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Architectural Glossary

Adaptive Use:

Using a building for a function different than its original purpose.  Adaptive use involves sensitive rehabilitation to retain much of a building’s original character.


A series of rounded arches supported by columns.

Arched bay:

Bay windows with arched tops.


Lower part of classic entablature, resting directly on the capital of a column; the moulding around a window or door.

Art Deco:

A building style featuring strong and fluid linear and geometric forms, with sleek smooth surfaces.


A projection from a wall, supported by posts or brackets with a railing, outside a window or door.


A false balcony constructed with a low railing; generally a balcony not big enough to stand upon.


A series of balusters (short pillars) connected on top by coping or a handrail (top rail) and sometimes on the bottom by a bottom rail; used on staircases, balconies, porches, etc.


A richly ornamented board placed on the incline of a gable to conceal the ends of rafters.

Battered Pier:

An oversized structural support that narrows from base to top.

Bay Window:

At least three joined windows, which project from the wall of a building and are structurally supported from the base of the building.


A narrow decorative feature, often brick, around the middle of a building.

Bevel Siding:

See Clapboard.

Beveled Glass:

Glass in which edges are ground and polished to form an angled border, used for entrance doors and other ornamental work.

Brick Headers:

Bricks laid with the ends toward the face of a wall.

Brick Stretchers:

Bricks laid with the sides toward the face of a wall.


A building style characterized by a squat appearance, featuring large bracketed overhangs, shallow roof pitch, and distinctive central dormer.

Business Zoning:

Zoning which allows commerce and retailing, at a location.


The way the structural load of a roof is supported by exterior reinforcement.


See crenelation.


Overlapping horizontal wood siding covering timber construction.  Boards are thicker on the bottom edge, that overlaps the top edge of the board underneath to shed weather.


A row of transom windows above display windows in commercial buildings.

Cluster Zoning:

Regulation allowing developers to concentrate housing units in one part of a parcel, and to preserve the remaining portion of the parcel as open space for conservation or recreation.

Community Development Corporation:

An organization formed by residents of an area to stimulate, finance, and sometimes operate local businesses or housing.

Compact Form:

Housing, services and places of employment arranged in close proximity without large intervening areas of undeveloped land.


The degree of proximity among housing units, services, and places of employment.


A roof shaped like a cone, often finishing a tower.


A kind of bracket produced by successive courses of masonry or wood which extends beyond the wall surface.


An elaborate, foliated column capital.


The projection at the top of a wall; the top course or molding of a wall when it serves as a crowning member.


A tower parapet that simulates the squares and spaces of a defensive parapet; associated with castles.

Cultural Landscape Preservation:

The process of sustaining existing form and vegetative cover of a significant landscape historically altered by people and providing for continued site use.


Terminal design element which may be square or round and rises above a main roof.


Decorative element which identifies the date of building construction.


Carefully taking a structure apart with the objective of re-using the materials.

Demolition by Neglect:

Destruction of a building through abandonment or lack of maintenance.

Demolition Delay Law:

A regulation requiring for specified historic structures that there be notification of intent to demolish, and provision of time for public intervention.


The number of families, individuals, dwelling units, or amount of building coverage per unit of land.


Small square blocks found in series on many cornices, moldings, etc. providing a decorative border between roof and wall.

Design control:

Public regulation of the design of buildings or their alterations, the uses of land and development intensity, typically with requirements which vary among designated districts, and other matters, including:  parking, signs, and site design.

Developer fees:

Public charges over and above taxes, imposed on developers to offset the costs of development-related public services or facilities.

Development impact criteria:

Specific standards for such things as traffic congestion, storm water flow and erosion.


Taking apart a structure piece by piece with the intention of reconstructing it elsewhere.

Divided Lights:

Arrangement of panes of glass in a sash.


A very plain column capital.


A vertical window projecting from the slope of a roof; usually provided with its own roof.


A Victorian building style named after Charles Eastlake, which features geometric details.


Underside of roof overhand at a wall.

Egress and buffering controls:

Regulations governing the location and design of driveways, and the provision of landscaping, fences, berms, or other means for controlling visual and other impact on streets or neighbors.


Oblong, but narrowed to rounded ends and widest at the middle.

Engaged dormer:

Dormer with front facade in the same plane as and connected to the building facade.


Building element above a column including architrave, frieze, and cornice; usually in classical or classical revival architectural styles.

Environmental protection:

Efforts to avoid damage to natural systems, such as air, water, or wildlife habitats, and to avoid degradation of the human environment through noise, visual blight, or other harmful impacts.

Eyelid or Eyebrow dormer:

A curved roof over a dormer that resembles the curve of an eyelid or eyebrow.


The principal face or front elevation of a building.


Horizontal element of an architrave.


A semicircular or fan-shaped window frequently over an entrance.


See Rubble Stone.


Decorative ornament at the top of a gable, pinnacle, or tower.

Fish Scale siding:

A wedge-shaped piece of wood siding, shaped like the scales on a fish.


Cracks or clefts.

Flared gable:

Sweeping, curved rafter ends which project beyond building walls.

Fluted column:

A column featuring vertical ridges or flute-like grooves.

Foliated stone:

Cut stone which looks like leaves or foliage.


Either a plain or fancy band found below a cornice.


The triangular end of an exterior wall in a building with a ridged roof.

Ghost signs:

Fading pained advertising signs on a building.

High density:

An amount of building, population, or other activity which is judged to be large relative to the land area it occupies.

Historic district:

An area officially designated as historically significant because of association with the past or because of structures with architectural importance.

Historic preservation:

The protection, rehabilitation, and restoration of communities, districts, sites, buildings, structures, and artifacts significant to history, architecture, archaeology or culture.

Historic settlement patterns:

Inherited arrangements of buildings, roads, and open spaces in developed communities.


A protective and sometimes decorative cover above doors, windows, or other projections from a wall surface.


The top of a column which curves downward and inward on either side.

International style:

A building style featuring rounded corners, smooth surface, and characterized by minimal ornament.


A wedge-shaped stone found at the center of an arch, often simulated in wood structures.


A window with a pointed arch top.

Lap siding:

See Clapboard.


A horizontal structural bar over an opening.

Lug sill:

A sill which extends beyond the bottom of a window or door.


A movie theater’s projecting sign with current attractions posted.

Master or comprehensive plan:

A document intended to guide the physical and, sometimes, economic development of a community or region, typically with long-range intent and including both analysis and proposal.


Ornamental blocks found under a cornice or on a parapet, often round or shield-shaped.


See remodeling.


Ornamental blocks or brackets used in series to support the overhang of a roof.


One color.


The sand-concrete-water mixture used to adhere.


A single or repeated unit of design or color.


Building preservation of the last resort, when all other strategies are exhausted.


A slender vertical member that forms a division between units of a window, door, or screen or is used decoratively.


A strip separating panes of glass in a sash.

National Register of Historic Places:

Official list of the nation’s properties worthy of preservation kept by the National Park Service.


A round window.

On-site parking regulations:

Controls requiring parking to be provided on the premises to serve uses being developed there.

Oriel window:

A bay window located above the first floor level; usually supported by brackets or corbels.


A low wall often used around a balcony or along the edge of a roof.


A triangular section framed by a horizontal molding on its base and two sloping  moldings on each of its sides, used as a crowning element for doors, windows, mantel and gable ends.


Decorative wood or plaster element hanging below a ceiling.


A rectangular column or shallow pier attached to a wall; often decorated to represent a classical column with a base, shaft, and capital.


Formulating strategies or programs for achieving some end; an ongoing process intended to help public and private decision-makers arrive at sound decisions about the future of the community which includes both making plans and seeking their implementation.


Projecting base of a column or wall.


More than one color.

Port cochere:

An open, canopy-like building entrance designed to shelter carriages, vehicles, and their passengers; literally a coach port.


Keeping existing form, integrity, and material of a historic building, structure, or object and providing for continued use by restoration, rehabilitation, or adaptation, or careful  maintenance.

Public Utility Service Area:

The area within which public water, public sewerage, or other public utility is or may be provided.

Queen Anne Lights:

Small panes of colored glass set in the peripheral framework of a window or door window.


Stone or brick elements at building corners, often laid alternatively large and small.


See rehabilitation.


Recreating a damaged or destroyed building by replacing it with a new one built of new or recycled materials to closely resemble the original as it appeared during a specific period of time.


Restoring, rehabilitating, renovating, remodeling or adapting an old building to be used by others.


Polish or clean.


Repairing or altering a property to contemporary use while preserving significant historical, architectural, or cultural features.


Changing the appearance and style of a structure inside or out, by removing or covering original details and substituting new materials and forms.


Accurately recovering form and details of a property and its setting as it appeared at a particular period of time by removing later work or replacing missing earlier work.


Like rehabilitation, but a greater proportion of new materials and elements introduced into the building.

Regional Land Trust:

A private, nonprofit tax-exempt corporation that seeks to preserve land through real estate transactions, operating a larger-than-local scale.

Rubble stone:

Rough building stone in random patterns.

Rusticated stone:

Massive hewn stone blocks with rough surfaces separated by deep joints.


The framework that holds panes of glass in a window or door or the framework together with its panes forming a usually movable part of a window.

Scenic Road Controls:

Regulations for protection of designated existing roads and their bordering trees in the event of construction along them.


The distance between a street line and the front line of a permitted building.


A roof that slopes in one direction.

Shiplap siding:

See Clapboard.


Glass frame usually around an entrance door.

Site (or Development) Plan Review:

Regulatory review of the arrangement of buildings, landscaping, parking, and other elements on the site, or the provisions for circulation and utilities, and sometimes of impacts such as noise or hazards.


A settlement pattern where development is widely dispersed at relatively low density, typically, but not always, bypassing many vacant parcels.

Strip development:

A long, and usually, shallow ribbon of commercial or retail development along a major road.


Above a window or door, an opening to admit light and air.

Terra cotta:

Fired clay which may or may not be glazed, used as an exterior building finish and ornamental details.


Tall architectural element which may be an integral part of a building or free-standing, topped with a spire, or pyramidal roof.


The triangular or segmental space enclosed by a pediment or arch above a window or door(s).


See Bargeboard.


A building style named for Queen Victoria that was popular during her reign, and is characterized by a profusion of ornamental architectural details.


See Clapboard.

Witch’s Cap:

See Cone.

Window Heads:

A straight or curved decorative feature over a window.


Native or peculiar to a certain locality.


An area that holds an important vista.

Zoning regulations:

Controls over the use of land and development intensity, typically with requirements varying among designated districts, and often including controls over parking, signs, site design, density, use, and other matters.

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