Illustrated Architecture Dictionary .................... Styles of Architecture

Concrete Blocks / Concrete Block 'Fireproof' Houses in Buffalo, NY

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Click on photos to enlarge

St. Andrews Church Parish House, 3105 Main St., Buffalo. The concrete blocks have been painted.

St. Andrews Church Parish House, 3105 Main St., Buffalo.

St. Andrews Church Parish House. The concrete blocks have been painted.

Elmwood Ave. - Buffalo. Two neighboring concrete block porches

Right: 1091 Elmwood

Right: 1091 Elmwood

Right: 1091 Elmwood

339 Aurora St., Lancaster, a suburb of Buffalo

339 Aurora

339 Aurora

339 Aurora

l40 Maple Ave., Village of Hamburg, a suburb of Buffalo

l40 Maple

l40 Maple

140 Maple

l40 Maple

140 Maple

140 Maple

140 Maple
Through-the-cornice dormer

70 Hawkins Ave., Village of Hamburg, a suburb of Buffalo

70 Hawkins

70 Hawkins

70 Hawkins

70 Hawkins
Through-the-cornice
dormer

70 Hawkins
Widely projecting eaves.
Modillions

70 Hawkins

70 Hawkins Rear of house

70 Hawkins

Clark St., Village of Hamburg, a suburb of Buffalo - two neighboring houses

Left

Left
Note concrete block chimney

Right

Right

Right

Right

2001 version
5 Woodthrush Terrace, Orchard Park, a suburb of Buffalo. Built 2001



5 Woodthrush

1908 Sears catalog advertising concrete housing



Concrete blocks

A standard for foundations and later as a substructure under brick or other forms of cladding, concrete block is one of the most ubiquitous 20th-century building materials.  An early form was the handmade picturesque rusticated concrete block.  So called because the exposed surface resembled textured stone, rock-face block first appeared late in the 19th century when innovations in cement making made it possible to press concrete blocks on work sites. 

When an inventor named Harmon S. Palmer created a machine that added textured or architectural faces to the blocks as they were pressed, rock-face block became a national phenomenon. The blocks were a staple of Sears kit homes, appearing from the foundations to the roof line.

Many of these early concrete installations suffer from deterioration, especially steps, porch walls, and other exposed areas. Luckily there are several sources for modern rusticated block.
- Old House Journal, April1, 2017
Concrete blocks

Ornamental cast concrete blocks were popular from about 1890 until 1940, used most often for foundations but also for porch and whole-house construction.

They were available at building supply houses, but also could be made on-site using block machines sold by Sears, Montgomery Ward, and other building suppliers. The 1910 Sears Building Catalog sold molds not only for blocks, but also for fluted  columns, column bases and capitals, piers, water tables, and nearly any detail needed to assemble a house.

Removable plates allowed the machine to cast a variety of face designs, including rock face, ashlar, cobblestone, bush-hammered, or decoratively scrolled.
- Old House Journal, August-September 2013, p. 39

Concrete block houses

Features:

  • Exterior: Cast (molded) cement
  • Roof: Projecting eaves
  • Roof: Hipped
  • Roof: diamond-pattern asbestos shingles
  • Roof: dormer
  • Windows: one-over-one double-hung sash
  • Porch: hipped roof
  • Porch: square pier
  • Porch: Coping
  • Interior: Built-in cupboards
  • Interior: Cozy inglenook, with, built-in benches, with ceramic tile floor
  • Interior: Oak doors, sometimes with lead glass
  • Interior: Swinging doors

    - A Field Guide to American Houses," by Virginia & Lee McAlester. New York: Knopf, 2000, p. 444.
    - "A Visual Dictionary of Architecture," by Francis D. K. Ching. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1997, p. 219


Photos and their arrangement 2004 Chuck LaChiusa
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