Colorado vernacular – stone

Much of Colorado’s early settlement was by Easterners eager for the riches of silver and gold.  The layers of sandstone and granite that had to be excavated and removed were impediments first and building materials second.  Maybe as the first miners realized that sitting through another Rocky Mountain winter in a leaky, fire-prone log cabin was upon them, the stone was stacked and masonry, Colorado-style, was invented.

Most of these early masonry buildings have only the brute material in common with traditional Western masonry techniques and forms practiced in the late 19th century.  These early Colorado miner buildings were dry-stacked, often without mortar at all, and utilized heavy timber for the spanning lintels over doors and windows.

What is most striking is the random collection of stone used to make walls.  The stones themselves were not selected or trimmed for stacking in neat, or even stable, rows or courses.  Rather the walls are rubble-style, combining large pieces placed upon each other and smaller stones inserted to fill gaps.

Later buildings incorporate cut stone or brick lintels, sills and details.  And even later, the massive stones are cut to consistently orthagonal forms allowing for long horizontal bedding planes and consistent coursing.

These early stone buildings are not so much a vernacular that relates to a formal stylistic set of conventions, but rather simple, utilitarian buildings made of local materials.  The forms of the buildings vary widely from tiny miners huts to larger storage sheds and more later to finely crafted houses and commercial buildings.  The rough stone, not self-consciously “rusticated”, but used forthrightly and simply, marks these stone buildings and indicates a desire for a more permanent use of the land, a recognition of occupation, stable and permanent.


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