Sticks, No Stones: Characteristics of Stick Architecture
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Sticks, No Stones: Characteristics of Stick Architecture

This article takes a closer look at this Victorian style of architecture.

The stick style, or the stick-Eastlake style, was in its heyday during the Victorian era, from 1860-1890. A stick house has a gabled roof with steep angles, often with a decorative truss at the apex of the gable. Some styles of trusses are the simple King’s post, the Queen’s post, the horseshoe, the W and the sunburst. The eaves of stick houses overhang and the rafter ends are often exposed. The walls are clad in wood shingles or boards with vertical or diagonal slats added for decoration.The porches have diagonal or curving support braces, and some townhouses have towers.

A Transitional Style

The stick style is known mostly for its artistic detailing, with multi-textured walls that call to mind half-timbered houses. The style is considered transitional, and connects the earlier Gothic revival style with the Queen Anne style.

The stick style became popular largely through the writing of Andrew Jackson Downing, a writer and landscape designer who published house patterns and the books Cottage Residences and the Architecture of Country Houses in 1842 and 1850. Architects who utilized the stick style include Richard Morris Hunt and Henry Austin.


Townhouses in the stick style have only vertical stickwork -- in houses the stickwork can be diagonal or horizontal -- that end in extended brackets placed beneath a protruding cornice. The townhouses also have square bay windows, false gables and false mansard roofs. Sometimes the gables are decorated with sunbursts or other decorations. Often the decorations are in the Eastlake style, named for British architect and designer Charles Locke Eastlake, who was a proponent of the Arts and Crafts Style and gave his name to the Eastlake movement. The Eastlake style was known for complicated patterns and carvings, especially in spindlework.

Life Saving Stations

Stick style buildings are not only used for private residences but were used as life saving stations. These buildings were built by the now defunct United States Life-Saving Service to help sailors and passengers who’d been shipwrecked. By 1915, the Life-Saving Service had evolved into the Coast Guard.

Where Stick Style Buildings Are Found

Stick houses, townhouses and life saving services are found throughout the United States. Examples include the William S. Clarke House in Eureka, California, Hinds House in Richfield Springs, New York, the Sherman House in San Diego, Welty House in Portland, Oregon, and Griswold House in Newport, Rhode Island. Many rowhouses in San Francisco are built in the stick style. Some are painted in cheerful colors and are referred to as “Painted Ladies.”

Photo: John N.A. Griswold House in Newport, Rhode Island

Photo credit: Swampyank and Daniel Case


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