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In This Section
Northeast Vernacular Zone
The northeast province encompasses the Middle Atlantic States and northern Appalachians into New England. The mountains here run north-south, allowing mostly east-west exposures. Winds are northeasterly.
Vegetation is lush, with hardwoods in lower elevations and conifers in the upper. In some areas the treeline is as low as 1800 feet. Winters tend to be cold, wet, and overcast.
Early builders here were concerned with two climatic aspects: how to stay warm and dry. They used masonry chimneys within the body of the house to store and radiate heat from their fires. Farm and outlying building are often attached to the home, for sharing warmth and ease of access. Placing farm structures close to the roads minimized the requirements of snow clearing and eased access to markets.
Wood frame and timberframe structures with clabboard, vertical board, or shingle siding are often the norm in the northern sections of this vernacular zone due to the predominance of British settlers, who were familiar with it's building techniques and style. Masonry structures in the north were considered cold and damp due to humidity. Farmers moved stones as they worked the fields towards the edges of the site, creating gorgeous drystack stone walls.
More south, immigrants tended to be of Germanic descent, and loved brick and masonry structures with elaborate brickwork designs.
Scandanavian settlers brought a passion for log buildings, first using rough logs then adapting hewn logs with permanent chinking.
The French, who moved in along the Mississippi, introduced sweeping roofs with large deep porches.
Response to Environment
In all cases, buildings are tucked into the vegetation at the edge of clearings, or the areas around the house that is placed in a meadow are planted to create a pleasant microclimate. Buildings tend to tall and compact in plan, and to step down any grades rather than be placed on a flat site, which allows them to retain heat. Often, snow storage is considered, using a ravine or hollow to relocate the snow from the road. Gardens and plazas are favored over decks and balconies, due to their ability to retain warmth. The shapes of buildings are very simple, and symmetrical double-hung windows are kept relatively small to keep in the warmth in winter and allow ventilation in summer. The bases of the homes (visible foundations) are most often of stone. Vestibules are normal at entrances. Gable roofs, with fascia and soffits in lieu of exposed rafters, are heavily pitched, with slopes of 6:12 –12:12, and very little overhang to minimize damage from ice. Cupolas allow attic venting.