Terms Commonly Used on  this Site

Since I’m not an architectural historian, my knowledge of architectural terms has been learned from myriad sources, and often, from the suggestions of professionals. A Field Guide to American Houses, by Virginia and Lee McAlester, has been in print since 1984 and is widely considered one of the best general resources for laymen attempting to identify American architectural styles. I cannot emphasize enough how useful this book is; I highly recommend purchasing a copy if old houses are your thing. Buy an older copy if you just want to leave it in your car and take on your travels.

Central Hallway House- A vernacular form which, as the name implies, features a central hallway and either one or two rooms on either side. It is generally one room deep and may overlap with the double-pen form at times.

Commercial Architecture- This refers to structures created for non-residential use, though architecturally designed apartment buildings are an exception. In Georgia, commercial architecture of the late-19th and early-20th centuries was often vernacular in style.

Commercial Block- A collection of two or more storefronts contained within a common structure; sometimes the storefronts have different styles and sometimes the structure is uniform. In Georgia, this form was most common in the early 20th century.

Commissary- The “company stores” of large landowners, naval stores operations and cotton mills where tenants and millworkers ran accounts. Commissaries were almost always vernacular and utilitarian.

Cottage- Cottages are generally perceived to be small houses, but that is misleading. The term is sometimes used aesthetically and not literally, describing much grander homes when used as second homes or vacation homes. I often use “cottage” and “house” interchangeably.

Dogtrot- Generally speaking, a dogtrot is any house with an open hallway which allows air to circulate in the structure. This was a very common form before the advent of air conditioning. There aren’t any readily available estimates as to how many survive but they are quite rare. Quite a few examples do survive but with the hallway enclosed.

Folk Victorian- Vernacular structures which exhibit some element of Victorian design. This can range from the simplest porch post ornamentation to bay windows to gable ornamentation and window trim, with infinite variation.

Ghost Town- A place which still exists on maps or as a small community, but a place which generally is characterized by no more than the presence of a church or store today. Ghost town in the context of this website doesn’t imply that people no longer live there, but that the features which made it a town have long been lost or abandoned.

Granitoid- A masonry or stone block with a sculptured contour, commonly used in the early twentieth century. Fitzgerald Granitoid Works in Ben Hill County was a prolific and well-known supplier of this material.

Hip- and Pyramidal Roof Houses- Houses that have a raised, or hipped roof, or a pyramidal version. Though technically not the same, the terms are often used interchangeably.

Ludowici Tile- Also known as Ludowici-Dixie tiles, or terra cotta  or clay shingles, these design elements are used in roofing to this day and considered among the best in the world. Though the original factory in Long County is now but a memory, the tiles are still made by the Ludowici-Celadon Company.

New Deal Architecture- Though embracing multiple styles, the bureaucratically-ordered architecture of the Great Depression is often placed in its own category. Some of the most important works of 20th-century public architecture in Georgia were built in this era, roughly 1935-43. Perhaps the best known are the New Deal Post Offices.

Saddlebag House- A vernacular house with two rooms, with separate outside entrances for each room, built with a central chimney.Many were expanded over time to included front and/or rear shed rooms. Once common in Georgia, the form is quickly disappearing.

Shed Room- A room/rooms added on to a house along the rear or front of the structure. In Georgia, I’ve encountered rear shed rooms much more often.

Tar Paper- Asbestos siding usually made to look like bricks, and most commonly red, brown, or gray in South Georgia. Also known as false brick siding.

Tenant Farming- A socioeconomic system in which yeoman farmers “rent” the house and work the surrounding land for a share of the crop and consideration for housing. More commonly referred to as sharecropping.

Vernacular Architecture- Simply put, vernacular architecture is the architecture of the common man; it is generally accomplished without the aid of a trained architect and reflects the personal aesthetic of the builder or owner. Most structures in South Georgia, especially those from the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century were built in this style.