19th century Windows



Location: Kirk Boott House, Lowell, Massachusetts

Sash Opening:  40" x 69-1/2"

Courtesy of; Lowell Historical Preservation Commission, US Department of the Interior

The transformation of the heavy detailing of Georgian architecture to the more delicate design of the Federal style is exemplified in the new muntin profiles of the windows at the turn of the 19th century.  By increasing the depth of the muntin, its width could be significantly narrowed without sacrificing the strength of the muntin.  The result was a striking enlargement in the area devoted to the glass lights and a perceived reduction in the mass of the muntin.  The change was also aided by developments in glass production which permitted larger affordable glass panes.

The window featured here is from the Kirk Boott House, built in 1823 by the Merrimack Manufacturing Company for its manager.  The window exhibits the most current architectural style among New England’s upper class.  The window sash are counterbalanced; the muntins are characteristically thin; and the panes, measuring 12 by 18 inches, are considerably larger than those of typical Georgian windows.

This high-style residential window had its full complement of features, including interior shutters, paneled apron, wall reveals and molding surround.  This window was an important feature of the interior as well as the interior of the building.

Kirk Boott House, Lowell, Massachusetts

Kirk Boott House, Lowell, Massachusetts

1820s Concealed Interior Window Shutter

Location: Kirk Boott House, Lowell, Massachusetts

Courtesy of: Lowell Historic Preservation Commission, US Department of the Interior

Like their exterior counterparts, interior shutters helped control sunlight on the inside.  In addition to reducing heat gain during the summer, interior shutters helped regulate temperatures; protected carpets, upholstery and furniture from fading; guaranteed privacy for the residents; and effectively shut out the view, which some found distracting during the dinner hours.  Paneled shutters of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century gradually gave way to the use of louvered shutters or ones with a combination of louvers and paneled sections.  Most interior shutter were side hinged, folding closed in two or three sections against the jamb on both sides of the window, although some examples exist of interior shutters sliding horizontal tracks and other forms.

The paneled interior shutters shown here are from the Kirk Boott House in Lowell, Massachusetts, and date from 1823.  They are shown in place along with the window.  The shutters are unusual in that the outermost shutter on the left and right sides of the window are continuous, extending the full height of the window.  They are each hinged to two stacked shutters so that when fully closed against the sash, there are four shutter sections across the window.  When folded against the wall for storage, the full-length shutter section forms part of the window room paneling.  When in use, the stacked sections, which would be toward the center of the window, provided greater flexibility in controlling light and privacy.

1830s Vernacular Federal-Style Residential Window

Location:  Boott Cotton Mills’ Boarding House Block Number 7, Lowell, Massachusetts

Sash Opening:  31-1/4" x 52"

Courtesy of: Lowell Historic Preservation Commission, US Department of the Interior

With its two six-light sash, this wood window exemplifies the simple design and detailing of a vernacular Federal style window.  The featured window is from the Boott Cotton Mills’ Boarding House Block Number 7, one of an original eight blocks of housing with each block consisting of four boarding houses for female mill workers and four single-family “tenement” houses for overseers and mechanics.

In addition to a plank frame, the window incorporated one fixed sash (upper) and one moveable sash (lower).  These simple features distinguish the window from higher style contemporaries such as the 1820s Kirk Boott House.

Boott Cotton Mills’ Boarding House, Lowell, Massachusetts

Boott Cotton Mills’ Boarding House, Lowell, Massachusetts

1840s Greek Revival Window—Commercial Building

Location:  25 Fulton Street, New York City, New York

Sash Opening: 37" x 78-3/4"

Courtesy of: Bureau of Historic Sites, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Typical of the commercial Greek Revival architecture of the 1830s and 1840s in Lower Manhattan, warehouses in the South Seaport District were constructed with upper stores of brick surmounting granite trabeated ground floors.  Most windows in commercial buildings still retained a residential scale, such as this double-hung six-over-six wood window.  The six-light sash with slender ovolo muntins resembled earlier windows but was constructed of thicker stock.  By this time 1-1/2" to 1-3/4" thick sash rails and stiles were being used on commercial buildings.  Exterior casings were less decorated than on earlier windows.  Unlike Federal period warehouse windows which often lacked sash pulley hardware, most Greek Revival period windows received counterweights and hardware at the time of construction.

1850s Italianate Window—Commercial Building

Location: 167–171 John Street, New York City, New York

Sash Opening: 22-1/4" x 88-1/2" (each of the paired sash)

The Italianate style is one of the architectural styles of the Revival/Picturesque movement whose ornamentation is readily adapted to both residential and commercial buildings. The window openings tended to be larger than their earlier counterparts.  Instead of six-over-six light sash, fewer divided lights were common, utilizing much larger glass panes.  As a result, the windows took on a stronger vertical orientation than had previously existed.  More elaborate window enframements were representative of later developments of the Italianate style as the introduction of wood-working machines led to the increased affordability of elaborately carved trim.  With the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, cast iron window trim also became readily available in many urban areas.

Constructed in 1849–1850 adjacent to the South Street shipping wharves in New York City, 167–171 John Street marked a dramatic change from the traditional Greek Revival architecture of the 1830s and 1840s.  The window shown from this building has paired double-hung sash divided by a center mullion ornamented with a torus that also faces the cavettoed exterior casing which serves as a brick molding.  Each sash has only two lights, divided by a slender angular horizontal muntin similar to a design in an 1848 edition of Peter Nicholson’s Mechanical Exercises. Center window mullions typically required that sash be counterweighted from the sides of the window only; small casters placed diagonally opposite each other were mortised into the stiles to enable the sash to rise smoothly in the channels.  As often the case with commercial buildings, the rear windows of 167–171 John Street conformed with an earlier design—in this case the Greek Revival.

1860s Italianate Residential Window

Location:  900 Geyer Street, St. Louis, Missouri

Sash Opening:  34-7/8" x 70"

In residential architecture, formal balance and symmetry characterized the Italianate style.  Flat-headed windows continued in use, but window heads also took on new shapes not seen in previous architectural styles, including round and segmental arches.  Residential windows emphasized verticality through the use of wide vertical mullions and thin horizontal muntins.  Heavy ornamental lintels further highlighted the windows, and projecting bay windows also became popular during this period.  Common window pane configurations in the Italianate style were two-over-two and four-over-four.

The Italianate window displayed here comes from 900 Geyer Street in St. Louis, which houses a typical neighborhood store with upper-floor residences. The segmental-arched head, two-over-two pane configuration help define the window as Italianate.  Due to the widespread use of architectural pattern books in this period, buildings in St. Louis, Philadelphia, New York City, District of Columbia, and elsewhere drew on similar designs and details.

1870s Industrial Window

Location:  Mill No. 9, Boott Cotton Mills, Lowell, Massachusetts

Sash Opening:  44-1/2" x 96-1/2"

Courtesy of the Congress Group Properties, Boston

The segmental arch, introduced in the early 1850s, represented a significant visual change to window openings that simultaneously reduced cost and responded to high-style design of the previous decade.  Prior to the 1850s, windows in masonry-walled factory buildings consisted of a simple rectangular opening with a flat jack arch or, more commonly, a stone lintel.  The segmental arch window head was to remain the standard for nearly all fenestration openings in factories of masonry-wall construction until the early twentieth century.  Set into the masonry during construction, segmental arched window frames provided the principal support for building the masonry arches as well.

The wooden window unit was little different from those used in the lintel-headed window.  The head of the upper sash usually remained flat, while the head of the frame was fabricated on a curve only along the underside of the masonry arch.  Arch-headed sash with true arch-headed frames were more costly and, therefore, less common in industrial buildings.

The twelve-over twelve, double-hung configuration remained standard until the end of the century.  Then the gradual increase in the size of factory windows began to exceed the structural capabilities of existing window technology, and new configurations and operating types were introduced.  Sometimes double-hung windows were paired in the same opening, often with transoms.  Pivoting or hopper sash were combined with larger fixed sections in accomplishing the same objectives.  The relatively small pane within a multi-pane sash remained a common feature of factory windows, even after the introduction of the steel factory window early in the twentieth century.

This window is from Mill No. 9 of the Boott Cotton Mill in Lowell, Massachusetts, and is original to the structure, dating between 1875 and 1880.  It is typical of all the windows dating from the late 19th century rebuilding and expansion of the mill complex.  This general design was commonly used in similar work at most of the other Lowell mills built between the 1870–1880 period.

Boott Cotton Mill in Lowell, Massachusetts, 2006

Boott Cotton Mill in Lowell, Massachusetts, 2006