Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Workshop

I have already received a couple questions about the workshop where I made the molding in my first post. I was working in the Druke House, an 1854 Greek Revival home which is set up as an 1860s/1870s era woodshop. The Druke is one of many historic buildings moved to The Landing, a living history museum located in Shakopee, MN.

Here is an interior shot showing the workbench and some of my cabinet making and joiner’s tools. The house is divided into two rooms in the familiar hall-and parlor plan, with each room having a stove and chimney.

The house was built by a pair of brothers, Peter and Franz Karl Dr√ľke, who had immigrated around 1853 to Chanhassen, MN from Nordrhein-Wesfalen, Germany (what was then part of the Kingdom of Prussia). Germans used stone frequently in their home country and the Drukes continued this practice in Minnesota, though they adopted a building style then popular in their adopted home. A few, similar examples built by German immigrants still remain in nearby St. Paul, MN. These were also constructed with stone and feature similar transoms over their entrance doors.

Like much frontier architecture, the house is rather small and has little ornament.
The principal features that identify it as a modest example of the Greek Revival are the wide frieze boards on the gable ends, gable returns, the transom light over the door and windows with 6 over 6 glazing (only the attic windows appear to be original). Features that were common in on higher style examples but are absent here are wide frieze boards along the sides and columns or pilasters framing the entrance and the building corners. The windows on the lower level and the door have been replaced. The 1-pane window glazing and bead molding on the window muntins and door stiles are more characteristic of the 1910s.

The walls are constructed of local materials, including rubble stonework, field stone and brick. Often frontier builders started buildings using dressed stones taken from earlier structures and, as their supply ran out, used other, less refined materials. In other cases, builders simply ran out of time, money or ambition and resorted to coarser field stone or brickwork. It is not clear which is the case here, but the bottom sections of the walls are constructed of lightly dressed, coursed rubble. Above this are field stones. As can been seen on the east gable end, brickwork was used at the top. Bricks were sometimes used to repair stonework, so we can speculate that the bricks at the top of the gable end might have been added at a later date.

The Greek Revival appeared in America around1830 and spread into the Mississippi Valley as settlers moved west. It was popularized by several pattern books and carpenter’s guides, including The Modern Builder’s Guide by Minard Lafever and The Practical House Carpenter by Asher Benjamin. By the 1850s the Greek Revival began to be supplanted by the picturesque styles such as the Gothic Revival and Italianate, although the Greek style did persist much longer in the South.

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