Carpenter Gothic House Plan Introduction


Carpenter Gothic is an American domestic architectural approximation of the international Gothic Revival.  Thin, inexpensive, often decorated with turnings, the Carpenter Gothic can be strictly Puritan or prettily libertine.  Popular for the better part of one hundred years (1840–1930) the style can be found coast-to-coast.

Quickly built with balloon framing (stick-on-stick, one floor above the other) in the early days of industrialization, these houses profited from machined details and intricate moldings.  Cheap and available to all, John White, author of Rural Architecture: Ornamental Cottages and Villas (1845), said of the Gothic style that it was of “such a character as to accommodate the various ranks of society, the price being so moderate as to bring it within the reach of the humblest mechanic.”


Carpenter Gothic House Plan elevation

The Downing, Elevation; Carpenter Gothic House Plan. M. Curtis, des.


Carpenter Gothic House Precedents


Keep in mind the Gothic* Cathedral, an ecclesiastical structure, home for God and His children, aspirational in height, inspirational in beauty, transcendent and divine.  Picture also the castle in the clouds, the rural church standing bright against the dark forest, and you will see the appeal.

You might say, “the Carpenter Gothic is a style of the pattern-book”, the books of Alexander Jackson Davis and Andrew Jackson Downing (Cottage Residences: or, A Series of Designs for Rural Cottages and Adapted to North America, 1842, et cetera) foremost among them.  These pattern-books featured plans, elevations, and details that anyone might produce (in those days, most men accomplished the manly art of building), and the style appealed to the handy self-starter.

Some Carpenter Gothic houses attempted to approximate stone cathedrals, yet these are rare and mostly reserved to the more ambitious stone, brick, and clapboard Gothic Revival.  Carpenter Gothic houses often developed upon the platforms laid for family tents when summering at Chautauquas**, and many of these houses retain the shape and decorative characteristics of fancy tenting, the tents before tenting approximate military camps and utility … we were once an aesthetically ambitious people.


Carpenter Gothic House Plan

The Downing, Color Elevation; Carpenter Gothic House Plan. M. Curtis, des.


Carpenter Gothic House Characteristics


sided in board and batten;
its windows and doors are Cathedral style;
its bargeboards and scroll work is fancy;
it most often sports a pinnacle;
its turrets, spires, and pointed arches are exuberantly applied without academic reference or structural necessity;
and it most often offers an expansive porch where friends, family, neighbors might meet to discuss history, philosophy, arts and theology in the friendly occupation of community improvement.


The Downing Features


Surprisingly affordable, neat and tidy, this pretty three-bedroom, 2,188 square foot home offers an open floor plan that allows the spacious feeling of a much larger house.  Though not pictured here, interior details are rich but simple, beautiful without being fussy.  There is more window and more light than in the old, Carpenter Gothic, and there are options in layout: a generous fourth bedroom is possible when subdividing the larger bedroom; the bath and small bedroom can be flipped, the bedroom becoming a study or library; a master bedroom balcony could be added over the patio, et cetera.  There is ample attic storage for holiday put-aways, Christmas, Easter, the 4th, et cetera, and if a basement, the gymnasium, home theatre, or oratory, each family to its traditions, wants and ways.


Carpenter Gothic House plan & elevation

The Downing, Plan & Elevation; Carpenter Gothic House Plan. M. Curtis, des.

The Downing Plan

39’-0”                       Height
67’-0”                       Width
35’-2”                       Depth
2,188                        GSF
982                           First Floor GSF
1,306                       Second Floor GSF
9’-0”                         First Floor Ceiling
2                               Levels
3-4                            Bedrooms
2 1/2                         Bathrooms
board and batten

Room Size

First Floor
Living Room               24’-0” x 16’-0”
Dining Room              16’-0” x 16′-0″
Kitchen                       16’-0” x 8’-0”
Watercloset                4’-0” x 9’-2”

Second Floor
Family Room              19’-0” x 16’-0”
Master Bedroom       14’-6” x 16’-0”
Mater Bathroom        9′-5” x 5’-8”
Walk-in                        9′-5″ x 5′-8″
Bedroom 2                  18’-0” x 16’-0”
Bedroom 3                  13’-2” x 9’-2”
Bathroom                    16’-0” x 7’-6”

Front Porch                 24’-9” x 8’-0”
Patio                             24’-9” x 9’-8”
Garage                         49’-0” x 14’-0”



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Notes: Carpenter Gothic house plan

* “Gothic”, a term coined by Raphael to describe the style descriptive of Germans, “Goths”, whom he thought to be the barbarians who destroyed classical Rome, a Rome that he and others were reviving (the Renaissance, the “rebirth” of Classive civilization).

** Founded in the 1870s by Methodist ministers, the Chautauquas featured entertainments, lessons and lectures that might by method bring worshipers closer to God, His works and ways.  In any given year of the early 20th Century, 40,000,000 Americans would attend the events of 10,000 Chautauqua.  Chautauquas continue in popularity, though Progressive writers, artists, and movie producers did what they could to insinuate discredit upon the aspirations of honest and faithful “tent show” attendees.

Featured image: Carpenter Gothic House plan, The Downing; M. Curtis, des.

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