This work owes its appearance to the absence of any cheap and popular book on the subject of Rural Architecture, exclusively intended for the farming or agricultural interest of the United States. Why it is, that nothing of the kind has been heretofore attempted for the chief benefit of so large and important a class of our community as our farmers comprise, is not easy to say, unless it be that they themselves have indicated but little wish for instruction in a branch of domestic economy which is, in reality, one of great importance, not only to their domestic enjoyment, but their pecuniary welfare. It is, too, perhaps, among the category of neglects, and in the lack of fidelity to their own interests which pervades the agricultural community of this country, beyond those of any other profession—for we insist that agriculture, in its true and extended sense, is as much a profession as any other pursuit whatever. To the reality of such neglects they have but of late awaked, and indeed are now far too slowly wheeling into line for more x active progress in the knowledge pertaining to their own advancement. As an accessory to their labors in such advancement, the present work is intended.
It is an opinion far too prevalent among those engaged in the more active occupations of our people,—fortified indeed in such opinion, by the too frequent example of the farmer himself—that everything connected with agriculture and agricultural life is of a rustic and uncouth character; that it is a profession in which ignorance, as they understand the term, is entirely consistent, and one with which no aspirations of a high or an elevated character should, or at least need be connected. It is a reflection upon the integrity of the great agricultural interest of the country, that any such opinion should prevail; and discreditable to that interest, that its condition or example should for a moment justify, or even tolerate it.
Without going into any extended course of remark, we shall find ample reason for the indifference which has prevailed among our rural population, on the subject of their own domestic architecture, in the absence of familiar and practical works on the subject, by such as have given any considerable degree of thought to it; and, what little thought has been devoted to this branch of building, has been incidentally rather than directly thrown off by those professionally engaged in the finer architectural studies appertaining to luxury and taste, instead of the every-day wants of a strictly agricultural population, and, of consequence, understanding but imperfectly the wants and conveniences of the farm house in its connection with the every-day labors and necessities of farm life.
xi It is not intended, in these remarks, to depreciate the efforts of those who have attempted to instruct our farmers in this interesting branch of agricultural economy. We owe them a debt of gratitude for what they have accomplished in the introduction of their designs to our notice; and when it is remarked that they are insufficient for the purposes intended, it may be also taken as an admission of our own neglect, that we have so far disregarded the subject ourselves, as to force upon others the duty of essaying to instruct us in a work of which we ourselves should long ago have been the masters.
Why should a farmer, because he is a farmer, only occupy an uncouth, outlandish house, any more than a professional man, a merchant, or a mechanic? Is it because he himself is so uncouth and outlandish in his thoughts and manners, that he deserves no better? Is it because his occupation is degrading, his intellect ignorant, his position in life low, and his associations debasing? Surely not. Yet, in many of the plans and designs got up for his accommodation, in the books and publications of the day, all due convenience, to say nothing of the respectability or the elegance of domestic life, is as entirely disregarded as if such qualities had no connection with the farmer or his occupation. We hold, that although many of the practical operations of the farm may be rough, laborious, and untidy, yet they are not, and need not be inconsistent with the knowledge and practice of neatness, order, and even elegance and refinement within doors; and, that the due accommodation of the various things appertaining to farm stock, farm labor, and farm life, should have a tendency to elevate the social xii position, the associations, thoughts, and entire condition of the farmer. As the man himself—no matter what his occupation—be lodged and fed, so influenced, in a degree, will be his practice in the daily duties of his life. A squalid, miserable tenement, with which they who inhabit it are content, can lead to no elevation of character, no improvement in condition, either social or moral, of its occupants. But, the family comfortably and tidily, although humbly provided in their habitation and domestic arrangements, have usually a corresponding character in their personal relations. A log cabin, even,—and I speak of this primitive American structure with profound affection and regard, as the shelter from which we have achieved the most of our prodigious and rapid agricultural conquests,—may be so constructed as to speak an air of neatness, intelligence, and even refinement in those who inhabit it.
Admitting, then, without further argument, that well conditioned household accommodations are as important to the farmer, even to the indulgence of luxury itself, when it can be afforded, as for those who occupy other and more active pursuits, it is quite important that he be equally well instructed in the art of planning and arranging these accommodations, and in designing, also, the various other structures which are necessary to his wants in their fullest extent. As a question of economy, both in saving and accumulating, good and sufficient buildings are of the first consequence, in a pecuniary light, and when to this are added other considerations touching our social enjoyment, our advancement in temporal condition, our associations, our position and influence in life, and, not least, xiii the decided item of national good taste which the introduction of good buildings throughout our extended agricultural country will give, we find abundant cause for effort in improvement.
It is not intended in our remarks to convey the impression that we Americans, as a people, are destitute of comfortable, and, in many cases, quite convenient household and farm arrangements. Numerous farmeries in every section of the United States, particularly in the older ones, demonstrate most fully, that where our farmers have taken the trouble to think on the subject, their ingenuity has been equal, in the items of convenient and economical arrangement of their dwellings and out-buildings, to their demands. But, we are forced to say, that such buildings have been executed, in most cases, with great neglect of architectural system, taste, or effect; and, in many instances, to the utter violation of all propriety in appearance, or character, as appertaining to the uses for which they are applied.
The character of the farm should be carried out so as to express itself in everything which it contains. All should bear a consistent relation with each other. The former himself is a plain man. His family are plain people, although none the less worthy, useful, or exalted, on that account. His structures, of every kind, should be plain, also, yet substantial, where substance is required. All these detract nothing from his respectability or his influence in the neighborhood, the town, the county, or the state. A farmer has quite as much business in the field, or about his ordinary occupations, with ragged garments, out at elbows, and a crownless hat, as he has to occupy xiv a leaky, wind-broken, and dilapidated house. Neither is he any nearer the mark, with a ruffled shirt, a fancy dress, or gloved hands, when following his plough behind a pair of fancy horses, than in living in a finical, pretending house, such as we see stuck up in conspicuous places in many parts of the country. All these are out of place in each extreme, and the one is as absurd, so far as true propriety is concerned, as the other. A fitness of things, or a correspondence of one thing with another, should always be preserved upon the farm, as elsewhere; and there is not a single reason why propriety and good keeping should not as well distinguish it. Nor is there any good cause why the farmer himself should not be a man of taste, in the arrangement and architecture of every building on his place, as well as other men. It is only necessary that he devote a little time to study, in order to give his mind a right direction in all that appertains to this department. Or, if he prefer to employ the ingenuity of others to do his planning,—which, by the way, is, in most cases, the more natural and better course,—he certainly should possess sufficient judgment to see that such plans be correct and will answer his purposes.
The plans and directions submitted in this work are intended to be of the most practical kind; plain, substantial, and applicable, throughout, to the purposes intended, and such as are within the reach—each in their kind—of every farmer in our country. These plans are chiefly original; that is, they are not copied from any in the books, or from any structures with which the writer is familiar. Yet they will doubtless, on examination, be found in several cases to resemble buildings, xv both in outward appearance and interior arrangement, with which numerous readers may be acquainted. The object, in addition to our own designs, has been to apply practical hints, gathered from other structures in use, which have seemed appropriate for a work of the limited extent here offered, and that may serve to improve the taste of all such as, in building useful structures, desire to embellish their farms and estates in an agreeable style of home architecture, at once pleasant to the eye, and convenient in their arrangement.
The lover of country life who looks upon rural objects in the true spirit, and, for the first time surveys the cultivated portions of the United States, will be struck with the incongruous appearance and style of our farm houses and their contiguous buildings; and, although, on examination, he will find many, that in their interior accommodation, and perhaps relative arrangement to each other, are tolerably suited to the business and convenience of the husbandman, still, the feeling will prevail that there is an absence of method, congruity, and correct taste in the architectural structure of his buildings generally, by the American farmer.
We may, in truth, be said to have no architecture at all, as exhibited in our agricultural districts, so far as any correct system, or plan is concerned, as the better taste in building, which a few years past has introduced among us, has been chiefly confined to our cities and towns of rapid growth. Even in the comparatively few buildings in the modern style to be seen in our farming districts, from the various requirements of 14 those buildings being partially unknown to the architect and builder, who had their planning—and upon whom, owing to their own inexperience in such matters, their employers have relied—a majority of such dwellings have turned out, if not absolute failures, certainly not what the necessities of the farmer has demanded. Consequently, save in the mere item of outward appearance—and that, not always—the farmer and cottager have gained nothing, owing to the absurdity in style or arrangement, and want of fitness to circumstances adopted for the occasion.
We have stated that our prevailing rural architecture is discordant in appearance; it may be added, that it is also uncouth, out of keeping with correct rules, and, ofttimes offensive to the eye of any lover of rural harmony. Why it is so, no matter, beyond the apology already given—that of an absence of cultivation, and thought upon the subject. It may be asked, of what consequence is it that the farmer or small property-holder should conform to given rules, or mode, in the style and arrangement of his dwelling, or out-buildings, so that they be reasonably convenient, and answer his purposes? For the same reason that he requires symmetry, excellence of form or style, in his horses, his cattle, or other farm stock, household furniture, or personal dress. It is an arrangement of artificial objects, in harmony with natural objects; a cultivation of the sympathies which every rational being should have, more or less, with true taste; that costs little or nothing in the attainment, and, when attained, is a source of gratification through life. Every human being is 15 bound, under ordinary circumstances, to leave the world somewhat better, so far as his own acts or exertions are concerned, than he found it, in the exercise of such faculties as have been given him. Such duty, among thinking men, is conceded, so far as the moral world is concerned; and why not in the artificial? So far as the influence for good goes, in all practical use, from the building of a temple, to the knocking together of a pig-stye—a labor of years, or the work of a day—the exercise of a correct taste is important, in a degree.
In the available physical features of a country, no land upon earth exceeds North America. From scenery the most sublime, through the several gradations of magnificence and grandeur, down to the simply picturesque and beautiful, in all variety and shade; in compass vast, or in area limited, we have an endless variety, and, with a pouring out of God's harmonies in the creation, without a parallel, inviting every intelligent mind to study their features and character, in adapting them to his own uses, and, in so doing, to even embellish—if such a thing be possible—such exquisite objects with his own most ingenious handiwork. Indeed, it is a profanation to do otherwise; and when so to improve them requires no extraordinary application of skill, or any extravagant outlay in expense, not to plan and to build in conformity with good taste, is an absolute barbarism, inexcusable in a land like ours, and among a population claiming the intelligence we do, or making but a share of the general progress which we exhibit.
16 It is the idea of some, that a house or building which the farmer or planter occupies, should, in shape, style, and character, be like some of the stored-up commodities of his farm or plantation. We cannot subscribe to this suggestion. We know of no good reason why the walls of a farm house should appear like a hay rick, or its roof like the thatched covering to his wheat stacks, because such are the shapes best adapted to preserve his crops, any more than the grocer's habitation should be made to imitate a tea chest, or the shipping merchant's a rum puncheon, or cotton bale. We have an idea that the farmer, or the planter, according to his means and requirements, should be as well housed and accommodated, and in as agreeable style, too, as any other class of community; not in like character, in all things, to be sure, but in his own proper way and manner. Nor do we know why a farm house should assume a peculiarly primitive or uncultivated style of architecture, from other sensible houses. That it be a farm house, is sufficiently apparent from its locality upon the farm itself; that its interior arrangement be for the convenience of the in-door farm work, and the proper accommodation of the farmer's family, should be quite as apparent; but, that it should assume an uncouth or clownish aspect, is as unnecessary as that the farmer himself should be a boor in his manners, or a dolt in his intellect.
The farm, in its proper cultivation, is the foundation of all human prosperity, and from it is derived the main wealth of the community. From the farm chiefly springs that energetic class of men, who replace the 17 enervated and physically decaying multitude continually thrown off in the waste-weir of our great commercial and manufacturing cities and towns, whose population, without the infusion—and that continually—of the strong, substantial, and vigorous life blood of the country, would soon dwindle into insignificance and decrepitude. Why then should not this first, primitive, health-enjoying and life-sustaining class of our people be equally accommodated in all that gives to social and substantial life, its due development? It is absurd to deny them by others, or that they deny themselves, the least of such advantages, or that any mark of caste be attempted to separate them from any other class or profession of equal wealth, means, or necessity. It is quite as well to say that the farmer should worship on the Sabbath in a meeting-house, built after the fashion of his barn, or that his district school house should look like a stable, as that his dwelling should not exhibit all that cheerfulness and respectability in form and feature which belongs to the houses of any class of our population whatever. Not that the farm house should be like the town or the village house, in character, style, or architecture, but that it should, in its own proper character, express all the comfort, repose, and quietude which belong to the retired and thoughtful occupation of him who inhabits it. Sheltered in its own secluded, yet independent domain, with a cheerful, intelligent exterior, it should exhibit all the pains-taking in home embellishment and rural decoration that becomes its position, and which would make it an object of attraction and regard.
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