The 'Stoop Gable': A Cold Climate Architectural Pattern

901-swift-circle_schematic_stoop-gable_260The following is a post from director of design Kenny Craft's new blog, Rooted in Tradition. The schematic included here is a new Craft design slated to break ground in the next six months. It is located on Swift Circle and will face north onto the new bouldering park. Also check out Kenny's blog post for a gallery of stoop gable images from historic homes in Leadville.

By Kenny Craft

During the late 1800's, mountain towns in Colorado were experiencing exponential growth.  This was a period of westward expansion, of discovery, and exploration.  Gold, Silver, Lead, and other precious resources beckoned adventurers to come and seek their fortune.  The prevalent architecture of the day was Victorian, in its various forms, which was primarily imported from the East coast, then adapted to its new surroundings.

Initially the architectural character in Colorado, its forms, patterns, and details, looked most similar to its sources of inspiration, and embodied the building traditions imported by the settlers.  But, through the transmission process, local adaptations occurred, patterns were calibrated and "localized", continuing the inherent learning process of tradition.  New "patterns" developed in the architecture to respond to local conditions, local climate, and local resources.

Across Colorado, the geology varies widely, thus towns often exhibit wide variety and architectural distinctness simply through the use of their own particular brand of local stone.  Other indigenous patterns developed based on the extreme rugged cold weather climate occurring in these high mountain towns.  Stovepipes, for instance, are a common architectural feature deriving from the well-suited use of highly efficient wood burning stoves, essential to providing wintertime warmth.

One "pattern", that provides an example of local adaptation to environmental conditions is what I will call "the Stoop Gable".  In the high mountain towns of Colorado, snow and ice can be found during much of the year.  It is a climatic reality, and has had its effect on the local architecture.  Leadville, Colorado, elevation 10,430', is North America's highest incorporate city, and ice and snow are significant realities.  As such, there is evidence that patterns in the architecture have developed within their building tradition to respond to this condition.

The "Stoop Gable" is a small gable roof located immediately above an exterior entry stair, often integrated into the porch roof.  By providing a gable roof form in this location, snow and the accompanying water and ice are diverted to the sides of the stairway below.  In a typical shed roof condition, even the inclusion of gutters and snow guards does not adequately prevent the inevitable ice build-up on the stairs.  Obviously, ice on stairs quickly can become a hazard and this pattern appears to have developed in response.

In Leadville Colorado, a solution for this problem became an adopted architectural pattern in the local building tradition that can be seen fairly regularly throughout the town.  This "stoop gable", interestingly is also a somewhat common feature in Victorian architecture.  This actually prompts the question, "did this pattern possibly originate in cold weather climates, or rainy climates, as a functional solution, and then spread around as both a functional and an aesthetic feature"?  This scenario would indeed be in keeping with the "process" of tradition, of learning, sharing, and spreading useful ideas and solutions.

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