Terms to Know

Apron–the molding beneath the lip of a counter, window stool or other similar casework.

Architrave–ornamental moldings surrounding a rectangular opening.

Art Deco—an architectural style popular from 1920 to 1940 characterized by linear, angular vertical forms with zigzags, chevrons, lozenges and volutes as elements.

Ashlar—a squared building block with a finished surface, laid with narrow mortar joints.

Balloon frame—a type of timber framing introduced in the mid 19th century, in which the studs are continuous from sill to plate.

Baluster—one of a series of short uprights that support a handrail.

Balustrade—a series of short uprights connecting a handrail with a bottom rail or with the tops of stair treads.

Bargeboard—one of a pair of sloping boards at the edge of the gable end of a projecting eave.  These sometimes are decoratively cut.

Bas-relief—a work in which figures project from a flat background surface.

Batten door—a door constructed by nailing boards (battens) together in various ways.  The solid batten door is usually composed of two layers of boards nailed at angles to each other.

Batten wall—a wall formed of boards lined edge to edge.

Bay—1. each space along a façade of a building defined by an opening, a window or a door.  2. a space protruding from a main exterior wall with windows on all sides and its own foundation and roof.  3. in a timber frame barn, a vent.

Bead—a small convex molding, semicircular or greater in cross section.

Beaded—trimmed with a small convex molding that is semicircular or greater in section.

Beaux-arts—a late 19th early 20th century architectural style characterized by symmetrical plans and façades often with exuberant exterior detail.

Belt Course—a continuous horizontal band of brick, stone or wood on the exterior wall of a building used for decorative purposes, or as a means of breaking up a large expanse of wall surface.

Belvedere—an open, roofed gallery situated to command a view.

Bent—in timber frame construction, the basic unit of vertical posts, tie beams, and braces.  These are assembled on the ground and then raised into an upright position, where they are held by the addition of cross beams.    

Brick nogging—brick used as infill between the main vertical framing posts of a timber frame building.

Burgess—term used for a position similar to that of mayor.

Cabbin roof—a footnote to the State of His Lordship’s Manor Conococheague 1767 states:  A cabbin roof is made by splitting trees into thin pieces which they lay one upon the other for a cover.  It saves the expense of nails and is said to be as tight as clapboards. No example of a cabbin roof is known to exist.

Calcimine (also Kalsomine, or Calsomine)—an early water-based paint made from glue, whiting, or zinc white and water that would wash off with water.

Canal forwarder—assumed to be an agent who made arrangements locally to ship goods on the canal and to collect fees.

Cantilevered staircase—a staircase that rises unsupported along one edge.

Cartouche—an ornamental panel that is circular, oval, or scroll shaped.

Cave—a local term for root cellar.

Cavetto—a concave molding with a quarter circle or ellipse cross-section, finished with two flat surfaces at right angles to one another.

Chamfer–a beveled edge on the corner of a post, wall, etc.  Edges so beveled are said to be chamfered.

Chancel—the space around the altar in a church, usually reserved for clergy and choir.

Chimneybreast—the portion of a fireplace and its walls that extend into a room creating recesses (inglenooks) on one or both sides.

Chimney pot—an extension of a chimney, usually of decorative ceramic or terra cotta.

Closed stringer—the sloping side board of a staircase, which supports the steps, is called a string, stringer, or stringboard.  A closed stringer has the ends of the steps and the risers held by grooves cut into the inner edge of the stringer.

Coffered ceiling—decoration on a ceiling formed by recessed panels.

Colonette—a small, slender, decorative column.

Colonial Revival style—architectural styles beginning in the late 19th century and inspired by the study of colonial architecture. Variations include Cape Cod, Four Square, Dutch Colonial, Garrison Colonial and Georgian Revival.

Common bond—brickwork laid with either three or more courses of stretchers (the long, narrow brick face) to each course of headers (the short narrow brick face.)

Common rafter—one of a series of smaller sloped roof beams extending from the ridge to the exterior wall of the structure.

Cooper—a maker of barrels.

Corbell (also Corbelling)—a decorative course projecting from the body of a structure.

Corinthian column—a column with its capital decorated by stylized acanthus leaves.

Cornice—the projection at the top of a wall.

Coupling pole—the mechanism that links the axles of a wagon.  It was made so that it could be adjusted to different lengths to accommodate the different sizes of the hay ladder and the grain bed.

Craftsman style—an early 20th century architectural style popularized by Gustav Stickley’s magazine The Craftsman and focused on smaller homes. It used low-pitched roofs, wide eaves, exposed rafters, square-tapered piers, little or no applied ornament, straight lines, built-in benches and cabinets and varnished wood, particularly white oak.

Creamware—a white earthenware with a cream colored glaze first made in England during the second half of the 18th century.

Crib—a four-sided log structure, a pen.

Cross gable—two gables that intersect at right angles.

Crossettes—the sideways extension of the moldings forming the architrave at a wall opening. Dogears. Also known as a dog-ear, this extension usually occurs at the top of the architrave.

Cubby—a small compartment built into a wall.

Cupola—a small structure projecting from a roof to provide ventilation.

Cutaway corner—a building technique that replaces the corner of a building with a narrow, diagonal wall.

Dado—the lower part of the wall of a room decorated differently from the upper.

Della Robbia—the name of a Florentine family given to the enameled terra cotta reliefs for which they were famous.

Dentil – in classical cornices and entablatures, one of a series of small, decorative blocks that alternate with a blank space, giving a tooth-like appearance.

Dogtooth course—a course of bricks laid diagonally so that a corner of each brick projects from the wall surface.

Doric column—in the earliest type of classical Greek architecture this column is the simplest form with no ornament at the capital.

Double fielded—molding cut with two flat areas at different elevations.

Double run staircase—a staircase that rises to a landing then reverses direction to reach the next floor in two equal ranks of steps.

Eastlake style—an architectural style characterized by incised geometric ornamentation and heavy brackets. Named after Charles Lock Eastlake, 19th century English furniture designer and architect.  This style was popular from the late 19th century to the present.

Fanlight—any curved window over a door.

Fascia—a wide flat horizontal band on a wall surface.

Federal style—an architectural style characterized by symmetrical elevations, two stories and influenced by the Adam style in the use of pilasters, urns, festoons, rosettes and ovals. This style was popular from 1776 to the early 19th century. Also Greek revival.

Finger rail—a railing mirroring half the handrail on the wall of the stairwell.

Flemish bond—brickwork in which headers and stretchers alternate in each course and center over the brick below.

Flounder House—a house built with a side without windows like a flounder that has both eyes on one side of its head. Often the roof of this house has only one slope. This style allows for future expansion or makes maximum use of garden space in a city lot while protecting the privacy of adjoining owners.

Flurkuchenhaus—literally hall-kitchen plan. A Germanic house plan used in early Cumberland Valley architecture featuring a three-room first floor wrapped around a central chimney column.

Fluted—having parallel, concave channels.

Forebay—the cantilevered section of the upper barn that overhangs the barnyard.

French corner—a method of securing a log addition to an existing structure.

Gable—the triangular end of an exterior wall of a building with a ridged roof.

Galleried porches—porches one on top of another.

Gambrel roof—a roof with two slopes, one steep and one shallow, on either side of the roof ridge.

Georgian style—an architectural style characterized by symmetrical elevations and two-story plans with axial entrances, popular from 1700 to 1776. Pediments and six to twelve-pane double hung windows were often used as part of the decorative design.

German siding—a flat-faced type of horizontal siding with a concave top and a tongue overlapped by the grooved bottom of the board above.

Good Morning landing—a stairs landing with two short ranks of steps leading up from the landing in opposite directions. Individuals arriving at the top of the short ranks of steps at the same time would stop and greet one another:  “Good morning.”

Gothic Revival—an architectural style popular from 1830 to 1880 characterized by steeply pitched roofs with cross gables, often with ornamental bargeboards and gothic (pointed) arches.

Gothic window—a window with a pointed arch at its top.

Grained—painted to imitate the grain of finish wood, often used to produce the look of a more expensive wood.

Greek Revival—a style of architecture based on Greek temples with low-pitched roofs and pedimented gables popular in the United States from 1820 to 1860.

Header—a brick laid with its small end toward the face of the wall.

Hip roof—a roof formed by four pitched roof surfaces that slope toward the ridge or come to a point. The hip is the external angle formed by the joint of two sloped roof surfaces, a roof that slopes inward from all exterior walls, forming a pyramid.

Inglenook—a recessed space beside a fireplace often containing a bench or shelves.

Jacobean—an English architectural style of the 17th century, generally contemporary with King James I (1603-1625) and revived at the end of the 19th century. Often has steeply pitched roofs, elaborate chimneys with multiple flues, chimney pots, and half timbering.

Jerkinhead—a roof form characterized by a clipped, or truncated gable.

Jib window—a window with its sill at floor level so that it can be used as a door. The lower part of the window space is often filled with low doors that can be opened as the sash is raised to create a door-height opening.

Keystone—the wedge-shaped stone found at the center of an arch.  The downward pressure of the structure above the arch is kept from collapsing the arch because of the flared sides of the stone.

Knee wall—the low wall between a sloped roof and the floor.

Levy Court—an early court that dealt with local taxes and the allocation of tax revenues.  These courts were abolished in 1851, and the county commissioners absorbed their functions.

Lincrusta—an early linoleum-like product.  It is rigid, made of linseed oil, and pressed with deep relief patterns.

Lintel—a horizontal structural member that supports the load over an opening such as a window or door. This beam spans the opening and rests in the wall on either side.

Loophole—a narrow ventilation slit in a wall.

Mansard roof—a roof having two slopes on all four sides with the lower slope being much steeper than the upper.

Manumission—the act of freeing from slavery.

Modillions—ornamental blocks or brackets used in series to support an overhang.

Molding—a continuous, linear decorative band.


Mortise—a rectangular cavity cut in a member to receive a projecting part of another member.

Mullion—a large vertical member separating two casements; the vertical bar between multiple windows or doors.

Muntin—one of the thin strips of wood molding used to hold panes of glass within a window.

Nailer—a narrow board laid across rafters into which shingles are nailed.  These nailers are laid in parallel rows down the roof from the ridge.

Nave—the central part of a church extending from the lobby to the chancel and flanked by the aisles.

Newel—the vertical posts supporting the handrail at the top and the bottom of a stairway.

Overshot wheel—a water wheel mounted on a horizontal shaft and rotated by a stream of water that passes over the top of the wheel to turn it.

Ovolo—a wide convex molding, like quarter round with fillets on either edge of the curved portion.

Pale (also Paling)—a picket of a fence.

Palladian window—a window composed of a central, arched sash with smaller side lights on either side.

Parapet—a low wall along the edge of a roof.

Parquet—wood, often in contrasting colors, worked into an inlaid design–parquetry

Pediment—a triangular section framed by a horizontal molding on its base and two sloping moldings on its sides. It is used as a crowning element over doors, windows, mantels or niches.

Pen—a four-sided log structure, a crib.

Penny tiles—small tiles roughly the size of an English penny.

Pent roof—shed roof.

Perch—an area of land equal to one square rod, or sixteen-and-a-half feet by sixteen-and-a-half feet.  An acre of land has 160 perches.

Pilaster—a column with a rectangular cross-section attached to a wall.

Pintle—a vertical pin fastened to a frame, which serves as the fixed pivot for a hinge.

Plate—a continuous, horizontal member of a structure that carries the ends of rafters.

Pocket door—a door that slides into a recess in the wall.

Porte-cochere—a covered entrance or porch that extends over a driveway so that vehicles may pass through.

Portico—a covered walkway or porch supported by columns or pillars.

Principal rafter—one of a pair of large rafters extending from the wall plate to the ridge that supports purlins.

Puncheon insulation—An 18th century construction feature of rock, clay or straw infill stuffed between close set, heavy floor joists to protect the first floor level from dampness and cold from the cellar. Another form of this insulation used short boards (puncheons) set in across wide-set joists then topped with the straw/clay/ rock infill.

Purlin—a horizontal beam in a roof structure that supports common rafters or subpurlins.

Quoins–large stones or rectangular pieces of wood or brick used to decorate and/or reinforce the corners of a building by alternating the short and long sides of the stones.

Raised German pointing—joints between stones are filled with mortar that is elevated and has a shallow triangular profile.

Rectilinear—characterized by straight lines.

Reeded—having parallel convex or semi cylindrical elements.

Relieving arch—an arch embedded in a wall, used to relieve the section below it of the weight from above.

Right of Dower—a wife’s right to one-third of her husband’s property in English common law, since repealed in Maryland law.

Rogation altar—a small side alter for solemn prayer.

Roughcast—a course stucco finish.

Rumford fireplace—a shallow masonry fireplace with splayed sides. Benjamin Thompson (1753-1814), an American who later became Count Rumford, designed fireplaces for maximum heat radiation and published his findings in 1796.

Running gear—the chassis of the wagon, four wheels, axles, and coupling pole.

Schnitz—German for slice, here pieces of dried fruit.

Segmental arch—an arch formed by an arc or segment of a circle.

Soffit—the exposed underside of a cornice, balcony, beam, etc., which is sometimes embellished with soffit panels.

Soldier brick—bricks arranged so that their long, narrow faces are vertical.

Sorry Houses—houses that are badly made or in poor condition.

Spandrel—the triangular space between the stringer of a stairs and the floor.

Spanish mission—an architectural style popular in the early 20th century loosely based on the early adobe missions in California.

Stretchers—bricks laid with their long sides toward the face of the wall.

Stringcourse—a continuous horizontal band of brick, stone or wood on the exterior wall of a building that is used as a decoration to break up large expanses of fall surface.

Summer beam—a large beam that runs from girt to girt and carries one end of the floor joists, the other end being supported by exterior walls.  Somer is an Anglo-French word meaning packhorse, hence burden-bearer.

Swisser barn (also Swiss, Sweitzer or Pennsylvania barn)—a two-story barn with a forebay built into the slope of a hill. A bank barn.

Tailrace—that part of a millrace below the waterwheel that takes the water way from the wheel.

Tenon—the projecting part, or tongue, that fits into the mortise.

Thimble—a terra cotta or metal pipe placed horizontally into a chimney to receive a stovepipe.

Threshing floor—the wooden floored main level of the barn where cereal plants were flailed to separate grain from straw.

Trammel—a hook with rings attached to a fireplace crane or randle bar on which to hang a cooking pot.

Transept—either of the lateral arms of a cruciform church.

Trot—the space between two log pens, a dogtrot.

Trunnel—(treenail) a wooden peg hammered through a drilled hole to secure a mortise-and-tenon joint.

Tudor Gothic arch—a flattened arch with a slight point in the center used in the Gothic Revival style of architecture.

Undershot wheel—a water wheel mounted on a horizontal axis that is powered by water passing through the bottom portion of the wheel.

Vestibule—a relatively small, enclosed area between inner and outer doors, used as an air lock to reduce heat loss.

Volute—a spiraling, scroll-like ornament.

Wainscot—a covering on the lower part of an interior wall.

Water table—a ledge, usually at the first floor level, that protects the foundation from rain running down the wall of a building.

Winder—a stair step with a tread that is wider at one end than the other.  Winders are used when steps are carried around curves or angles.