Late 1800s architecture terminology question
December 19, 2011 5:09 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for an architectural term. I'm sure it's one I should know, but I'm blanking on it. To make matters worse, I'm having a difficult time searching for a picture of the feature, because I can't come up with the right term. Let me try to describe what it is.

It's characteristic of commercial buildings constructed in the late 1800s. I'm specifically thinking of Ontario, but I'm sure I've seen the same feature on buildings in the north-eastern parts of the States.

It's the fancy, decorative, top part of flat-roofed, commercial buildings. It typically rises higher than the roof at the front of the store/office. Specifically the ones I'm thinking of are made of brick, but I don't think that material is a requirement. If I had to put a name on them I'd use "square pediments" even though I know that doesn't really make any sense.

Sorry I can't come up with any better pictures, but perhaps the building photo on the left-hand side of this page or the much fancier example on this page may give some idea of what I'm trying to describe. Specifically I'm looking for the part of the building that is above the windows.
posted by sardonyx to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
I've heard it termed a "false front", but that may be more for wooden buildings. Think "Old West" main street buildings.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:19 PM on December 19, 2011

posted by Jehan at 5:20 PM on December 19, 2011

posted by kimdog at 5:20 PM on December 19, 2011

posted by argonauta at 5:25 PM on December 19, 2011

Decorative cornices are also shown in both pics
posted by artdrectr at 5:25 PM on December 19, 2011

My Architectural History degree says "cornice" is what you are looking for, based on those photos.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:28 PM on December 19, 2011

when talking about Georgian, Victorian, or Mission buildings, the elevated bit that hides the roof is called a parapet, but in your photos I would call that specific characteristic a cornice.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:33 PM on December 19, 2011

I'd say the cornice is just the little part that projects out at the top. The entire wall, considered as a whole, is the "façade". The part of the façade that projects above the roofline is the parapet. The part of the parapet that projects horizontally outward is the cornice, much like the projection of snow on the leeward side of a mountaintop is known as a cornice.
posted by LionIndex at 5:40 PM on December 19, 2011

I think "false front parapet" pretty much describes what I'm picturing.

The one I'm thinking about in particular is more of a vertical extension of the front exterior wall (why didn't I have that description on the tip of my tongue when I was composing the question?) with no/minimal overhang, so I don't think cornice is really the term I need. There may be some tiny cornices on the top-most points of the parapet -- I'd have to go back and look -- but the main characteristic is highly patterned brickwork and three squared-off-arch-type protrusions that define the front roof-line.

Thanks for the quick work.
posted by sardonyx at 5:41 PM on December 19, 2011

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