Friday, May 11, 2012
Truth be told, I am not a huge fan of classical architecture or its various revivals. This is generally not a problem, there being comparatively few Greek or Roman-inspired buildings in the smaller communities where I tend to work. And, while I am as entranced by triglyphs and metopes as the next guy (look them up), I mostly think they would be fantastic names for two cats (something that never seems to gain much traction with my family).
There are, however, elements of classical architecture that I find useful and “dentils” are among that category. Cyril Harris, of the iconic Dictionary of Architecture & Construction, defines a dentil as “…one of a band of small, square, tooth-like blocks forming a part of the characteristic ornamentation of the Ionic, Corinthian, and Composite orders, and sometimes the Doric” (I rather love Harris’ “..and sometimes the Doric” but that’s just me).
Today most people buy dentil bands by the foot, of extruded polystyrene or similar materials, often, but not always, for interior use. They used to buy them out of sheet metal, from companies like Berger Sheet Metal, above. But in vernacular architecture, dentil bands were just simple elements of a frieze, typically made of wood. They can be found in all sorts of late-19th century homes, often around the porch or entry, and remained popular through the Bungalow and into the Colonial Revival styles. They’re easy to construct, create great shadow lines, and, at least in my opinion, are attractive and not overly fussy elements.
We found evidence of dentil band on a small, otherwise pretty unassuming, house in Talent last month and I was interested that the original builder took the trouble to “fuss” up the porch. It’s a simple design, made from two different sizes, and thicknesses, of wood blocks attached to a plain frieze. We’ll re-create its as part of the rehab of the building and the removal of the tacky aluminum siding.
As a final note, this marks the 100th preserveoregonblog post, something of a milestone from the past 3 1/2 years of ruminating on old buildings. I enjoy writing these, hope you enjoy reading them, and that maybe they increase your curiousity about the built world around you.