20th Century Windows

1905 Hollow-Core Metal Window

Location: Gandy Belting Company, Baltimore, Maryland

Sash Opening: 44" x 100"

By the end of the ninteenth century, fire protection had become a major consideration in the design of industrial structures.  One important type of fire-proof window design, developed by the 1890s, was the hollow-core sheet-metal window.  About the same time, some sheet-metal windows were also manufactured, using a wood window as its core—in essence a metal-clad wood window.  Both types of windows were manufactured in a variety of configurations, sizes and styles.  Such windows were used both as replacement wood windows and in new construction where a fire-rated window was desired.

The dimensions and molding profiles of wood windows could be matched in a hollow-core production, allowing both window systems to be used on different elevations of the same building. Wood windows could thus be used on the front façade and metal-clad or hollow-core metal windows used along the side and rear elevations where fire-spread from adjacent buildings was a concern.

This three-over-three, pivoted sash, hollow-core window is from the Gandy Belting Company in Baltimore.  Installed in the north elevation of the building around 1905, the window is typical of hollow-core design.  The sash has wire glass that has a hexagonal wire pattern and the glass is translucent for light control.

1911 Industrial Steel Window

Location: Lippincott Press Building, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Sash Opening: 75" x 95-3/8"

In the early twentieth century, the widespread use of steel and concrete frame construction eliminated load-bearing walls and with it, the traditional constraints on fenestration. Unprecedented expanses of glazing became possible, and modern technologies were necessary to fulfill the new design opportunities.  Steel windows filled the requirements perfectly, providing a system that could be expanded as needed with minimal area devoted to structural members.  The system was especially suited for industrial buildings, allowing for large amounts of light along with fire-proof window construction. With the continued use of small lights, broken glass could be cheaply replaced and with the use of wire glass, fire protection was vastly improved.  By the 1930s, steel windows were synonymous with the best aspects of functional industrial designer, becoming a key element in Bauhaus-inspired structures.  In this country, steel windows were used most widely in the years between the two World Wars, especially in Art Deco style houses, offices and apartments, as well as in industrial structures.

This steel window is from the Lippincott Press Building, built in Philadelphia in 1911.  It is believed that the steel windows in the building were manufactured in England by Henry Hope and Sons.  The 4 x 5 foot window that is shown is typical of the windows in the building, having a twenty-light configuration and a six-light pivot sash in the center.  The glass panes have a vertical orientation which was standard until after World War II, when window panes in steel windows took on a horizontal orientation.  An unusual feature of this window is the bullnose molding on both faces of the muntin.  This is actually a function of an archaic three-part muntin construction, consisting of a center I-bar with flanking L-bars to receive the glazing.  The I-bar is rolled over the ends of its companions in order to lock them together, thus forming the distinctive bullnose.

1915 Arts and Crafts Residential Window

Location: 5803 Waterman Street, St. Louis, Missouri

Sash Opening: 40" x 66-¼"

Courtesy of the Pantheon Corporation, St. Louis The Arts and Crafts movement sought “honesty of expression, truth of materials, and the simplicity of decorative objectives.”  Architecture of the movement is characterized by a strong relationship of the building to the site, the unity of interior and exterior, respect for natural materials, and a reduction and simplification of parts.

The 5803 Waterman Street window is from a building in St. Louis constructed around 1915 by contractor Richard Mederacke as a multi-family residence.  The building displayed typical Arts and Crafts motifs, including a clay-tile roof, oversized wood cornice brackets, projecting bays, and grouped windows that had multi-panes of glass.  The window reflected its interior use; it was sized, proportioned and placed to suit the function of the space.  Such windows were used in groups or pairs to emphasize the horizontality of the design and to unify the interior and exterior.  The double-hung window featured here has four lights in the upper sash, divided by narrow vertical muntins and a single-light lower sash.  The ogee lugs along the bottom of the upper sash provide strength to the joints above and also provide a decorative element to the window.  The wood frame is not original.

1920s Residential Window

Location: Schenectady, New York

Sash Opening: 36" x 40"

Courtesy of Harbrook Associates, Scotia, New York

The development and size of window sash was generally related to improvements in the glass industry.  As glass increased in availability and dimensions, individual panes became larger and muntins and mullions, narrower, as shown in the progression of windows on our website.  During the nineteenth century, machine-made window glass, in both cylinder and sheet variety, gradually supplanted hand-blown glass.  At the same time, large sheets of plate glass, produced by “casting” and then passing over water-cooled iron rollers, became available for shop fronts. By the end of the nineteenth century, continued improvements in the manufacture and quality of glass, including the elimination of common imperfections, led to the use of one-over-one windows.

The popularity of the eclectic taste in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, however, effected a change—suddenly, stylistic preferences often took precedence over technology in determining pane design.  As one historian remarked about this period, the number and size of lights was dictated now by the architect’s taste and the client’s budget (Able & Severud, Apartment Houses, 1947).  Sash design intentionally recalled early forms, and a medley of pane configuration resulted.

This double-hung window sash dates from the late 1920s or early 1930s and comes from a building in Schenectady, New York.  The six-over-six configuration reflects one of the many stylistic variations popular at the time for both Queen Anne and Colonial Revival structures.  The metal sash pulley is case stamped rather than cast which provided an interesting contrast with the fruitwood pulley that was used in the mid-18th century residential window.

1920s Rollscreen window (Manufacturers' Sample)



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1930s Residential Casement Window


Location: A Nationally Distributed Window

Sash Opening:  16" x 38" (each of the paired sash)

Courtesy of the Andersen Corporation, Bayport, Minnesota

The rapid growth of the steel window after World War I led to steel casements becoming popular, particularly in residential construction.  In response to this competition, wood window manufacturers sought to update the centuries old wood casement window, a style which provides for full opening ventilation, among other conveniences.

This wood casement window was made in the early 1930s by the Andersen Corporation of Bayport, Minnesota.  Unlike its earlier casements, Andersen’s Master casements were shipped as a complete unit, with all elements designed to fit together.  The sash was fitted and glazed at the factory and an optional, removable, interior storm window panel was available that mounted directly onto the sash on the room side.  Standard features included an interior screen, phosphor bronze weatherstripping and complete hardware (such as mechanical locking sash operator and extension hinges inside the house).  To achieve water tightness, paired casement windows also featured a narrow mullion post upon which the face of each side closed and locked in place.  The particular window was marketed by Andersen in the majority of the states.

1932 Aluminum Commercial Window

Location:  PSSF Building, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Sash Opening:  39" x 36 1/2"

Courtesy Historic American Buildings Survey

The modern look and appeal of aluminum help to generate a market in the 1930s for aluminum windows, particularly in signature buildings and high-end projects. Most early aluminum windows were designed to look like wood or steel windows, including such features as true divided lights. Their fabrication borrowed heavily from both manufacturing processes and employed much heavier gauge aluminum than used in today’s windows.

Aluminum windows came in a variety of surface treatments, including nonfinished, anodized, chemical conversion coatings, and painted (or lacquered).  The most common between 1920 and 1950 was a “nonfinish,” also called a “mill finish.”

The aluminum double-hung windows for the high-rise PSFS Building in Philadelphia were manufactured in 1932 by the Campbell Metal Window Corporation of New York. A bank headquarters, the PSFS Building had more than 3000 separate aluminum window units and incorporated plate glass made by Pittsburgh Plate Glass. Over time, the luster of the “nonfinish” receded due to air-borne abrasives and pollutants and deferred maintenance.

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