Sunday, September 16, 2007

Why "Daytonology"?

Back when I used to post elaborate thread headers at Urban Ohio other posters used to ask if the research was part of my masters theses or term paper. I always laughed to myself about this, thinking “yeah, a masters degree….in what? Daytonology? “

As an example of Daytonlogy, I posted this over at Urban Ohio maybe a year or two ago. This reflects my interest in vernacular architecture, which is really studied more by cultural geographers, folklorists, and anthropologists, than it is by architects and architectural historians.

These are the common buildings of a city, the urban fabric, most of what is the "built environment", and a contributor to the character of a city. This is what I usually looked at in the threads I parented over at Urban Ohio.

Here I develop a theory about a house form found in Dayton's 19th century neighborhoods, which are slowly slipping away as abandonment and demolition work their way through the city.

The theory is that what one sees in Dayton is an urban adaption of the "I-house", a rural house form well-known to cultural geographers, and found throughout the US, but mostly in the Ohio Valley and lower Midwest, having origins in the Middle Atlantic and perhaps also Virginia & the Chesapeake Bay area. This house form was named by Fred Kniffen, a professor at LSU, who called it that as he saw a lot of them in the "I" states...Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa (and the house form was tall and thin, like the letter I).

There are variations of this form, and we see those in the Dayton area too, particularly the two-room deep I-house, which originated in Pennsylvania, I think, and the tendency to build the I-house right up to the property line facing the street in urban situations, or with minimal setback. This is another feature of the Mid-Atlantic vernacular, contrasting with the looser arrangement of buildings around a green, as one might see in New England. Whether set back on a farm or built in town, the form always had the roof ridgeline running parallel to the street or road.

Starting out with some examples of an I-house, two old farmhouses in Dayton and one in Portsmouth, Ohio (Portmouth pix an plans are from an exhibition catalogue from a show at Miami U on old Portsmouth architecture)

I use the Portsmouth one as a generic example, showing how it could be transformed into an urban version, as one would see in Dayton....

Flipping the house to fit on narrow city lots...

Modifications, but certain key features remain (the L and central entrance, now on the side)
Additional modifictions...second floors and rear additions....
….to continue, visit “The Folk Process in Dayton’s Oregon”, which looks at that neighborhood as the place where a local urban vernacular was worked out.

I speculate on the origin of the double, discuss how and why housing density increased in the Oregon and other close-in Dayton neighborhoods, and close with a time series of old Oregon houses, from the 1830s to the Civil War, looking at the shift in house orientation and early examples of the urban I-house. example of "Daytonology".


Mazlin Ghazali said...

I am a fan of Dayton's vernacular architecture! I came across it at, but there wasn't any commentary and I couldn't find out more about the author. Anyway I then feature "Dayton Doubles " in my blog last month. So now with the link to your threads in, I may have found the source.
Masters in Daytonology? What about PhD!

Jefferey said...

Wow, thanks! I was suprised to see that at that Midwest blog as I didn't post it there!

I did a few things on doubles, or semi-detached houses as you call them. Some on that link to Urban Ohio, but also pix threads without analayses, just a visual typological study.

The inspiration was "Framework Houses" by Bernd & Hilla Becher:

But yes, thankn you for your comments!