Shingle Style has its roots in New England and it often gives off a coastal vibe. The style, which is characterized by wood shingles on the exterior walls, is echoed in west coast beach towns, particularly in Northern California and Oregon. It isn’t limited to the coasts, though: Shingle style emerged in the Midwest in the late 19th century, thanks in particular to the architect Joseph Lyman Silsbee, a native of Massachusetts and alumnus Exeter, Harvard, and M.I.T.
Does that name sound familiar? It might, particularly if you’re familiar with Frank Lloyd Wright (or if you’ve been following my blog!). Silsbee was Wright’s first employer, and it may largely have been due to this Shingle style church in Wisconsin.
Unity Chapel, located in the rural community of Spring Green, was built in 1886 by Joseph Lyman Silsbee for the Lloyd-Jones family. According to accounts, the interior of the chapel was “looked after” by a boy of the family. Of course, the boy was a young Frank Lloyd Wright, whose mother was Anna Lloyd Jones. Wright moved to Chicago not long after and built his first home, in Oak Park, in the Shingle style. His work soon departed from Shingle style but he always aimed to design in a truly American style, distancing himself from European precedents, and, echoing Shingle style, he is known for his use of clean forms and natural materials.
Shingle style may have coastal roots but, perhaps, it was a stepping stone to the Prairie style and the emergence of true American architecture under American architects like Silsbee and Wright. In a way, it all began with a Shingle style chapel in rural Wisconsin.
Sources and Further Reading:
I previously wrote about this Joseph Lyman Silsbee building in Lincoln Park.
Read more about Joseph Lyman Silsbee here.