Illustrated Architecture Dictionary

(VES ti byool)

A small entrance hall or passage between the outer door and the interior of a house or building; an antechamber, hall, or lobby next to the outer door of a building.

Foyer: an entrance hall in a house or apartment; an entrance hall or other open area in a building used by the public, especially a hotel or theater.  Synonym: vestibule

... what is a vestibule, and what was its purpose?

Architectural dictionary compiler Cyril Harris defines it as "an anteroom or small foyer leading into a larger space."

In residential buildings, it is specifically a space between the entrance and the main portion of a house, a place of shelter while waiting for entry into the home. It may open onto a stairhall or directly into the living room.

Vestibules were in common use from the 1880s Queen Anne and Romanesque Revival era until about 1930, in Colonial Revival and Old English houses. They were occasionally found as far back as the 18th century and as recently as the post-World War II era. They are still a valuable feature in any house fortunate enough to have one, providing shelter from wind and rain, controlling heat gain and loss, and giving the homeowner a good view of who's at the door.

- James C. Massey, "Ask OHJ," Old House Journal, Feb. 2010, p. 12

Examples from Buffalo:

Photos and their arrangement 2006 Chuck LaChiusa
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