORD ABOUT DOGS, 374 Smooth Terrier, 377 Shepherd Dog, 381


This work owes its appearance to the absence of any cheap and popular book on the subject of Rural Architecture, exclusively intended for the farming or agricultural interest of the United States. Why it is, that nothing of the kind has been heretofore attempted for the chief benefit of so large and important a class of our community as our farmers comprise, is not easy to say, unless it be that they themselves have indicated but little wish for instruction in a branch of domestic economy which is, in reality, one of great importance, not only to their domestic enjoyment, but their pecuniary welfare. It is, too, perhaps, among the category of neglects, and in the lack of fidelity to their own interests which pervades the agricultural community of this country, beyond those of any other profession—for we insist that agriculture, in its true and extended sense, is as much a profession as any other pursuit whatever. To the reality of such neglects they have but of late awaked, and indeed are now far too slowly wheeling into line for more active progress in the knowledge pertaining to their own advancement. As an accessory to their labors in such advancement, the present work is intended.

It is an opinion far too prevalent among those engaged in the more active occupations of our people,—fortified indeed in such opinion, by the too frequent example of the farmer himself—that everything connected with agriculture and agricultural life is of a rustic and uncouth character; that it is a profession in which ignorance, as they understand the term, is entirely consistent, and one with which no aspirations of a high or an elevated character should, or at least need be connected. It is a reflection upon the integrity of the great agricultural interest of the country, that any such opinion should prevail; and discreditable to that interest, that its condition or example should for a moment justify, or even tolerate it.

Without going into any extended course of remark, we shall find ample reason for the indifference which has prevailed among our rural population, on the subject of their own domestic architecture, in the absence of familiar and practical works on the subject, by such as have given any considerable degree of thought to it; and, what little thought has been devoted to this branch of building, has been incidentally rather than directly thrown off by those professionally engaged in the finer architectural studies appertaining to luxury and taste, instead of the every-day wants of a strictly agricultural population, and, of consequence, understanding but imperfectly the wants and conveniences of the farm house in its connection with the every-day labors and necessities of farm life.

It is not intended, in these remarks, to depreciate the efforts of those who have attempted to instruct our farmers in this interesting branch of agricultural economy. We owe them a debt of gratitude for what they have accomplished in the introduction of their designs to our notice; and when it is remarked that they are insufficient for the purposes intended, it may be also taken as an admission of our own neglect, that we have so far disregarded the subject ourselves, as to force upon others the duty of essaying to instruct us in a work of which we ourselves should long ago have been the masters.

Why should a farmer, because he is a farmer, only occupy an uncouth, outlandish house, any more than a professional man, a merchant, or a mechanic? Is it because he himself is so uncouth and outlandish in his thoughts and manners, that he deserves no better? Is it because his occupation is degrading, his intellect ignorant, his position in life low, and his associations debasing? Surely not. Yet, in many of the plans and designs got up for his accommodation, in the books and publications of the day, all due convenience, to say nothing of the respectability or the elegance of domestic life, is as entirely disregarded as if such qualities had no connection with the farmer or his occupation. We hold, that although many of the practical operations of the farm may be rough, laborious, and untidy, yet they are not, and need not be inconsistent with the knowledge and practice of neatness, order, and even elegance and refinement within doors; and, that the due accommodation of the various things appertaining to farm stock, farm labor, and farm life, should have a tendency to elevate the social position, the associations, thoughts, and entire condition of the farmer. As the man himself—no matter what his occupation—be lodged and fed, so influenced, in a degree, will be his practice in the daily duties of his life. A squalid, miserable tenement, with which they who inhabit it are content, can lead to no elevation of character, no improvement in condition, either social or moral, of its occupants. But, the family comfortably and tidily, although humbly provided in their habitation and domestic arrangements, have usually a corresponding character in their personal relations. A log cabin, even,—and I speak of this primitive American structure with profound affection and regard, as the shelter from which we have achieved the most of our prodigious and rapid agricultural conquests,—may be so constructed as to speak an air of neatness, intelligence, and even refinement in those who inhabit it.

Admitting, then, without further argument, that well conditioned household accommodations are as important to the farmer, even to the indulgence of luxury itself, when it can be afforded, as for those who occupy other and more active pursuits, it is quite important that he be equally well instructed in the art of planning and arranging these accommodations, and in designing, also, the various other structures which are necessary to his wants in their fullest extent. As a question of economy, both in saving and accumulating, good and sufficient buildings are of the first consequence, in a pecuniary light, and when to this are added other considerations touching our social enjoyment, our advancement in temporal condition, our associations, our position and influence in life, and, not least, the decided item of national good taste which the introduction of good buildings throughout our extended agricultural country will give, we find abundant cause for effort in improvement.

It is not intended in our remarks to convey the impression that we Americans, as a people, are destitute of comfortable, and, in many cases, quite convenient household and farm arrangements. Numerous farmeries in every section of the United States, particularly in the older ones, demonstrate most fully, that where our farmers have taken the trouble to think on the subject, their ingenuity has been equal, in the items of convenient and economical arrangement of their dwellings and out-buildings, to their demands. But, we are forced to say, that such buildings have been executed, in most cases, with great neglect of architectural system, taste, or effect; and, in many instances, to the utter violation of all propriety in appearance, or character, as appertaining to the uses for which they are applied.

The character of the farm should be carried out so as to express itself in everything which it contains. All should bear a consistent relation with each other. The former himself is a plain man. His family are plain people, although none the less worthy, useful, or exalted, on that account. His structures, of every kind, should be plain, also, yet substantial, where substance is required. All these detract nothing from his respectability or his influence in the neighborhood, the town, the county, or the state. A farmer has quite as much business in the field, or about his ordinary occupations, with ragged garments, out at elbows, and a crownless hat, as he has to occupy a leaky, wind-broken, and dilapidated house. Neither is he any nearer the mark, with a ruffled shirt, a fancy dress, or gloved hands, when following his plough behind a pair of fancy horses, than in living in a finical, pretending house, such as we see stuck up in conspicuous places in many parts of the country. All these are out of place in each extreme, and the one is as absurd, so far as true propriety is concerned, as the other. A fitness of things, or a correspondence of one thing with another, should always be preserved upon the farm, as elsewhere; and there is not a single reason why propriety and good keeping should not as well distinguish it. Nor is there any good cause why the farmer himself should not be a man of taste, in the arrangement and architecture of every building on his place, as well as other men. It is only necessary that he devote a little time to study, in order to give his mind a right direction in all that appertains to this department. Or, if he prefer to employ the ingenuity of others to do his planning,—which, by the way, is, in most cases, the more natural and better course,—he certainly should possess sufficient judgment to see that such plans be correct and will answer his purposes.

The plans and directions submitted in this work are intended to be of the most practical kind; plain, substantial, and applicable, throughout, to the purposes intended, and such as are within the reach—each in their kind—of every farmer in our country. These plans are chiefly original; that is, they are not copied from any in the books, or from any structures with which the writer is familiar. Yet they will doubtless, on examination, be found in several cases to resemble buildings, both in outward appearance and interior arrangement, with which numerous readers may be acquainted. The object, in addition to our own designs, has been to apply practical hints, gathered from other structures in use, which have seemed appropriate for a work of the limited extent here offered, and that may serve to improve the taste of all such as, in building useful structures, desire to embellish their farms and estates in an agreeable style of home architecture, at once pleasant to the eye, and convenient in their arrangement.


The lover of country life who looks upon rural objects in the true spirit, and, for the first time surveys the cultivated portions of the United States, will be struck with the incongruous appearance and style of our farm houses and their contiguous buildings; and, although, on examination, he will find many, that in their interior accommodation, and perhaps relative arrangement to each other, are tolerably suited to the business and convenience of the husbandman, still, the feeling will prevail that there is an absence of method, congruity, and correct taste in the architectural structure of his buildings generally, by the American farmer.

We may, in truth, be said to have no architecture at all, as exhibited in our agricultural districts, so far as any correct system, or plan is concerned, as the better taste in building, which a few years past has introduced among us, has been chiefly confined to our cities and towns of rapid growth. Even in the comparatively few buildings in the modern style to be seen in our farming districts, from the various requirements of those buildings being partially unknown to the architect and builder, who had their planning—and upon whom, owing to their own inexperience in such matters, their employers have relied—a majority of such dwellings have turned out, if not absolute failures, certainly not what the necessities of the farmer has demanded. Consequently, save in the mere item of outward appearance—and that, not always—the farmer and cottager have gained nothing, owing to the absurdity in style or arrangement, and want of fitness to circumstances adopted for the occasion.

We have stated that our prevailing rural architecture is discordant in appearance; it may be added, that it is also uncouth, out of keeping with correct rules, and, ofttimes offensive to the eye of any lover of rural harmony. Why it is so, no matter, beyond the apology already given—that of an absence of cultivation, and thought upon the subject. It may be asked, of what consequence is it that the farmer or small property-holder should conform to given rules, or mode, in the style and arrangement of his dwelling, or out-buildings, so that they be reasonably convenient, and answer his purposes? For the same reason that he requires symmetry, excellence of form or style, in his horses, his cattle, or other farm stock, household furniture, or personal dress. It is an arrangement of artificial objects, in harmony with natural objects; a cultivation of the sympathies which every rational being should have, more or less, with true taste; that costs little or nothing in the attainment, and, when attained, is a source of gratification through life. Every human being is bound, under ordinary circumstances, to leave the world somewhat better, so far as his own acts or exertions are concerned, than he found it, in the exercise of such faculties as have been given him. Such duty, among thinking men, is conceded, so far as the moral world is concerned; and why not in the artificial? So far as the influence for good goes, in all practical use, from the building of a temple, to the knocking together of a pig-stye—a labor of years, or the work of a day—the exercise of a correct taste is important, in a degree.

In the available physical features of a country, no land upon earth exceeds North America. From scenery the most sublime, through the several gradations of magnificence and grandeur, down to the simply picturesque and beautiful, in all variety and shade; in compass vast, or in area limited, we have an endless variety, and, with a pouring out of God's harmonies in the creation, without a parallel, inviting every intelligent mind to study their features and character, in adapting them to his own uses, and, in so doing, to even embellish—if such a thing be possible—such exquisite objects with his own most ingenious handiwork. Indeed, it is a profanation to do otherwise; and when so to improve them requires no extraordinary application of skill, or any extravagant outlay in expense, not to plan and to build in conformity with good taste, is an absolute barbarism, inexcusable in a land like ours, and among a population claiming the intelligence we do, or making but a share of the general progress which we exhibit.

It is the idea of some, that a house or building which the farmer or planter occupies, should, in shape, style, and character, be like some of the stored-up commodities of his farm or plantation. We cannot subscribe to this suggestion. We know of no good reason why the walls of a farm house should appear like a hay rick, or its roof like the thatched covering to his wheat stacks, because such are the shapes best adapted to preserve his crops, any more than the grocer's habitation should be made to imitate a tea chest, or the shipping merchant's a rum puncheon, or cotton bale. We have an idea that the farmer, or the planter, according to his means and requirements, should be as well housed and accommodated, and in as agreeable style, too, as any other class of community; not in like character, in all things, to be sure, but in his own proper way and manner. Nor do we know why a farm house should assume a peculiarly primitive or uncultivated style of architecture, from other sensible houses. That it be a farm house, is sufficiently apparent from its locality upon the farm itself; that its interior arrangement be for the convenience of the in-door farm work, and the proper accommodation of the farmer's family, should be quite as apparent; but, that it should assume an uncouth or clownish aspect, is as unnecessary as that the farmer himself should be a boor in his manners, or a dolt in his intellect.

The farm, in its proper cultivation, is the foundation of all human prosperity, and from it is derived the main wealth of the community. From the farm chiefly springs that energetic class of men, who replace the enervated and physically decaying multitude continually thrown off in the waste-weir of our great commercial and manufacturing cities and towns, whose population, without the infusion—and that continually—of the strong, substantial, and vigorous life blood of the country, would soon dwindle into insignificance and decrepitude. Why then should not this first, primitive, health-enjoying and life-sustaining class of our people be equally accommodated in all that gives to social and substantial life, its due development? It is absurd to deny them by others, or that they deny themselves, the least of such advantages, or that any mark of caste be attempted to separate them from any other class or profession of equal wealth, means, or necessity. It is quite as well to say that the farmer should worship on the Sabbath in a meeting-house, built after the fashion of his barn, or that his district school house should look like a stable, as that his dwelling should not exhibit all that cheerfulness and respectability in form and feature which belongs to the houses of any class of our population whatever. Not that the farm house should be like the town or the village house, in character, style, or architecture, but that it should, in its own proper character, express all the comfort, repose, and quietude which belong to the retired and thoughtful occupation of him who inhabits it. Sheltered in its own secluded, yet independent domain, with a cheerful, intelligent exterior, it should exhibit all the pains-taking in home embellishment and rural decoration that becomes its position, and which would make it an object of attraction and regard.

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In ascertaining what is desirable to the conveniences, or the necessities in our household arrangement, it may be not unprofitable to look about us, and consider somewhat, the existing condition of the structures too many of us now inhabit, and which, in the light of true fitness for the objects designed, are inconvenient, absurd, and out of all harmony of purpose; yet, under the guidance of a better skill, and a moderate outlay, might be well adapted, in most cases, to our convenience and comfort, and quite well, to a reasonable standard of taste in architectural appearance.

At the threshold—not of the house, but of this treatise—it may be well to remark that it is not here assumed that there has been neither skill, ingenuity, nor occasional good taste exhibited, for many generations back, in the United States, in the construction of farm and country houses. On the contrary, there are found in the older states many farm and country houses that are almost models, in their way, for convenience in the main purposes required of structures of their kind, and such as can hardly be altered for the better. Such, however, form the exception, not the rule; yet instead of standing as objects for imitation, they have been ruled out as antiquated, and unfit for modern builders to consult, who have in the introduction of some real improvements, also left out, or discarded much that is valuable, and, where true comfort is concerned, indispensable to perfect housekeeping. Alteration is not always improvement, and in the rage for innovation of all kinds, among much that is valuable, a great deal in house-building has been introduced that is absolutely pernicious. Take, for instance, some of our ancient-looking country houses of the last century, which, in America, we call old. See their ample dimensions; their heavy, massive walls; their low, comfortable ceilings; their high gables; sharp roofs; deep porches, and spreading eaves, and contrast them with the ambitious, tall, proportionless, and card-sided things of a modern date, and draw the comparison in true comfort, which the ancient mansion really affords, by the side of the other. Bating its huge chimneys, its wide fire-places, its heavy beams dropping below the ceiling overhead, and the lack of some modern conveniences, which, to be added, would give all that is desired, and every man possessed of a proper judgment will concede the superiority to the house of the last century.

That American house-building of the last fifty years is out of joint, requires no better proof than that the main improvements which have been applied to our rural architecture, are in the English style of farm and country houses of two or three centuries ago; so, in that particular, we acknowledge the better taste and judgment of our ancestors. True, modern luxury, and in some particulars, modern improvement has made obsolete, if not absurd, many things considered indispensable in a ruder age. The wide, rambling halls and rooms; the huge, deep fire-places in the chimneys; the proximity of out-buildings, and the contiguity of stables, ricks, and cattle-yards—all these are wisely contracted, dispensed with, or thrown off to a proper distance; but instead of such style being abandoned altogether, as has too often been done, the house itself might better have been partially reformed, and the interior arrangement adapted to modern convenience. Such changes have in some instances been made; and when so, how often does the old mansion, with outward features in good preservation, outspeak, in all the expression of home-bred comforts, the flashy, gimcrack neighbor, which in its plenitude of modern pretension looks so flauntingly down upon it!

We cannot, in the United States, consistently adopt the domestic architecture of any other country, throughout, to our use. We are different in our institutions, our habits, our agriculture, our climates. Utility is our chief object, and coupled with that, the indulgence of an agreeable taste may be permitted to every one who creates a home for himself, or founds one for his family. The frequent changes of estates incident to our laws, and the many inducements held out to our people to change their locality or residence, in the hope of bettering their condition, is a strong hindrance to the adoption of a universally correct system in the construction of our buildings; deadening, as the effect of such changes, that home feeling which should be a prominent trait of agricultural character. An attachment to locality is not a conspicuous trait of American character; and if there be a people on earth boasting a high civilization and intelligence, who are at the same time a roving race, the Americans are that people; and we acknowledge it a blemish in our domestic and social constitution.

Such remark is not dropped invidiously, but as a reason why we have thus far made so little progress in the arts of home embellishment, and in clustering about our habitations those innumerable attractions which win us to them sufficiently to repel the temptation so often presented to our enterprise, our ambition, or love of gain—and these not always successful—in seeking other and distant places of abode. If, then, this tendency to change—a want of attachment to any one spot—is a reason why we have been so indifferent to domestic architecture; and if the study and practice of a better system of building tends to cultivate a home feeling, why should it not be encouraged? Home attachment is a virtue. Therefore let that virtue be cherished. And if any one study tend to exalt our taste, and promote our enjoyment, let us cultivate that study to the highest extent within our reach.


Diversified as are the features of our country in climate, soil, surface, and position, no one style of rural architecture is properly adapted to the whole; and it is a gratifying incident to the indulgence in a variety of taste, that we possess the opportunity which we desire in its display to almost any extent in mode and effect. The Swiss chalet may hang in the mountain pass; the pointed Gothic may shoot up among the evergreens of the rugged hill-side; the Italian roof, with its overlooking campanile, may command the wooded slope or the open plain; or the quaint and shadowy style of the old English mansion, embosomed in its vines and shrubbery, may nestle in the quiet, shaded valley, all suited to their respective positions, and each in harmony with the natural features by which it is surrounded. Nor does the effect which such structures give to the landscape in an ornamental point of view, require that they be more imposing in character than the necessities of the occasion may demand. True economy demands a structure sufficiently spacious to accommodate its occupants in the best manner, so far as convenience and comfort are concerned in a dwelling; and its conformity to just rules in architecture need not be additionally expensive or troublesome. He who builds at all, if it be anything beyond a rude or temporary shelter, may as easily and cheaply build in accordance with correct rules of architecture, as against such rules; and it no more requires an extravagance in cost or a wasteful occupation of room to produce a given effect in a house suited to humble means, than in one of profuse accommodation. Magnificence, or the attempt at magnificence in building, is the great fault with Americans who aim to build out of the common line; and the consequence of such attempt is too often a failure, apparent, always, at a glance, and of course a perfect condemnation in itself of the judgment as well as taste of him who undertakes it.

Holding our tenures as we do, with no privilege of entail to our posterity, an eye to his own interest, or to that of his family who is to succeed to his estate, should admonish the builder of a house to the adoption of a plan which will, in case of the sale of the estate, involve no serious loss. He should build such a house as will be no detriment, in its expense, to the selling value of the land on which it stands, and always fitted for the spot it occupies. Hence, an imitation of the high, extended, castellated mansions of England, or the Continent, although in miniature, are altogether unsuited to the American farmer or planter, whose lands, instead of increasing in his family, are continually subject to division, or to sale in mass, on his own demise; and when the estate is encumbered with unnecessarily large and expensive buildings, they become an absolute drawback to its value in either event. An expensive house requires a corresponding expense to maintain it, otherwise its effect is lost, and many a worthy owner of a costly mansion has been driven to sell and abandon his estate altogether, from his unwillingness or inability to support "the establishment" which it entailed; when, if the dwelling were only such as the estate required and could reasonably maintain, a contented and happy home would have remained to himself and family. It behooves, therefore, the American builder to examine well his premises, to ascertain the actual requirements of his farm or plantation, in convenience and accommodation, and build only to such extent, and at such cost as shall not impoverish his means, nor cause him future disquietude.

Another difficulty with us is, that we oftener build to gratify the eyes of the public than our own, and fit up our dwellings to accommodate "company" or visitors, rather than our own families; and in the indulgence of this false notion, subject ourselves to perpetual inconvenience for the gratification of occasional hospitality or ostentation. This is all wrong. A house should be planned and constructed for the use of the household, with incidental accommodation for our immediate friends or guests—which can always be done without sacrifice to the comfort or convenience of the regular inmates. In this remark, a stinted and parsimonious spirit is not suggested. A liberal appropriation of rooms in every department; a spare chamber or two, or an additional room on the ground floor, looking to a possible increase of family, and the indulgence of an easy hospitality, should always govern the resident of the country in erecting his dwelling. The enjoyments of society and the intercourse of friends, sharing for the time, our own table and fireside, is a crowning pleasure of country life; and all this may be done without extraordinary expense, in a wise construction of the dwelling.

The farm house too, should comport in character and area with the extent and capacity of the farm itself, and the main design for which it is erected. To the farmer proper—he who lives from the income which the farm produces—it is important to know the extent of accommodation required for the economical management of his estate, and then to build in accordance with it, as well as to suit his own position in life, and the station which he and his family hold in society. The owner of a hundred acre farm, living upon the income he receives from it, will require less house room than he who tills equally well his farm of three, six, or ten hundred acres. Yet the numbers in their respective families, the relative position of each in society, or their taste for social intercourse may demand a larger or smaller household arrangement, regardless of the size of their estates; still, the dwellings on each should bear, in extent and expense, a consistent relation to the land itself, and the means of its owner. For instance: a farm of one hundred acres may safely and economically erect and maintain a house costing eight hundred to two thousand dollars, while one of five hundred to a thousand acres may range in an expenditure of twenty-five hundred to five thousand dollars in its dwelling, and all be consistent with a proper economy in farm management.

Let it be understood, that the above sums are named as simply comporting with a financial view of the subject, and such as the economical management of the estate may warrant. To one who has no regard to such consideration, this rule of expenditure will not apply. He may invest any amount he so chooses in building beyond, if he only be content to pocket the loss which he can never expect to be returned in an increased value to the property, over and above the price of cheaper buildings. On the other hand, he would do well to consider that a farm is frequently worth less to an ordinary purchaser, with an extravagant house upon it, than with an economical one, and in many cases will bring even less in market, in proportion as the dwelling is expensive. Fancy purchasers are few, and fastidious, while he who buys only for a home and an occupation, is governed solely by the profitable returns the estate will afford upon the capital invested.

There is again a grand error which many fall into in building, looking as they do only at the extent of wood and timber; or stone and mortar in the structure, and paying no attention to the surroundings, which in most cases contribute more to the effect of the establishment than the structure itself, and which, if uncultivated or neglected, any amount of expenditure in building will fail to give that completeness and perfection of character which every homestead should command. Thus the tawdry erections in imitation of a cast-off feudalism in Europe, or a copying of the massive piles of more recent date abroad, although in miniature, both in extent and cost, is the sheerest affectation, in which no sensible man should ever indulge. It is out of all keeping, or propriety with other things, as we in this country have them, and the indulgence of all such fancies is sooner or later regretted. Substance, convenience, purpose, harmony—all, perhaps, better summed up in the term EXPRESSION—these are the objects which should govern the construction of our dwellings and out-buildings, and in their observance we can hardly err in the acquisition of what will promote the highest enjoyment which a dwelling can bestow.


The site of a dwelling should be an important study with every country builder; for on this depends much of its utility, and in addition to that, a large share of the enjoyment which its occupation will afford. Custom, in many parts of the United States, in the location of the farm buildings, gives advantages which are denied in others. In the south, and in the slave states generally, the planter builds, regardless of roads, on the most convenient site his plantation presents; the farmer of German descent, in Pennsylvania and some other states, does the same: while the Yankee, be he settled where he will, either in the east, north, or west, inexorably huddles himself immediately upon the highway, whether his possessions embrace both sides of it or not, disregarding the facilities of access to his fields, the convenience of tilling his crops, or the character of the ground which his buildings may occupy, seeming to have no other object than proximity to the road—as if his chief business was upon that, instead of its being simply a convenience to his occupation. To the last, but little choice is left; and so long as a close connection with the thoroughfare is to control, he is obliged to conform to accident in what should be a matter of deliberate choice and judgment. Still, there are right and wrong positions for a house, which it is necessary to discuss, regardless of conventional rules, and they should be considered in the light of propriety alone.

A fitness to the purposes for which the dwelling is constructed should, unquestionably, be the governing point in determining its position. The site should be dry, and slightly declining, if possible, on every side; but if the surface be level, or where water occasionally flows from contiguous grounds, or on a soil naturally damp, it should be thoroughly drained of all superfluous moisture. That is indispensable to the preservation of the house itself, and the health of its inmates. The house should so stand as to present an agreeable aspect from the main points at which it is seen, or the thoroughfares by which it is approached. It should be so arranged as to afford protection from wind and storm, to that part most usually occupied, as well as be easy of access to the out-buildings appended to it. It should have an unmistakable front, sides, and rear; and the uses to which its various parts are applied, should distinctly appear in its outward character. It should combine all the advantages of soil, cultivation, water, shade, and shelter, which the most liberal gratification, consistent with the circumstances of the owner, may demand. If a site on the estate command a prospect of singular beauty, other things equal, the dwelling should embrace it; if the luxury of a stream, or a sheet of water in repose, present itself, it should, if possible, be enjoyed; if the shade and protection of a grove be near, its benefits should be included; in fine, any object in itself desirable, and not embarrassing to the main purposes of the dwelling and its appendages, should be turned to the best account, and appropriated in such manner as to combine all that is desirable both in beauty and effect, as well as in utility, to make up a perfect whole in the family residence.

Attached to the building site should be considered the quality of the soil, as affording cultivation and growth to shrubbery and trees,—at once the ornament most effective to all domestic buildings, grateful to the eye always, as objects of admiration and beauty—delightful in the repose they offer in hours of lassitude or weariness; and to them, that indispensable feature in a perfect arrangement, the garden, both fruit and vegetable, should be added. Happily for the American, our soils are so universally adapted to the growth of vegetation in all its varieties, that hardly a farm of considerable size can be found which does not afford tolerable facilities for the exercise of all the taste which one may indulge in the cultivation of the garden as well as in the planting and growth of trees and shrubbery; and a due appropriation of these to an agreeable residence is equal in importance to the style and arrangement of the house itself.

The site selected for the dwelling, and the character of the scenery and objects immediately surrounding it, should have a controlling influence upon the style in which the house is to be constructed. A fitness and harmony in all these is indispensable to both expression and effect. And in their determination, a single object should not control, but the entire picture, as completed, should be embraced in the view; and that style of building constituting the most agreeable whole, as filling the eye with the most grateful sensations, should be the one selected with which to fill up and complete the design.


A discussion of the objects by way of embellishment, which may be required to give character and effect to a country residence, would embrace a range too wide, in all its parts, for a simply practical treatise like this; and general hints on the subject are all indeed, that will be required, as no specific rules or directions can be given which would be applicable, indiscriminately, to guide the builder in the execution of his work. A dwelling house, no matter what the style, standing alone, either on hill or plain, apart from other objects, would hardly be an attractive sight. As a mere representation of a particular style of architecture, or as a model of imitation, it might excite our admiration, but it would not be an object on which the eye and the imagination could repose with satisfaction. It would be incomplete unless accompanied by such associates as the eye is accustomed to embrace in the full gratification of the sensations to which that organ is the conductor. But assemble around that dwelling subordinate structures, trees, and shrubbery properly disposed, and it becomes an object of exceeding interest and pleasure in the contemplation. It is therefore, that the particular style or outward arrangement of the house is but a part of what should constitute the general effect, and such style is to be consulted only so far as it may in itself please the taste, and give benefit or utility in the purposes for which it is intended. Still, the architectural design should be in harmony with the features of the surrounding scenery, and is thus important in completing the effect sought, and which cannot be accomplished without it.

A farm with its buildings, or a simple country residence with the grounds which enclose it, or a cottage with its door-yard and garden, should be finished sections of the landscape of which it forms a part, or attractive points within it; and of consequence, complete each within itself, and not dependent upon distant accessories to support it—an imperium in imperio, in classic phrase. A tower, a monument, a steeple, or the indistinct outline of a distant town may form a striking feature in a pictorial design and the associations connected with them, or, the character in which they are contemplated may allow them to stand naked and unadorned by other objects, and still permit them to fill up in perfect harmony the picture. This idea will illustrate the importance of embellishment, not only in the substitution of trees as necessary appendages to a complete rural establishment, but in the erection of all the buildings necessary for occupation in any manner, in form and position, to give effect from any point of view in which the homestead may be seen. General appearance should not be confined to one quarter alone, but the house and its surroundings on every side should show completeness in design and harmony in execution; and although humble, and devoted to the meanest purposes, a portion of these erections may be, yet the character of utility or necessity which they maintain, gives them an air of dignity, if not of grace. Thus, a house and out-buildings flanked with orchards, or a wood, on which they apparently fall back for support, fills the eye at once with not only a beautiful group, in themselves combined, but associate the idea of repose, of comfort, and abundance—indispensable requisites to a perfect farm residence. They also seem to connect the house and out-buildings with the fields beyond, which are of necessity naked of trees, and gradually spread the view abroad over the farm until it mingles with, or is lost in the general landscape.

These remarks may seem too refined, and as out of place here, and trenching upon the subject of Landscape Gardening, which is not designed to be a part, or but an incidental one of the present work, yet they are important in connection with the subject under discussion. The proper disposition of trees and shrubbery around, or in the vicinity of buildings is far too little understood, although tree planting about our dwellings is a practice pretty general throughout our country. Nothing is more common than to see a man build a house, perhaps in most elaborate and expensive style, and then plant a row of trees close upon the front, which when grown will shut it almost entirely out of view; while he leaves the rear as bald and unprotected as if it were a barn or a horse-shed—as if in utter ignorance, as he probably is, that his house is more effectively set off by a flanking and background of tree and shrubbery, than in front. And this is called good taste! Let us examine it. Trees near a dwelling are desirable for shade; shelter they do not afford except in masses, which last is always better given to the house itself by a veranda. Immediately adjoining, or within touching distance of a house, trees create dampness, more or less litter, and frequently vermin. They injure the walls and roofs by their continual shade and dampness. They exclude the rays of the sun, and prevent a free circulation of air. Therefore, close to the house, trees are absolutely pernicious, to say nothing of excluding all its architectural effect from observation; when, if planted at proper distances, they compose its finest ornaments.

If it be necessary to build in good taste at all, it is quite as necessary that such good taste be kept in view throughout. A country dwelling should always be a conspicuous object in its full character and outline, from one or more prominent points of observation; consequently all plantations of tree or shrubbery in its immediate vicinity should be considered as aids to show off the house and its appendages, instead of becoming the principal objects of attraction in themselves. Their disposition should be such as to create a perfect and agreeable whole, when seen in connection with the house itself. They should also be so placed as to open the surrounding landscape to view in its most attractive features, from the various parts of the dwelling. Much in the effective disposition of trees around the dwelling will thus depend upon the character of the country seen from it, and which should control to a great extent their position. A single tree, of grand and stately dimensions, will frequently give greater effect than the most studied plantations. A ledge of rock, in the clefts of which wild vines may nestle, or around which a mass of shrubbery may cluster, will add a charm to the dwelling which an elaborate cultivation would fail to bestow; and the most negligent apparel of nature in a thousand ways may give a character which we might strive in vain to accomplish by our own invention. In the efforts to embellish our dwellings or grounds, the strong natural objects with which they are associated should be consulted, always keeping in view an expression of the chief character to which the whole is applied.


In a country like ours, containing within its soils and upon its surface such an abundance and variety of building material, the composition of our farm erections must depend in most cases upon the ability or the choice of the builder himself.

Stone is the most durable, in the long run the cheapest, and as a consequence, the best material which can be furnished for the walls of a dwelling. With other farm buildings circumstances may govern differently; still, in many sections of the United States, even stone cannot be obtained, except at an expense and inconvenience altogether forbidding its use. Yet it is a happy relief that where stone is difficult, or not at all to be obtained, the best of clay for bricks, is abundant; and in almost all parts of our country, even where building timber is scarce, its transportation is so comparatively light, and the facilities of removing it are so cheap, that wood is accessible to every one. Hence we may indulge in almost every fitting style of architecture and arrangement, to which either kind of these materials are best adapted. We shall slightly discuss them as applicable to our purposes.

Stone is found either on the surface, or in quarries under ground. On the surface they lie chiefly as bowlders of less or greater size, usually of hard and durable kinds. Large bowlders may be either blasted, or split with wedges into sufficiently available shapes to lay in walls with mortar; or if small, they may with a little extra labor, be fitted by the aid of good mortar into equally substantial wall as the larger masses. In quarries they are thrown out, either by blasting or splitting in layers, so as to form regular courses when laid up; and all their varieties may, unhammered, except to strike off projecting points or angles, be laid up with a sufficiently smooth face to give fine effect to a building. Thus, when easily obtained, aside from the greater advantages of their durability, stone is as cheap in the first instance as lumber, excepting in new districts of country where good building lumber is the chief article of production, and cheaper than brick in any event. Stone requires no paint. Its color is a natural, therefore an agreeable one, be it usually what it may, although some shades are more grateful to the eye than others; yet it is always in harmony with natural objects, and particularly so on the farm where everything ought to wear the most substantial appearance. The outer walls of a stone house should always be firred off inside for lathing and plastering, to keep them thoroughly dry. Without that, the rooms are liable to dampness, which would penetrate through the stone into the inside plastering unless cut off by an open space of air between.

Bricks, where stone is not found, supply its place tolerably well. When made of good clay, rightly tempered with sand, and well burned, they will in a wall remain for centuries, and as far as material is concerned, answer all purposes. Brick walls may be thinner than stone walls, but they equally require "firring off" for inside plastering, and in addition, they need the aid of paint quite as often as wood, to give them an agreeable color—bricks themselves not usually being in the category of desirable colors or shades.

Wood, when abundant and easily obtained, is worked with the greatest facility, and on many accounts, is the cheapest material, for the time, of which a building can be constructed. But it is perishable. It requires every few years a coat of paint, and is always associated with the idea of decay. Yet wood may be moulded into an infinite variety of form to please the eye, in the indulgence of any peculiar taste or fancy.

We cannot, in the consideration of material for house-building therefore, urge upon the farmer the adoption of either of the above named materials to the preference of another, in any particular structure he may require; but leave him to consult his own circumstances in regard to them, as best he may. But this we will say: If it be possible, never lay a cellar or underground wall of perishable material, such as wood or soft bricks; nor build with soft or unburnt bricks in a wall exposed to the weather anywhere; nor with stone which is liable to crumble or disintegrate by the action of frost or water upon it. We are aware that unburnt bricks have been strongly recommended for house-building in America; but from observation, we are fully persuaded that they are worthless for any permanent structure, and if used, will in the end prove a dead loss in their application. Cottages, out-buildings, and other cheap erections on the farm, for the accommodation of laborers, stock, or crops, may be made of wood, where wood is the cheapest and most easily obtained; and, even taking its perishable nature into account, it may be the most economical. In their construction, it may be simply a matter of calculation with him who needs them, to calculate the first cost of any material he has at hand, or may obtain, and to that add the interest upon it, the annual wear and tear, the insurance, and the period it may last, to determine this matter to his entire satisfaction—always provided he have the means at hand to do either. But other considerations generally control the American farmer. His pocket is apt more often to be pinched, than his choice is to be at fault; and this weighty argument compels him into the "make shift" system, which perhaps in its results, provided the main chance be attained, is quite as advantageous to his interests as the other.

As a general remark, all buildings should show for themselves, what they are built of. Let stone be stone; bricks show on their own account; and of all things, put no counterfeit by way of plaster, stucco, or other false pretence other than paint, or a durable wash upon wood: it is a miserable affectation always, and of no possible use whatever. All counterfeit of any kind as little becomes the buildings of the farmer, as the gilded pinchbeck watch would fit the finished attire of a gentleman.

Before submitting the several designs proposed for this work, it may be remarked, that in addressing them to a climate strictly American, we have in every instance adopted the wide, steeply-pitched roof, with broad eaves, gables and cornices, as giving protection, shade, and shelter to the walls; thus keeping them dry and in good preservation, and giving that well housed, and comfortable expression, so different from the stiff, pinched, and tucked-up look in which so many of the haberdasher-built houses of the present day exult.

We give some examples of the hipped roof, because they are convenient and cheap in their construction; and we also throw into the designs a lateral direction to the roofs of the wings, or connecting parts of the building. This is sometimes done for effect in architectural appearance, and sometimes for the economy and advantage of the building itself. Where roofs thus intersect or connect with a side wall, the connecting gutters should be made of copper, zinc, lead, galvanized iron, or tin, into which the shingles, if they be covered with that material, should be laid so as to effectually prevent leakage. The eave gutters should be of copper, zinc, lead, galvanized iron or tin, also, and placed at least one foot back from the edge of the roof, and lead the water into conductors down the wall into the cistern or elsewhere, as may be required. If the water be not needed, and the roof be wide over the walls, there is no objection to let it pass off naturally, if it be no inconvenience to the ground below, and can run off, or be absorbed into the ground without detriment to the cellar walls. All this must be subject to the judgment of the proprietor himself.


We are not among those who cast off, and on a sudden condemn, as out of all good taste, the time-honored white house with its green blinds, often so tastefully gleaming out from beneath the shade of summer trees; nor do we doggedly adhere to it, except when in keeping, by contrast or otherwise, with everything around it. For a century past white has been the chief color of our wooden houses, and often so of brick ones, in the United States. This color has been supposed to be strong and durable, being composed chiefly of white lead; and as it reflected the rays of the sun instead of absorbing them, as some of the darker colors do, it was thus considered a better preserver of the weather-boarding from the cracks which the fervid heat of the sun is apt to make upon it, than the darker colors. White, consequently, has always been considered, until within a few years past, as a fitting and tasteful color for dwellings, both in town and country. A new school of taste in colors has risen, however, within a few years past, among us; about the same time, too, that the recent gingerbread and beadwork style of country building was introduced. And these were both, as all new things are apt to be, carried to extremes. Instead of toning down the glare of the white into some quiet, neutral shade, as a straw color; a drab of different hues—always an agreeable and appropriate color for a dwelling, particularly when the door and window casings are dressed with a deeper or lighter shade, as those shades predominate in the main body of the house; or a natural and soft wood color, which also may be of various shades; or even the warm russet hue of some of our rich stones—quite appropriate, too, as applied to wood, or bricks—the fashion must be followed without either rhyme or reason, and hundreds of our otherwise pretty and imposing country houses have been daubed over with the dirtiest, gloomiest pigment imaginable, making every habitation which it touched look more like a funeral appendage than a cheerful, life-enjoying home. We candidly say that we have no sort of affection for such sooty daubs. The fashion which dictates them is a barbarous, false, and arbitrary fashion; void of all natural taste in its inception; and to one who has a cheerful, life-loving spirit about him, such colors have no more fitness on his dwelling or out-buildings, than a tomb would have in his lawn or dooryard.

Locality, amplitude of the buildings, the purpose to which they are applied—every consideration connected with them, in fact, should be consulted, as to color. Stone will give its own color; which, by the way, some prodigiously smart folks paint—quite as decorous or essential, as to "paint the lily." Brick sometimes must be painted, but it should be of a color in keeping with its character,—of substance and dignity; not a counterfeit of stone, or to cheat him who looks upon it into a belief that it may be marble, or other unfounded pretension. A warm russet is most appropriate for brick-work of any kind of color—the color of a russet apple, or undressed leather—shades that comport with Milton's beautiful idea of

"Russet lawns and fallows gray."

Red and yellow are both too glaring, and slate, or lead colors too somber and cold. It is, in fact, a strong argument in favor of bricks in building, where they can be had as cheap as stone or wood, that any color can be given to them which the good taste of the builder may require, in addition to their durability, which, when made of good material, and properly burned, is quite equal to stone. In a wooden structure one may play with his fancy in the way of color, minding in the operation, that he does not play the mountebank, and like the clown in the circus, make his tattooed tenement the derision of men of correct taste, as the other does his burlesque visage the ridicule of his auditors.

A wooden country house, together with its out-buildings, should always be of a cheerful and softly-toned color—a color giving a feeling of warmth and comfort; nothing glaring or flashy about it. And yet, such buildings should not, in their color, any more than in their architecture, appear as if imitating either stone or brick. Wood, of itself, is light. One cannot build a heavy house of wood, as compared with brick or stone. Therefore all imitation or device which may lead to a belief that it may be other than what it really is, is nothing less than a fraud—not criminal, we admit, but none the less a fraud upon good taste and architectural truth.

It is true that in this country we cannot afford to place in stone and brick buildings those ornate trimmings and appendages which, perhaps, if economy were not to be consulted, might be more durably constructed of stone, but at an expense too great to be borne by those of moderate means. Yet it is not essential that such appendages should be of so expensive material. The very purposes to which they are applied, as a parapet, a railing, a balustrade, a portico, piazza, or porch; all these may be of wood, even when the material of the house proper is of the most durable kind; and by being painted in keeping with the building itself, produce a fine effect, and do no violence to good taste or the most fastidious propriety. They may be even sanded to a color, and grained, stained, or otherwise brought to an identity, almost, with the material of the house, and be quite proper, because they simply are appendages of convenience, necessity, or luxury, to the building itself, and may be taken away without injuring or without defacing the main structure. They are not a material part of the building itself, but reared for purposes which may be dispensed with. It is a matter of taste or preference, that they were either built there, or that they remain permanently afterward, and of consequence, proper that they be of wood. Yet they should not imitate stone or brick. They should still show that they are of wood, but in color and outside preservation denote that they are appendages to a stone or brick house, by complying with the proper shades in color which predominate in the building itself, and become their own subordinate character.

Not being a professional painter, or compounder of colors, we shall offer no receipts or specifics for painting or washing buildings. Climate affects the composition of both paints and washes, and those who are competent in this line, are the proper persons to dictate their various compositions; and we do but common justice to the skill and intelligence of our numerous mechanics, when we recommend to those who contemplate building, to apply forthwith to such as are masters of their trade for all the information they require on the various subjects connected with it. One who sets out to be his own architect, builder, and painter, is akin to the lawyer in the proverb, who has a fool for his client, when pleading his own case, and quite as apt to have quack in them all. Hints, general outlines, and oftentimes matters of detail in interior convenience, and many other minor affairs may be given by the proprietor, when he is neither a professional architect, mechanic, or even an amateur; but in all things affecting the substantial and important parts of his buildings, he should consult those who are proficient and experienced in the department on which he consults them. And it may perhaps be added that none professing to be such, are competent, unless well instructed, and whose labors have met the approbation of those competent to judge.

There is one kind of color, prevailing to a great extent in many parts of our country, particularly the northern and eastern, which, in its effect upon any one having an eye to a fitness of things in country buildings, is a monstrous perversion of good taste. That is the glaring red, made up of Venetian red, ochre, or Spanish brown, with doors and windows touched off with white. The only apology we have ever heard given for such a barbarism was, that it is a good, strong, and lasting color. We shall not go into an examination as to that fact, but simply answer, that if it be so, there are other colors, not more expensive, which are equally strong and durable, and infinitely more tasteful and fitting. There can be nothing less comporting with the simplicity of rural scenery, than a glaring red color on a building. It connects with nothing natural about it; it neither fades into any surrounding shade of soil or vegetation, and must of necessity, stand out in its own bold and unshrouded impudence, a perfect Ishmaelite in color, and a perversion of every thing harmonious in the design. We eschew red, therefore, from every thing in rural architecture.


The compound words, or terms good-taste and bad-taste have been used in the preceding pages without, perhaps, sufficiently explaining what is meant by the word taste, other than as giving vague and unsatisfactory terms to the reader in measuring the subject in hand. Taste is a term universally applied in criticism of the fine-arts, such as painting, sculpture, architecture, &c., &c., of which there are many schools—of taste, we mean—some of them, perhaps natural, but chiefly conventional, and all more or less arbitrary. The proverb, "there is no accounting for taste," is as old as the aforesaid schools themselves, and defines perfectly our own estimate of the common usage of the term.

As we have intended to use it, Webster defines the word taste to be "the faculty of discerning beauty, order, congruity, proportion, symmetry, or whatever constitutes excellence; style; manner with respect to what is pleasing." With this understanding, therefore; a fitness to the purpose for which a thing is intended—got up in a manner agreeable to the eye and the mind—preserving also a harmony between its various parts and uses; pleasing to the eye, as addressed to the sense, and satisfactory to the mind, as appropriate to the object for which it is required;—these constitute good-taste, as the term is here understood.

The term style, also, is "the manner or form of a thing." When we say, "that is a stylish house," it should mean that it is in, or approaches some particular style of building recognized by the schools. It may or may not be in accordance with good taste, and is, consequently, subject to the same capricious test in its government. Yet styles are subject to arrangement, and are classified in the several schools of architecture, either as distinct specimens of acknowledged orders, as the Doric, the Ionic, the Corinthian, in Grecian architecture, or, the Tuscan and Composite, which are, more distinctly, styles of Roman architecture. To these may be added the Egyptian, the most massive of all; and either of them, in their proper character, grand and imposing when applied to public buildings or extensive structures, but altogether inapplicable, from their want of lightness and convenience, to country or even city dwellings. Other styles—not exactly orders—of architecture, such as the Italian, the Romanesque, the Gothic, the Swiss, with their modifications—all of which admit of a variety of departures from fixed rules, not allowed in the more rigid orders—may be adapted in a variety of ways, to the most agreeable and harmonious arrangement in architectural effect, for dwellings and structures appurtenant to them.

The Italian style of architecture, modified somewhat in pretension and extent, is admirably adapted to most parts of the United States. Its general lightness, openness, and freedom gives a wide range of choice; and its wings, verandas, and terraces, stretching off in any and almost every direction desired, from the main building, make it exceedingly appropriate for general use. The modern, or rural Gothic, branching off sometimes into what is termed the English cottage style, and in many instances blending so intimately with the Italian, as hardly to mark the line of division, is also a beautiful arrangement of building for country dwellings. These, in ruder structures, may also be carried into the Rustic—not a style proper, in itself—but so termed as approximating in execution or pretension to either of the above; while the Swiss, with its hanging roofs, and sheltering eaves may be frequently brought in aid to show out the rustic form in more completeness, and in greater harmony with surrounding objects, than either of the others.

For farm houses, either of these arrangements or departures from a set and positive style, are better fitted than any which we have noticed; and in some one or other of the modifications named, we have applied them in the examples submitted in this work. They may not therefore be viewed as distinct delineations of an order of architecture, or style proper, even; but as a mode appropriate to the object required. And so long as they do not absolutely conflict with true taste, or in their construction commit a barbarism upon any acknowledged system of architecture, in any of its modifications, we hazard no impropriety in introducing them for the imitation of country builders. Congruity with the objects to which it is applied should be the chief merit of any structure whatever; and so long as that object be attained, good taste is not violated, and utility is fully subserved.

Intimately connected with this subject, in rural buildings, is the shape of the structure. Many of the designs recently introduced for the imitation of builders, are full of angles and all sorts of zig-zag lines, which, although they may add to the variety of style, or relieve the monotony of straight and continuous lines, are carried to a needless excess, expensive in their construction, and entail infinite trouble upon the owner or occupant, in the repairs they subject him to, in the leakages continually occurring, against which last, either of wind or rain, it is almost impossible to guard. And what, let us ask, are the benefits of a parcel of needless gables and peaked windows, running up like owl's ears, above the eaves of a house, except to create expense, and invite leakage and decay? If in appearance, they provoke an association of that kind, they certainly are not in good taste; and a foot or two of increased height in a wall, or a low window sufficient for the purpose intended, would give a tone of dignity, of comfort, and real utility, which a whole covey of such pretentious things could not. All such trumpery should be scouted from the dwelling house of the farmer, and left to the special indulgence of the town builder.

A square form of house will afford more area within a given line of wall than any other sensible form which may be adopted. Yet a square house is not so agreeable to the eye as an oblong. Thus, a house should stand somewhat broader on one front than on another. It should also be relieved from an appearance of monotony and tameness, by one or more wings; and such wings should, at their junction with the main building, retreat or advance a sufficient distance from a continuous line, as to relieve it effectually from an appearance of stiffness, and show a different character of occupation from that of the main structure. The front of a house should be the most imposing and finished in its architecture of any one of its parts; and unless some motive of greater convenience control otherwise, its entrance the most highly wrought, as indicating the luxury of the establishment—for even the humblest habitations have their luxuries. The side rooms, or more usually occupied apartments, require less pretension in both architectural effect and finish, and should wear a more subdued appearance; while the kitchen section, and from that, the several grades of apartments stretching beyond it, should distinctly show that they are subservient in their character, and wear a style and finish accordingly. Thus, each part of the house speaks for itself. It is its own finger-board, pointing the stranger to its various accommodation, as plainly as if written on its walls, and saying as significantly as dumb walls can do, that here dwells a well regulated family, who have a parlor for their friends; a library, or sitting-room for their own leisure and comfort; an ample bedroom and nursery, for the parents and the little ones; a kitchen for the cooking; and a scullery and closets, and all the other etceteras which belong to a perfect family homestead.

And so with the grounds. The lawn or "dooryard," should be the best kept ground on the place. The most conspicuous part of the garden should show its shrubbery and its flowers. The side or rear approach should be separated from the lawn, and show its constant business occupation, and openly lead off to where men and farm stock meet on common ground, devoted to every purpose which the farm requires. Such arrangement would be complete in all its parts, satisfactory, and lasting. Tinsel ornament, or gewgaw decoration should never be permitted on any building where the sober enjoyment of agricultural life is designed. It can never add consideration or dignity to the retired gentleman even, and least of all should it be indulged in by the farmer, dwelling on his own cultivated acres.


Every farm house and farm cottage, where a family of any size occupy the latter, should have a good, substantial stone-walled cellar beneath it. No room attached to the farm house is more profitable, in its occupation, than the cellar. It is useful for storing numberless articles which are necessary to be kept warm and dry in winter, as well as cool in summer, of which the farmer is well aware. The walls of a cellar should rise at least one, to two, or even three feet above the level of the ground surrounding it, according to circumstances, and the rooms in it well ventilated by two or more sliding sash windows in each, according to size, position, and the particular kind of storage for which it is required, so that a draft of pure air can pass through, and give it thorough ventilation at all times. It should also be at least seven and a half feet high in the clear; and if it be even nine feet, that is not too much. If the soil be compact, or such as will hold water, it should be thoroughly drained from the lowest point or corner, and the drain always kept open; (a stone drain is the best and most durable,) and if floored with a coat of flat, or rubble stones, well set in good hydraulic cement—or cement alone, when the stone cannot be obtained—all the better. This last will make it rat proof. For the purpose of avoiding these destructive creatures, the foundation stones in the wall should be brought to a joint, and project at least six inches on each side, from the wall itself, when laid upon this bottom course; as the usual manner of rats is to burrow in a nearly perpendicular direction from the surface, by the side of the wall, when intending to undermine it. On arriving at the bottom, if circumvented by the projecting stones, they will usually abandon their work. Plank of hard wood, or hard burnt bricks, may answer this purpose when stone cannot be had.

All cellar walls should be laid in good lime mortar, or if that be not practicable, they should be well pointed with it. This keeps them in place, and renders them less liable to the ingress of water and vermin. The thickness of wall should not be less than fifteen to eighteen inches, in any event, when of stone; and if the house walls above be built of stone or brick, two feet is better; and in all cases the cellar wall should be full three inches thicker than the wall resting upon it.

In the cellar of every farm house there should be an outside door, with a flight of steps by which to pass roots and other bulky or heavy articles, to which a wagon or cart may approach, either to receive or discharge them. This is indispensable.

Every out-building upon the farm, let it be devoted to what purpose it may, having a wooden floor on the ground story, should be set up sufficiently high from the surface to admit a cat or small terrier dog beneath such floor, with openings for them to pass in and out, or these hiding places will become so many rat warrens upon the premises, and prove most destructive to the grain and poultry. Nothing can be more annoying to the farmer than these vermin, and a trifling outlay in the beginning, will exclude them from the foundations and walls of all buildings. Care, therefore, should be taken to leave no haunt for their convenience.

With these suggestions the ingenuity of every builder will provide sufficient guards against the protection of vermin beneath his buildings.


Pure air, and enough of it, is the cheapest blessing one can enjoy; and to deny one's self so indispensable an element of good health, is little short of criminal neglect, or the sheerest folly. Yet thousands who build at much needless expense, for the protection of their health and that of their families, as they allege, and no doubt suppose, by neglecting the simplest of all contrivances, in the work of ventilation, invite disease and infirmity, from the very pains they so unwittingly take to ward off such afflictions.

A man, be he farmer or of other profession, finding himself prosperous in life, sets about the very sensible business of building a house for his own accommodation. Looking back, perhaps, to the days of his boyhood, in a severe climate, he remembers the not very highly-finished tenement of his father, and the wide, open fireplace which, with its well piled logs, was scarcely able to warm the large living-room, where the family were wont to huddle in winter. He possibly remembers, with shivering sympathy, the sprinkling of snow which he was accustomed to find upon his bed as he awaked in the morning, that had found its way through the frail casing of his chamber window—but in the midst of all which he grew up with a vigorous constitution, a strong arm, and a determined spirit. He is resolved that his children shall encounter no such hardships, and that himself and his excellent helpmate shall suffer no such inconvenience as his own parents had done, who now perhaps, are enjoying a strong and serene old age, in their old-fashioned, yet to them not uncomfortable tenement. He therefore determines to have a snug, close house, where the cold cannot penetrate. He employs all his ingenuity to make every joint an air-tight fit; the doors must swing to an air-tight joint; the windows set into air-tight frames; and to perfect the catalogue of his comforts, an air-tight stove is introduced into every occupied room which, perchance, if he can afford it, are further warmed and poisoned by the heated flues of an air-tight furnace in his air-tight cellar. In short, it is an air-tight concern throughout. His family breathe an air-tight atmosphere; they eat their food cooked in an "air-tight kitchen witch," of the latest "premium pattern;" and thus they start, father, mother, children, all on the high road—if persisted in—to a galloping consumption, which sooner or later conducts them to an air-tight dwelling, not soon to be changed. If such melancholy catastrophe be avoided, colds, catarrhs, headaches, and all sorts of bodily afflictions shortly make their appearance, and they wonder what is the matter! They live so snug! their house is so warm! they sleep so comfortable! how can it be? True, in the morning the air of their sleeping-rooms feels close, but then if a window is opened it will chill the rooms, and that will give them colds. What can be the matter? The poor creatures never dream that they have been breathing, for hour after hour, decomposed air, charged with poisonous gases, which cannot escape through the tight walls, or over the tight windows, or through the tight stoves; and thus they keep on in the sure course to infirmity, disease, and premature death—all for the want of a little ventilation! Better indeed, that instead of all this painstaking, a pane were knocked out of every window, or a panel out of every door in the house.

We are not disposed to talk about cellar furnaces for heating a farmer's house. They have little to do in the farmer's inventory of goods at all, unless it be to give warmth to the hall—and even then a snug box stove, with its pipe passing into the nearest chimney is, in most cases, the better appendage. Fuel is usually abundant with the farmer; and where so, its benefits are much better dispensed in open stoves or fireplaces, than in heating furnaces or "air-tights."

We have slightly discussed this subject of firing in the farm house, in a previous page, but while in the vein, must crave another word. A farmer's house should look hospitable as well as be hospitable, both outside and in; and the broadest, most cheerful look of hospitality within doors, in cold weather, is an open fire in the chimney fireplace, with the blazing wood upon it. There is no mistake about it. It thaws you out, if cold; it stirs you up, if drooping; and is the welcome, winning introduction to the good cheer that is to follow.

A short time ago we went to pay a former town friend a visit. He had removed out to a snug little farm, where he could indulge his agricultural and horticultural tastes, yet still attend to his town engagements, and enjoy the quietude of the country. We rang the door bell. A servant admitted us; and leaving overcoat and hat in the hall, we entered a lone room, with an "air-tight" stove, looking as black and solemn as a Turkish eunuch upon us, and giving out about the same degree of genial warmth as the said eunuch would have expressed had he been there—an emasculated warming machine truly! On the floor was a Wilton carpet, too fine to stand on; around the room were mahogany sofas and mahogany chairs, all too fine to sit on—at all events to rest one upon if he were fatigued. The blessed light of day was shut out by crimson and white curtains, held up by gilded arrows; and upon the mantle piece, and on the center and side tables were all sorts of gimcracks, costly and worthless. In short, there was no comfort about the whole concern. Hearing our friend coming up from his dining-room below, where too, was his cellar kitchen—that most abominable of all appendages to a farm house, or to any other country house, for that matter—we buttoned our coat up close and high, thrust our hands into our pockets, and walked the room, as he entered. "Glad to see you—glad to see you, my friend!" said he, in great joy; "but dear me, why so buttoned up, as if you were going? What's the matter?" "My good sir," we replied, "you asked us to come over and see you, 'a plain farmer,' and 'take a quiet family dinner with you.' We have done so; and here find you with all your town nonsense about you. No fire to warm by; no seat to rest in; no nothing like a farm or farmer about you; and it only needs your charming better half, whom we always admired, when she lived in town, to take down her enameled harp, and play

'In fairy bowers by moonlight hours,'

to convince one that instead of ruralizing in the country, you had gone a peg higher in town residence! No, no, we'll go down to farmer Jocelyn's, our old schoolfellow, and take a dinner of bacon and cabbage with him. If he does occupy a one-story house, he lives up in sunshine, has an open fireplace, with a blazing wood fire on a chilly day, and his 'latch string is always out.'"

Our friend was petrified—astonished! We meant to go it rather strong upon him, but still kept a frank, good-humored face, that showed him no malice. He began to think he was not exactly in character, and essayed to explain. We listened to his story. His good wife came in, and all together, we had a long talk of their family and farming arrangements; how they had furnished their house; and how they proposed to live; but wound up with a sad story, that their good farming neighbors didn't call on them the second time—kind, civil people they appeared, too—and while they were in, acted as though afraid to sit down, and afraid to stand up;—in short, they were dreadfully embarrassed; for why, our friends couldn't tell, but now began to understand it. "Well, my good friends," said we, "you have altogether mistaken country life in the outset. To live on a farm, it is neither necessary to be vulgar, nor clownish, nor to affect ignorance. Simplicity is all you require, in manners, and equal simplicity in your furniture and appointments. Now just turn all this nonsense in furniture and room dressing out of doors, and let some of your town friends have it. Get some simple, comfortable, cottage furniture, much better for all purposes, than this, and you will settle down into quiet, natural country life before you are aware of it, and all will go 'merry as a marriage bell' with you, in a little time"—for they both loved the country, and were truly excellent people. We continued, "I came to spend the day and the night, and I will stay; and this evening we'll go down to your neighbor Jocelyn's; and you, Mrs. N——, shall go with us; and we will see how quietly and comfortably he and his family take the world in a farmer's way."

We did go; not in carriage and livery, but walked the pleasant half mile that lay between them; the exercise of which gave us all activity and good spirits. Jocelyn was right glad to see us, and Patty, his staid and sober wife, with whom we had romped many an innocent hour in our childhood days, was quite as glad as he. But they looked a little surprised that such "great folks" as their new neighbors, should drop in so unceremoniously, and into their common "keeping room," too, to chat away an evening. However, the embarrassment soon wore off. We talked of farming; we talked of the late elections; we talked of the fruit trees and the strawberry beds; and Mrs. Jocelyn, who was a pattern of good housekeeping, told Mrs. N—— how she made her apple jellies, and her currant tarts, and cream cheeses; and before we left they had exchanged ever so many engagements,—Mrs. Patty to learn her new friend to do half a dozen nice little matters of household pickling and preserving; while she, in turn, was to teach Nancy and Fanny, Patty's two rosy-cheeked daughters, almost as pretty as their mother was at their own age, to knit a bead bag and work a fancy chair seat! And then we had apples and nuts, all of the very best—for Jocelyn was a rare hand at grafting and managing his fruit trees, and knew the best apples all over the country. We had, indeed, a capital time! To cut the story short, the next spring our friend sent his fancy furniture to auction, and provided his house with simple cottage furnishings, at less than half the cost of the other; which both he and his wife afterward declared was infinitely better, for all house-keeping purposes. He also threw a neat wing on to the cottage, for an upper kitchen and its offices, and they now live like sensible country folks; and with their healthy, frolicksome children, are worth the envy of all the dyspeptic, town-fed people in existence.

A long digression, truly; but so true a story, and one so apt to our subject can not well be omitted. But what has all this to do with ventilation? We'll tell you. Jocelyn's house was ventilated as it should be;—for he was a methodical, thoughtful man, who planned and built his house himself—not the mechanical work, but directed it throughout, and saw that it was faithfully done; and that put us in mind of the story.

To be perfect in its ventilation, every room in the house, even to the closets, should be so arranged that a current of air may pass through, to keep it pure and dry. In living rooms, fresh air in sufficient quantity may usually be admitted through the doors. In sleeping rooms and closets, when doors may not be left open, one or more of the lower panels of the door may be filled by a rolling blind, opening more or less, at pleasure; or a square or oblong opening for that purpose, may be left in the base board, at the floor, and covered by a wire netting. And in all rooms, living apartments, as well as these, an opening of at least sixty-four square inches should be made in the wall, near the ceiling, and leading into an air flue, to pass into the garret. Such opening may be filled by a rolling blind, or wire screen, as below, and closed or kept open, at pleasure. Some builders prefer an air register to be placed in the chimney, over the fireplace or stove, near the ceiling; but the liability to annoyance, by smoke escaping through it into the room, if not thoroughly done, is an objection to this latter method, and the other may be made, in its construction, rather ornamental than otherwise, in appearance. All such details as these should be planned when the building is commenced, so that the several flues may be provided as the building proceeds. In a stone or brick house, a small space may be left in the walls, against which these air registers may be required; and for inner rooms, or closets, they may pass off into the openings of the partitions, and so up into the garret; from which apertures of escape may be left, or made at the gables, under the roof, or by a blind in a window.

For the admission of air to the first floor of the house, a special opening through the walls, for that purpose, can hardly be necessary; as the doors leading outside are usually opened often enough for such object. One of the best ventilated houses we have ever seen, is that owned and occupied by Samuel Cloon, Esq., of Cincinnati. It is situated on his farm, three miles out of the city, and in its fine architectural appearance and finished appointments, as a rural residence and first-class farm house, is not often excelled. Every closet is ventilated through rolling blinds in the door panels; and foul air, either admitted or created within them, is passed off at once by flues near the ceiling overhead, passing into conductors leading off through the garret.

Where chambers are carried into the roof of a house, to any extent, they are sometimes incommoded by the summer heat which penetrates them, conducted by the chamber ceiling overhead. This heat can best be obviated by inserting a small window at each opposite peak of the garret, by which the outside air can circulate through, above the chambers, and so pass off the heated air, which will continually ascend. All this is a simple matter, for which any builder can provide, without particular expense or trouble.

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