Shingle Style Architecture, Reflection of the American Spirit

01
of 10

American House Styles Transformed

The summer home of the Bush family, a sprawling shingle-sided home in Kennebunkport, Maine, has served as a retreat for informal meetings between the likes of President G. W. Bush and Vladamir Putin
The summer home of the Bush family, a sprawling shingle-sided home in Kennebunkport, Maine, has served as a retreat for informal meetings between the likes of President G. W. Bush and Vladamir Putin. Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images News Collection/Getty Images

Whether sided in shingle, brick, or clapboard, Shingle Style homes marked a significant shift in American housing styles. Shingle architecture broke free from lavish, decorative designs popular in Victorian times. Deliberately rustic, the style suggested a more relaxed, informal style of living. Shingle Style homes could even take on the weather-beaten appearance of a tumble-down shelter on the craggy New England coast.

But this simplicity was, of course, a ruse. Shingle Style homes were never the humble dwellings of fishing folk. Built in seaside resorts like Newport, Cape Cod, eastern Long Island and coastal Maine, many of these houses were vacation "cottages" for the very wealthy. And, as the new casual look caught favor, Shingle Style homes popped up in fashionable neighborhoods far from the seashore.

The Shingle Style home shown here is the summer residence of George H. W. Bush, 41st President of the United States. Located on Walker's Point near Kennebunkport, Maine, the rambling shingle-sided mansion was built in 1903.

02
of 10

About the Shingle Style

The Shingle Style Naumkeag in Stockbridge, Massachusetts by Stanford White, 1885-1886
The Shingle Style Naumkeag in Stockbridge, Massachusetts by Stanford White, 1885-1886. Photo © Jackie Craven

In this photo tour, we'll look at the many shapes of Victorian Shingle Style and we'll offer some clues for identifying the style.

Architects rebelled against Victorian fussiness when they designed rustic Shingle Style homes. Very popular in the Northeastern United States between 1874 and 1910, these rambling homes can be found anywhere in the US where Americans are becoming wealthy and architects are coming to their own American designs.

Naumkeag, shown here, was the summer home of New York lawyer Joseph Hodges Choate, best known for convicting "Boss" Tweed in 1873. The 1885 house was designed by architect Stanford White, who had become a partner at McKim, Mead & White in 1879. What you see here is really the "backyard" of the summer cottage for Choate and his family. What they call the "cliff side," the shingled side of Naumkeag (pronounced nom-keg) overlooks the gardens and the landscaping of Fletcher Steele, with orchards, meadows, and mountains in the distance. The entrance side of Naumkeag, on Prospect Hill Road, is a more formal Victorian Queen Ann style in traditional brick. The original cypress wood shingles have been replaced with red cedar and the original wood shingle roof is now asphalt shingles.

Learn More:

  • National Historic Landmark Nomination Form, April 28, 2006 (PDF)
  • Houses of the Berkshires, 1870-1930 by Richard S. Jackson and Cornelia Brooke Gilder, 2011
    Buy on Amazon
03
of 10

History of the Shingle Housing Style

The Shingle Style Isaac Bell House in Newport, RI by McKim, Mead and White.
The Shingle Style Isaac Bell House in Newport, RI by McKim, Mead and White. Photo by Barry Winiker/Photolibrary Collection/Getty Images

A shingled home does not stand on ceremony. It blends into the landscape of wooded lots. Wide, shady porches encourage lazy afternoons in rocking chairs. The roughhewn siding and the rambling shape suggest that the house was thrown together without fuss or fanfare.

In Victorian days, shingles were often used as ornamentation on houses on Queen Anne and other highly decorated styles. But Henry Hobson Richardson, Charles McKim, Stanford White, and even Frank Lloyd Wright began to experiment with shingle siding.

The architects used natural colors and informal compositions to suggest the rustic homes of New England settlers. By covering most or all of a building with shingles stained a single color, architects created an uniform, unembellished surface. Mono-toned and unornamented, these homes celebrated the honesty of form, the purity of line.

04
of 10

Features of the Shingle Style

Shingle Style House in Schenectady, NY
Shingle Style House in Schenectady, NY, 1900 home of Edwin W. Rice, the second president of the General Electric Company. Photo © Jackie Craven

Shingle Style homes usually have these features:

  • Continuous wood shingles on siding and roof
  • Irregular roof line
  • Cross gables
  • Eaves on several levels
  • Porches
  • Asymmetrical floor plan
05
of 10

Variations in the Shingle Style

Shingles and Arches characterize this New York home
Shingles and Arches characterize this New York home. Photo © Forum Member "Riverinlatvia"

Some Shingle Style homes also have these features:

  • Wavy wall surface
  • Patterned shingles
  • Squat half-towers
  • Palladian windows
  • Roughhewn stone on lower stories
  • Stone arches over windows and porches
But not all Shingle Style houses look alike ...
06
of 10

Do Shingles Make the Style?

The Shingle-sided Spring Lake Inn, New Jersey
The Shingle-sided Spring Lake Inn, New Jersey. Photo © Jackie Craven

Shingle Style homes can take on many forms. Some have tall turrets, suggestive of Queen Anne architecture. Some have gambrel roofs, Palladian windows, and other Colonial details. Some have features borrowed from Tudor, Gothic Revival, and Stick styles.

At times it may seem that the only thing Shingle houses have in common is the material used for their siding.

With this much variation, can it be said that "Shingle" is a style at all?

07
of 10

The Shingle Style Defined

Early 20th century ad for Cabot's shingle stains featuring a home in Dark Harbor, Maine by architect John Lavalle
Early 20th century ad for Cabot's shingle stains featuring a home in Dark Harbor, Maine by architect John Lavalle. Photo by Jay Paull/Archive Photos Collection/Getty Images

Technically, the word "shingle" is not a style, but a siding material. Victorian shingles were usually thinly cut cedar which was stained rather than painted. Vincent Scully, an architectural historian, popularized the term Shingle Style to describe a type of Victorian home in which complex shapes were united by a taut skin of these cedar shingles. And yet, some "Shingle Style" homes were not sided in shingles at all!

08
of 10

Shingle Style Without Shingles

Stone shingle estate of John Lancelot Todd, 180 Senneville Road, Senneville, Island of Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Stone shingle estate of John Lancelot Todd, 180 Senneville Road, Senneville, Island of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Photo ©Thomas1313 via Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) (cropped)

Professor Vincent Scully, Jr. suggests that the Shingle style home need not be made entirely of shingles—that indigenous materials often included masonry. On the western end of the Île de Montréal, the Senneville Historic District National Historic Site of Canada includes a number of mansions built between 1860 and 1930. This "farm" house at 180 Senneville Road was built between 1911 and 1913 for McGill Professor Dr. John Lancelot Todd (1876-1949), a Canadian physician most famous for his study of parasites. The stone estate has been described as both Arts & Crafts and Picturesque—both movements associated with the Shingle house style.

09
of 10

Frank Lloyd Wright and Shingle Architecture

Frank Lloyd Wright Home in Oak Park, Illinois
Frank Lloyd Wright Home in Oak Park, Illinois. Photo by Don Kalec/Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust/Archive Photos Collection/Getty Images (cropped)

Even Frank Lloyd Wright was influenced by the Shingle Style. Built in 1889, the Frank Lloyd Wright Home in Oak Park, Illinois was inspired by the work of Shingle Style designers McKim, Mead and White.

10
of 10

Modern Day Shingle Houses

Architect Robert A.M. Stern recreates the flavor of Victorian Shingle architecture
Architect Robert A.M. Stern recreated the flavor of Victorian Shingle Style architecture when he designed the Yacht Club Resort at the Disney World Resort in Florida. © The Walt Disney Company

Although the Shingle Style faded from popularity in the early 1900s, it saw a rebirth in the second half of the twentieth century. Modern-day architects such as Robert Venturi and Robert Stern borrowed from the style, designing stylized shingle-sided buildings with steep gables and other traditional shingle details.

Not every house sided in shingles represents the Shingle Style, but many homes being built today have classic Shingle Style characteristics -- rambling floorplans, inviting porches, high gables and rustic informality.

For the Yacht Club Resort at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, Robert A. M. Stern imitates sedate, turn-of-the-century summer homes of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.

Read more about the Shingle Style:

  • Shingle Styles: Innovation and Tradition in American Architecture 1874 to 1982
    by Leland M. Roth, Bret Morgan (Photographer)
    Buy on Amason
  • Shingle Style and the Stick Style: Architectural Theory & Design from Richardson to the Origins of Wright by Vincent Scully, Jr, Yale, 1971
    Buy on Amazon
  • The Shingle Style Today: Or, the Historian's Revenge by Vincent Joseph Scully, Jr, 2003
    Buy on Amazon