Mid-Victorian Vernacular Variations

During the Mid-Victorian period, the most popular form of domestic architecture in Oakwood and the rest of Raleigh was the central-hall plan, imported into town from the North Carolina countryside. However, three other North Carolina vernacular forms also gained favor.

“Side-hall plan” houses became popular in towns because they were narrower and deeper than “central-hall plan” houses and thus fit better on a town lot: “Side-hall plan” houses feature a hall running down one side of the house and two or more rooms lined up on the other side. They can be of one story, but are more often of two, as in 542 E. Jones (Jan Fogleman), 547 E. Jones St. (George Duncan & Sheila Sabol), and 410 Oakwood Ave. (John & Nancy McIlwee). These houses always have a saddle roof with the gable in front. The gable usually features a large and interesting attic vent. The first floor façade features a door and one window, and the second floor features two windows. The fenestration (window placement) in the façade is asymmetrical, because the side hall is narrower than the rooms. This fenestration is peculiar to Raleigh and a few other towns in eastern North Carolina. In most of the country, façades of side-hall plan houses of this period have a door and two windows on the first floor, and three symmetrically placed windows on the second floor.

“Gable-front-and-wing” houses are topped by a cross-gabled saddle roof. Generally one third of the façade is the “gable front” and two-thirds is the “wing,” with a porch in front of the wing. These can be of one story, as in 404 Oakwood Ave. (Robin Dorff), 502 Polk St. (Sam Tarlton) and 421 Elm St. (Marco & Antonella Nardelli) or two stories, as in 312 E. Jones St. (Jerry & Erin Nowell).

“Shotgun” houses are one room wide and several rooms deep, and have only one story. They were called shotgun because one could fire a bullet in through the front door and it would travel through every room before exiting the rear. (They should have been called “rifle” rather than “shotgun.”) See 538 E. Jones St. The narrowness of these houses allowed them to be built on very narrow lots; in some cases the builder built two houses on a single lot, as in 524 and 526 N. East St. (Darla Brown and Susan Iddings, respectively.)