By Emily Mayer Lossing
Gothic is another style of architecture that has stood the test of time.
Massive and impressive, this style of architecture started in Europe, mainly in France, in the 12th century. Many examples of this style built during that time can be found today, among them Notre Dame, Chartres and Reims cathedrals. The style was incredibly popular for more than 400 years. With the tastes of the Victorians obviously tilted toward opulent architecture and furnishings, Gothic architecture enjoyed a renaissance during that era.
This style of architecture is noted for its steep roof, flying buttresses, stained glass, lacy stonework, pointed arches and doorways. Overall, the visual expression is nothing short of magnificent.
Havre has several such churches, the First Baptist Church on Fourth Avenue being one. It was originally the Presbyterian Church and located at the site of the present Presbyterian Church. In the early 1900s, it was sold to the Baptists and moved to its present location so the Presbyterians could build their brand new church (a story in and of itself for another historic preservation article at another time). St. Mark's Episcopal Church and the First Lutheran Church are also examples of this form of building. Cowan and Donaldson halls on Montana State University-Northern's campus also have several Gothic design elements.
One of the most prominent examples of Gothic style architecture in Montana is the beloved St. Helena's Cathedral. One cannot miss the dual, red-roofed spires crowned by golden crosses, with equally beautiful stained glass windows and statues of the saints that line the outside of the church.
Homeowners also attempted with success to apply certain elements of Gothic architecture to their homes. One style is called the Steamboat Gothic. When you see one of these, it can't be mistaken for any other house style. It looks like all someone needs to do is add a paddlewheel to the back or the side and you've found the Steamboat Gothic. To my knowledge, there are none in Montana but several in California and the South. The homeowner tended to be quite well off.
However, Gothic was not exclusive to the wealthy or to the church. People of modest means made successful attempts at their own version, called the Carpenter Gothic. This was achieved by milling scrollwork, either by the town carpenter or themselves, or ordering prefabricated scrollwork from a catalog and placing it on the roof eaves or on corners where posts meet the roof on the porch. A fine example of this style can be found in Fort Benton. It was one of the Conrad brothers' homes, and is a simple, but beautiful, brick home with a steep roof with the added scrollwork. If you would like to tour a Carpenter Gothic, the Sedwell Home in Nevada City is also a good example of this style of home.
The Havre Historic Preservation Commission is working on National Historic Preservation Week, slated for May 12-18. The theme this year is "A Sense of Place." We are now calling for nominations for the Fourth Annual Havre Historic Preservation Award. This award is given annually to those who have taken the incentive to preserve a piece of Havre history. The criteria remain the same: 1) the home must be a primary or contributing structure in the Havre Residential Historic District as created in 1989; 2) any additions or alterations to the home must not detract or conflict with the historic fabric of the building; and 3) an ongoing commitment to maintaining the historic integrity of the structure must be evident. The Havre Historic Preservation Commission has also reviewed its goals and objectives, to be published in the February article.
If you have any questions regarding historic preservation or would like more information, please call me at 265-6233.