The Carpenter Gothic, American traditions, and the Chautauqua Movement.


You might say, “America’s first houses were one-room schoolhouses,” that “our first communities were colleges”, and you might say this because true.  The simple wood, hall-and-parlor houses of Plymouth, Massachusetts were homes where twice each day lessons were offered.  Each father led readings and discussions of history, ethics, morality, and theology.  And this homeschooling free of government sanction, of government oversight, was the cause of flight from the English Isle to the American Continent.

A college?  Yes, a place to “collect together in common duty and in support”.  As you know, the Pilgrims of Plymouth studied daily the Geneva Bible, the bible used by Shakespeare, the bible that included footnotes by John Calvin, the first bible to subdivide teachings by Chapter and Verse, most helpful when academically citing reference.


Plymouth Colony 3

William Bradford with the Geneva Bible at Plymouth Colony, offering praise.


In reference, the Bay Psalm Book, those songs composed by Kings David and Solomon, songs translated from Hebrew into English pentameter verse.  And there was The English Protestant Tutor, “The New England Primer”, a book of grammar and lessons, common until Noah Webster’s Blue Back Speller.  You might like to know: our first foreign language book was the Algonquian Bible, “Eliot’s English Bible” composed in the Massachussett language.  From here, the diverse peoples of this land began to become one people, Americans.

Of course, there were other books common to the one-room schoolhouses of the collegial communities, the sermons of Increase Mather, et cetera, each book contributing to the dialogue of daily goodness and ultimate truth.  This collegial tradition of community inquiry has been with us since the days of courageous Pilgrims to the days of the envious Wokes, and will likely be with us when the nation returns to Beauty and Goodness, and Truth.


Geneva Bible

The Geneva Bible.


Our nation has seen many variations of the collegial community.  Two remarkable examples: The Lyceum Movement, that educational rebirth of the Aristotelian tradition in the years preceding The War to End Slavery; the Camp Revival Movement (post-The War to End Slavery), notably, the Chautauquas, those summer meetings of Methodists, open to all denominations that sought enlightenment through transcendental truth, continuing education, and uplifting entertainments.

I might like to share the Lyceum lectures of Emerson, Thoreau, and Lincoln, the Chautauqua lectures of W. Jennings Bryan and F. Roosevelt, yet The Beautiful Home considers houses, the homes of American tradition, so in this month’s TBH we shall visit the Chautauqua house, Martha’s Vineyard to Bay View and beyond, the rich tradition of Carpenter Gothic that people Chautauqua communities.


Cautaqua Camp Meeting Chester Heights Deleware 1940 note the Carpenter Gothic houses beyond the field.

Chautauqua Camp Meeting, Chester Heights, Delaware, 1940; note the Carpenter Gothic houses beyond the field.


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Note: I reject the term, “Victorian Architecture” because Victoria was not our queen.  Too, “Victorian” does not refer to a style.  Rather, Victorian refers to unique styles that overlap.  These styles, Second Empire, Shingle, Carpenter Gothic, Stick, Queen Anne (yes, I know).  Hope you enjoy this month’s Carpenter Gothic.

Featured image: Carpenter Gothic Chautauqua Cottages, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. credit: Felix Lipov

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