What is a Carriage House?
In times past, a carriage house filled an important need in both homes in the city as well as in the country. Originally designed as a coach house, the carriage house was used to provide covered space for coaches and carriages when they were not in use. Often, the carriage house also included space for accessories and maintenance equipment related to the carriages. In some larger versions of the carriagehouse, space for horse stables were also included in one section of the edifice.
Depending on personal taste or the financial status of the owner, carriage houses could be elaborate structures, or something that was more simplistic and utilitarian. Victorian carriage houses tended to imitate the architectural detail of the main house on the property. This could include such features as bay windows and even some stained glass, as well as elaborate scrollwork on the eaves and other sections of the façade.
The area around the carriage house was often landscaped, as a way of continuing the general look of the yard. Large versions of the carriage house would also include an upper flow that provided housing for household staff charged with taking care of the horses and the coaches. Because of the graceful lines and attractive nature of the Victorian carriage house, the structures were often visible from the street, and accessed by way of a gracefully winding path that typically was paved with bricks or cobblestones.
In other examples, the carriage house would tend to be a very simple structure. Composed of a single room, the interior was accessed through two large doors that would allow the carriage to enter and exit the house. The design was often simpler than the main house, and often was located so that the simple structure was not easily seen from the street or road. With a focus on utility, the structure would normally not have more than one window, and usually the panes were made of plain glass.
Today, many old time carriage houses have been converted to other uses. Cozy guest homes are easily made from a carriage house. With the advent of the automobile, many carriage houses were converted into garages. The carriage house also found new life as a workshop or art studio, ideal for storing tools, woodworking equipment and other tools essential for the weekend hobbyist. In some instances, old time carriage houses have been converted into retail shops, small restaurants, and neighborhood bars.
I had never heard of a carriage house until I started working for my current employer. I work at a halfway house and the offices where the staff are is in the old carriage house behind the house. It is visible from the street. We still call it the carriage house. It is just way cool.
I am an architectural history major (talk about specific, I know!), but I really am fascinated by things like this, especially Victorian architecture.
Home owners from centuries past used inventive places to house the workmen, maids, and care-takers. On large estates, where the carriage house was large, the men who maintained the carriage equipment and such, lived in quarters at the top of the carriage house. I wonder what their accommodations were like? It must have been convenient to live and work in the same building.
Carriage houses were charming additions to a family home for many centuries. I like the carriage houses from the Victorian era the best.
It's interesting how they mimicked the Victorian houses. From reading books and watching movies, those days of the carriage houses were very romantic. When a family was going somewhere in the carriage, there was the ritual of preparing the horses and carriage. Then the family, all dressed up, ceremoniously climbed into the carriage and got all settled for the trip. It was quite different from the modern family rushing to the garage, jumping in and belting up!
I'm glad that the old carriage houses are being put to use for such a variety of purposes.
Post your comments