A Beginner's Guide to Architecture in Rochester and Monroe County:
The Vocabulary of Architecture


Arcade -- a row of arches on columns or piers. Also, an arched covered gallery or passageway

Arch -- A curved construction for spanning an opening such as a doorway or window. The shape of the curve may take many forms

Gothic arch -- a pointed arch

Arch above entrance at Corpus Christi Church.
Arch above entrance at Corpus Christi Church

Architect -- a person who designs buildings and advises on their construction

An Architect at Work.
An architect at work

Architecture -- the art and science of designing and building structures

Architrave -- 1. The lowest division of an entablature resting in classical architecture immediately on the capital of the column; 2. The molding around a rectangular opening (as a door)

Arts and Crafts -- The Arts and Crafts period occurred from 1894-1923. It was a time when many artists and craftspeople rejected Victorian excess and ornamentation. They preferred natural environments and designed simple, well-crafted objects of oak, ceramics and textiles.

Ashlar -- Stone blocks hewn to an accurate square and having a smooth face. Also, masonry of such stone laid evenly

Atrium -- an open central court in Greek and Roman-style buildings

The Atrium at Rochester City Hall.
The atrium at Rochester City Hall


Balustrade -- a series of pillars (balusters) supporting a rail to form a low wall or parapet.

Battlement -- a parapet with open spaces that surmounts a wall and is used for defense or decoration

Belvedere -- a small structure, usually surmounting a roof, which commands a view. A belvedere must have open sides, while a cupola can be windowless

Bevel -- the angle that one surface or line makes with another when they are not at right angles; the slant of such a surface or line

Board and batten -- a type of wooden siding on a building. It is made of wide boards going vertically, with narrower boards covering the joints

Bracket -- a decorative support under the eaves of a porch or roof

Brackets on the Porch of Fairport's Osburn House.
Brackets on the porch of Fairport's Osburn House

Brick -- a mix of clay and other material that is formed into a rectangular building block. The blocks are air-dried, then baked in a kiln at a very high temperature so that they will last for many years In all sorts of weather


Capital -- the uppermost member of a column or pilaster crowning the shaft and taking the weight of the entablature

Capitals at Rochester's St. Francis Xavier Church.
Capitals at Rochester's St. Francis Xavier Church


Chamfer -- An oblique face or bevel cut at the corner of a board. Also, to cut grooves or fluting or a beveled edge

Chimney -- a shaft made of brick, stone, or even sticks and mud, which allows smoke to go from a fireplace to the outside. Chimneys can be located at the gable ends of a house, or the center. They extend above the roof

Clapboard -- a type of wooden siding where the boards run horizontally and slightly overlap

Cobblestone -- a naturally rounded stone larger than a pebble and smaller than a boulder; especially: such a stone used in paving a street or in construction

Colonnade -- a series of columns set at regular intervals and usually supporting the base of a roof structure

The Colonnade of Rush Rhees Library on the University of Rochester Campus.
The colonnade of Rush Rhees Library on the University of Rochester campus
Columns on the Jonathan Child House, Rochester.
Columns on the Jonathan Child House, Rochester

Column -- a sort of pole that holds up part of a building. Columns come in many styles. The parts of a column are the capital, the shaft and the base. Types of columns are Doric, Ionic and Corinthian.

Corbel -- A projecting bracket that supports a beam. It is often decorated with sculpture

Cornerstone -- a stone forming a part of a corner or angle in a wall; such a stone laid at a formal ceremony

Cornerstone laying ceremony.
Cornerstone laying ceremony

Cornice -- the molded and projecting horizontal member that crowns an architectural composition; a decorative band of metal or wood used to conceal curtain fixtures

Course -- a single horizontal row of bricks or stone

Court -- an open space enclosed wholly or partly by buildings or circumscribed by a single building

Crenelation or Crenellation -- SEE: Battlement

Cupola -- a small room, usually with windows, at the top of a house. SEE ALSO: Belvedere

Crenelations atop the old Monroe county Jail.
Crenelations atop the old Monroe County Jail
A house with a cupola.
A house with a cupola


Dentil(s) -- a type of decoration that looks like a row of teeth. The word dentil means "tooth" in Latin

Dome -- a hemispherical, or nearly hemispherical roof formed of evenly curved vaults that may rise from either a circular or polygonal base

Dome, Second Monroe County Courthouse.
Dome, Second Monroe County Courthouse

Dormer -- a window set vertically in a structure projecting through a sloping roof; also: the roofed structure containing such a window

Draftsman -- a person who draws plans and sketches (as of machinery or structures)


Eaves -- the space just under the roof overhang of a building

Entablature -- a broad band of decoration near the roof of a house; the upper section of a classical order. It consists of three horizontal divisions, which are from the top, cornice, frieze and architrave

Elevation -- one face or side of a structure, or a scale drawing of one side

Elevation Drawing for Proposed Building.
Elevation drawing for proposed building


Fašade -- the front face of a building; also any face of a building given special architectural treatment

Facade, Eastman Theatre, Rochester.
Facade, Eastman Theatre, Rochester
A Fanlight Over a Door.
A fanlight over a door

Faience -- glazed earthenware, so named for the earthenware produced in Faienza, Italy. It can be used for pottery or for architectural purposes

Fanlight or Fan Window -- a half round window that looks like a lady's fan opened up. Usually it is near the roof of a building, or over the front door or a window

Fluting -- a rounded groove; specifically: one of the vertical parallel grooves on a classical architectural column

Foundation -- the stone base on which a building rests

Frame building -- a building made with sawed wooden boards

Frieze -- the part of an entablature between the architrave and the cornice; a richly ornamented band on a building or a piece of furniture


Gable -- a type of roof, or the side of a house where you can see the triangular shape of the roof line

Gallery -- a long and narrow passage, apartment, or corridor

Gargoyle -- a spout in the form of a grotesque human or animal figure projecting from a roof gutter to throw rainwater clear of a building, or a decorative sculpture in this form

Gingerbread -- lavish or superfluous ornament especially in architecture

A gargoyle on Rochester's Elwood Building.
A gargoyle on Rochester's Elwood Building
Girders from the Rundel Memorial Building.
Girders from the Rundel Memorial Building

Girder -- a horizontal main structural member (as in a building or bridge) that supports vertical loads and that consists of a single piece or of more than one piece bound together

Glass -- an inorganic product of fusion that has cooled to a rigid condition without crystallizing. It is usually transparent.

Leaded glass -- Glass that is held together with lead cames. Where the lead cames meet is called a "joint" which is soldered together.
Stained glass -- The art of cutting colored glass into different shapes and fitting them into channeled lead strips, which are also called cames. These are then soldered together, and usually installed in an iron framework to create a window.

Stained glass window in the library of Nazareth College.
Stained glass window in the library of Nazareth College

Grotesques -- a style of decorative art characterized by fanciful or fantastic human and animal forms often interwoven with foliage or similar figures


Hand-hewn -- logs cut and shaped with an ax, not cut at a sawmill. They can be joined at the corners in different ways

Height -- a measurement of vertical distance between the top and bottom of something

Half timbering -- a technique of construction using wood framing with spaces filled with masonry

Tudor style home showing the use of half-timbering.
Tudor style home showing the use of half-timbering

I, J

I-Beam -- an iron or steel beam that is I-shaped in cross section

Joist -- any of the small timbers or metal beams ranged parallel from wall to wall in a structure to support a floor or ceiling


Limestone -- a type of stone composed mainly of calcium carbonate. Marble is a type of limestone that can be polished

Lintel -- a horizontal support above a window or door

Log cabin -- a small, usually one-room house built of hand-hewn logs. Houses of this type were often built when there was no sawmill nearby.

Log Shelter, Durand-Eastman Park.
Log shelter, Durand-Eastman Park
   The Work of a Mason.
The work of a mason


Mantel -- the wooden fram around the opening of a fireplace

Marble -- a type of stone traditionally used in sculpture and architecture

Mason -- a skilled worker who builds by laying units of substantial material, such as stone or brick

Model -- a usually miniature representation of something

Molding -- a decorative plane or curved strip used for ornamentation or finishing

Mosaic -- a picture or design made of small pieces of colored glass, stone, tile or paper that adheres to a surface, usually with plaster or concrete

Muntins -- strips of wood that separate panes of glass in a window

Mural -- a large design or picture, usually created on the wall of a public building


Octagon -- a type of house or outbuilding with eight sides. It was popularized by O.S. Fowler in 1854, who promoted the octagon house as being the most perfect and healthful home you could live in

The Octagon House at the Genesee Country Village and Museum.
The Octagon House at the Genesee Country Village & Museum

Olmsted, Frederick Law -- born April 26, 1822, Hartford, Conn., U.S., died Aug. 28, 1903, Brookline, Mass. American landscape architect who designed a succession of outstanding public parks, beginning with Central Park in New York City (source: Encyclopedia Brittanica online)

Oriel -- SEE Window: Bay window

Outbuilding -- a support building for a home. It could be a barn, shed, smokehouse, ice house, carriage house or outhouse

Outhouse -- where people "answered Nature's call" if they had no indoor plumbing or bathroom. Also called the necessary, privy, or backhouse


Parapet -- a low wall or railing to protect the edge of a platform, roof, or bridge

Pediment -- a triangular space that forms the gable of a low-pitched roof. It is a feature popular in Federal and Greek Revival style homes

The pediment of the Campbell-Whittlesey house.
The pediment of the Campbell-Whittlesey house

Pilaster -- a column you can't walk around. It is connected to the building and usually projects a third of its width or less from the wall

Pillar -- a firm upright support for a superstructure; an ornamental column or shaft

Pinnacle -- an upright architectural member generally ending in a small spire and used especially in Gothic construction to give weight especially to a buttress

Plan -- a drawing or diagram drawn on a plane; a top or horizontal view of an object

Three story porch, Corn Hill neighborhood in Rochester(17998 bytes)
Three story porch, Corn Hill neighborhood in Rochester
Example of a floor plan.
Example of a floor plan

Porch -- an outdoor living space for a building. It has a roof and floor, but usually no walls, just vertical supports

Portico -- a colonnade at the entrance of a building

Pylon -- a tower like structure


Quatrefoil -- a 4-lobed leaf design in architecture

Quoin -- a cut block of stone or cement that forms the corner supports for a stone or brick building

Quoins on the GeVa Theater Building.
Quoins on the GeVa Theater Building


Railing -- a barrier consisting of a rail and supports

Relief -- a type of sculpture in which a figure or form is projected out from a background

Richardson, Henry Hobson -- (b. 1838; d. 1886) American architect. Richardson was born in Louisiana, but was most active in New England and the Midwest (especially in Boston and Chicago). He entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1860, and he returned to the U.S. in 1865. Richardson developed a powerful personal style (known as Richardsonian) which was related to the Romanesque style of southern France. Most of his larger buildings were built with strong, clear, simple rusticated masonry forms. (Source: www.greatbuildings.com)

Roof -- the upper covering of a building. There are many styles of roofs.

Gable roof -- a double-sloping roof that forms a gable at each end
Gambrel roof -- a roof with a lower steeper slope and an upper less steep one on each of its two sides
Hip roof -- a roof that has sloping ends and sloping sides
Mansard roof -- a roof with two slopes, one of which is steeper than the other

A mansard roof.
A mansard roof
Rosette on Powers Building
Rosette, on Powers Building

Rosette -- a disk of foliage or a floral design usually in relief used as a decorative motif


Sash -- the framed part of a window

Shingle -- a thin slice of wood used to cover a roof or the side of a building in an overlapping fashion

Shutter -- a usually movable cover or screen for a window or door

Sill -- the wood or stone horizontal base of a door or window

Skylight -- an opening in a house roof or ship's deck that is covered with translucent or transparent material and that is designed to admit light

Skylight, City Hall.
Skylight, City Hall

Spindle -- a turned often decorative piece, as in a baluster

Spire -- the upper tapering part of something

Steeple -- a tall structure usually having a small spire at the top and surmounting a church tower

The Steeple of First Baptist Church in Fairport.
The steeple of First Baptist
Church in Fairport
Stonework, City Hall.
Stonework, City Hall

Stone -- a popular building material that comes in many different shapes. It can be used for foundations, chimneys, or the whole building. Cobblestone buildings were very popular in the Genesee Country in the 19th century

Stoop -- a porch, platform, entrance stairway, or small veranda at a house door

Woman Sitting on Stoop.
Woman sitting on stoop

Stucco -- the finest and whitest type of plaster used for, among other things, covering walls and floors

Streamline -- a smooth or flowing line designed as if for decreasing air resistance

Tower, St. Michael's Church.
Tower, St. Michael's Church


Tower -- a building or structure typically higher than its diameter and high relative to its surroundings that may stand apart (as a campanile), or be attached (as a church belfry) to a larger structure

Truss -- an assemblage of members (as beams) forming a rigid framework for support

Turret -- a little tower; specifically, an ornamental structure at an angle to a larger structure


Vault -- an arched structure of masonry usually forming a ceiling or roof

Voissoir -- one of the wedge-shaped pieces forming an arch or vault


Wainscoting -- a lining of boards or paneling

Window -- an opening in a wall that allows light and/or air into a building. Windows come in many styles.

Bay window -- A window, typically three sided, that projects from a wall, creating a recessed area in the structure's interior. Also called an oriel.
Palladian window -- A window divided by piers or columns resembling pilasters into three lights, the middle one of which is arched and wider than the other two.
Rose window -- Large circular window of tracery and stained glass found in Gothic cathedrals. Also called a wheel window.
Window cap -- a decorative element at the top of a window

The Rose Window at St. Francis Xavier Church in Rochester.
The rose window at St. Francis Xavier Church
in Rochester


Architectural Styles | Resources


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