Carpenter Gothic is a North American style popular between the 1840s & 1860s

Carpenter Gothic, also known as Rural Gothic, is a style of architecture that evolved from earlier forms of Gothic architecture. As a close relative of Revival Gothic, Carpenter Gothic developed in North America in the mid-19th century. This style is typified by wooden houses, decorated with motifs of Gothic Revival detail.

Carpenter Gothic. Photo Credit

Carpenter Gothic is distinct from other forms of Gothic architecture because of its use of wood instead of stone as a primary construction material. Wood was a functional choice for building houses with the resources available in America and allowed for relatively easy construction. Therefore, Carpenter Gothic become very popular in America in the 19th century.

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Cincinnati, Ohio, an example of Steamboat Gothic. Photo Credit


The Carpenter Gothic principals cottage with elaborate bargeboard trim. Photo Credit

Beside the houses built in Carpenter Gothic style, there were also many churches built of wood. This form of Gothic architecture was adapted to the traditional American light-frame construction, with details such as steeply pitched roofs, pointed arches, barge boards, steep gables, and strong vertical design elements. The windows were inspired by English Gothic cathedrals which were made with high pointed arches.

Carpenter Gothic church 1892. Photo Credit

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St. Andrews Episcopal church in Prairieville, Alabama.

The artist Grant Wood painted Carpenter Gothic house in his best-known painting American Gothic. The house appears in the background, the man and the women stand in the front. It is perhaps the best example of Carpenter Gothic houses in the early 1900s. Almost all the structures built in Carpenter Gothic style tended to be small, square and symmetrical.

The painting American Gothic by Grant Wood, 1930.

One of the most famous characteristics that made this style recognizable were the jigsaw details. Designers experimented with form while creating Carpenter Gothic architecture. Board and batten siding were common, unlike feature buttressing, in particular on larger houses and churches. Ornamentation of Carpenter Gothic was practically limitless with the use of wood as a versatile material. Wooden ornamentation was also incorporated into brick Gothic Revival buildings, particularly in Arizona and New Mexico, where Carpenter Gothic architecture style was not especially commonplace.

An old chapel, active for the past 183 years. Photo Credit

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Carpenter Gothic trim on a brick house, Ohio.

Until 2002, the Seth family lived in one Carpenter Gothic house in downtown Albuquerque, which was built circa 1882. Many houses in this style were built in Nevada in the 1860-1870s, and continue to exist today. Places of worship in Carpenter Gothic style are typical in most parts of Canada too, though they are rare in Ontario and Quebec.

St. Thomas Anglican in Moose Factory, Ontario. Photo Credit


Built in 1866 it is listed on National Register of Historic Places, Ohio.

A lot of Carpenter Gothic houses and churches are preserved and listed on the  National Register of Historic Places. St. Saviour’s Episcopal Church, built in 1847 in Maspeth New York by Richard Upjohn is a prime example that was sold in 2006. The developer that bought the church made a contract with the City of New York to preserve it.

Zion Memorial Chapel now St. Nicholas in New York. Photo Credit

All Saints Church in Jensen Beach, Florida is another classic example of Carpenter Gothic, which was relocated to a hilltop in the 1960s get a better view and make better use of the land. Buildings in the Carpenter Gothic style are still being constructed today, such as St. Luke’s Church in Blue Ridge, Georgia, which was built in 1995.