Pattern Books + Builder’s Books

Historic Preservation

Fall 2012

Janet W. Foster, instructor

Using the incomparable resources of Avery Library, this course examined the role of publications in influencing the development and dissemination of design ideas to a largely middle class American audience of potential home builders. Published materials transformed American building from a landscape of regional vernacular types passed on through craft tradition to a nationally recognized series of styles and building techniques. Books showed people in places far from urban places where an architectural profession was emerging in the nineteenth century just what was fashionable and therefore desirable in building design; this course illuminated that process and the built results.

Students used original source materials, including builder’s books of the early nineteenth century, pattern books of the latter nineteenth century and catalogs from the early twentieth century to consider the audience for particular pattern books, the credentials of authors, and the impact of the work on the buildings across the country. Students were also challenged to find built matches to published sources, and in the process were able to “see” familiar, vernacular landscapes around the country as having design precedents in books, magazines and catalogs.