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´╗┐Title: Homes and How to Make Them
Author: Gardner, E. C. (Eugene Clarence), 1836-1915
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Team.



[Illustration: On A Side Hill]

HOMES,

_AND HOW TO MAKE THEM._

E.C. GARDNER.

Illustrated.

BOSTON:

JAMES R. OSGOOD AND COMPANY,

LATE TICKNOR & FIELDS, AND FIELDS, OSGOOD, & CO.

1875.

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1874,

BY JAMES R. OSGOOD & CO.,

in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.

UNIVERSITY PRESS: WELCH, BIGELOW, & Co., CAMBRIDGE.



PREFACE.


These letters between the architect and his friends are composed of
hints and suggestions relating to the building of homes. Their aim is
to give practical information to those about to build, and to
strengthen the growing demand for better and truer work.

Even those who are not yet ready to build for themselves are seldom
without an instinctive longing to do so at some future time, and a
lively concern in the present achievements of their friends and
neighbors, in this direction. Such will, I trust, find something
interesting and instructive in these pages, and be moved thereby to a
more cordial hatred of whatever is false and useless, and love for the
simple and true.

E.C.G.

SPRINGFIELD, March, 1874.



CONTENTS.

         LETTER

      I. EVERY MAN SHOULD HAVE A HOME

     II. A GRATEFUL CLIENT

    III. THE BEAUTY OF TRUTH AND UTILITY

     IV. PROFESSIONAL FOLLY

      V. BUILDING-SITES AND FOUNDATION-WALLS

     VI. GRAVEL-BANKS AND QUAGMIRES

    VII. NATURE'S BRICKS ARE BETTER THAN OURS

   VIII. THERE IS A SOFT SIDE EVEN TO A STONE WALL

     IX. A BROAD HOUSE IS BETTER THAN A HIGH ONE

      X. TROUT BROOKS ARE BETTER THAN STREET SEWERS

     XI. THE STRENGTH AND DURABILITY OF BRICK

    XII. THE WEAKNESS AND SHAM OF BRICKWORK

   XIII. SKILL DIGNIFIES THE MOST HUMBLE MATERIAL

    XIV. EVERY MAN TO HIS TRADE

     XV. THE COMING HOUSE WILL BE FAIR TO SEE AND MADE OF BRICK

    XVI.  DOMESTIC DISCIPLINE

   XVII. GOOD TASTE IS NOT A FOE BUT A FRIEND TO ECONOMY

  XVIII. OUR PICTURESQUE ANCESTORS

    XIX. THE USE AND THE ABUSE OF WOOD

     XX. A SURRENDER AND CHANGE OF BASE

    XXI. HOSPITALITY AND SUNLIGHT

   XXII. UNPROFESSIONAL SAGACITY

  XXIII. STAIRWAYS AND OUTLOOKS

   XXIV. IN A MULTITUDE OF COUNSELLORS IS SAFETY

    XXV. DOORS AND SLIDING-DOORS, WINDOWS AND BAY-WINDOWS

   XXVI. EXPERIENCE KEEPS A DEAR SCHOOL

  XXVII. FASHION AND ORNAMENT, HARD WOOD AND PAINT

 XXVIII. THOUGHT PROVOKES INQUIRY

   XXIX. CONSISTENCY, COMFORT, AND CARPETS

    XXX. AUTOBIOGRAPHY AND ARCHITECTURE, POTATOES AND POSTSCRIPTS

   XXXI. DOMESTIC-SERVICE REFORM

  XXXII. GO TO; LET US BUILD A TOWER

 XXXIII. BASEMENTS AND BALCONIES

  XXXIV. FOUR ROOMS ENOUGH

   XXXV. CONVENIENCES AND CONJECTURES

  XXXVI. THE LESSON OF THE ICE-HOUSE

 XXXVII. SHINGLES, SUNSHINE, AND FRESH AIR

XXXVIII. WHERE THE DOCTORS DIFFER

  XXXIX. HOW TO DO IT

     XL. THE BREATH OF LIFE

    XLI. ETERNAL VIGILANCE

    LII. SAVED BY CONSCIENCE

  XLIII. FINAL AND PERSONAL

         BY WAY OF APPENDIX



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.



MR. ARCHITECT

MR. AND MRS. JOHN

ROUGH STRENGTH AND SMOOTH-FACED WEAKNESS

ON A SIDEHILL

ONLY ONE CORNER

STONE BODY WITH BRICK MEMBERS

BREADTH AND HEIGHT

SECOND STORY OF WOOD

COTTAGE CORNICES

SQUARE HEADS WITH BRICK CAPS

FRAGMENTS OF BRICKWORK

BRICKS THAT ARE NOT SQUARE

"PICTURESQUE AMERICA"

A WISE GENERAL

"THE GROVES WERE GOD'S FIRST TEMPLES"

OUTER FINISH OF WOOD

"THE OLD HOUSE AT HOME"

FORTY-TWO FEET SQUARE

"LOOK OUT, NOT IN"

DUST TO DUST

WOOL AND WOOD

WOODWORK ON PLASTERED WALLS

"SISTER JANE, SPINSTER"

SISTER JANE'S KITCHEN

WHAT THE BASEMENT ADDS

OUTLOOK FROM THE ROOF

THE OLD, OLD STORY

SHINGLING

GOOD OLD TIMES

BRICK FIREPLACE



HOMES,

AND HOW TO MAKE THEM,

OR

_HINTS ON LOCATING AND BUILDING A HOUSE_.


IN LETTERS BETWEEN AN ARCHITECT AND A
FAMILY MAN SEEKING A HOME.

[Illustration: Only One Corner]



LETTER I.

From the Architect.

EVERY MAN SHOULD HAVE A HOME.

My Dear John:

[Illustration: Mr. Architect]


Now that your "ship" is at last approaching the harbor, I am confident
your first demonstration in honor of its arrival will be building
yourself a house; exchanging your charmingly good-for-nothing
air-castle for an actual flesh-and-blood, matter-of-fact
dwelling-house, two-storied and French-roofed it may be, with all the
modern improvements. In many respects, you will find the real house
far less satisfactory and more perplexing than the creation of your
fancy. Air-castles have some splendid qualities. There are no masons'
and carpenters' contracts to be made, no plumbers' bills to be vexed
over, the furnaces never smoke, and the water-pipes never freeze; they
need no insurance, and you have no vain regrets over mistakes in your
plans, for you may have alterations and additions whenever you please
without making a small pandemonium and eating dust and ashes while
they are in process. Nevertheless, I have no doubt you will plunge at
once into the mysteries and miseries of building, and, knowing your
inexperience, I cannot at such a juncture leave you wholly to your own
devices.

It is a solemn thing to build even the outside of a house. You not
only influence your fellow-men, but reveal your own character; for
houses have a facial expression as marked as that of human beings,
often strangely like their owners, and, in most cases, far more
lasting. Some destroy your faith in human nature, and give you an ague
chill when you pass them; others look impudently defiant, while many
make you cry out, "Vanity of vanities!" If you are disposed to
investigate the matter, you will find that the history of nations may
be clearly traced in the visible moral expression of the homes of the
people;--in the portable home-tents of the Arabs; the homely solidity
of the houses in Germany and Holland; the cheerful, wide-spreading
hospitality of Switzerland; the superficial elegance and extravagance
of France; the thoroughness and self-assertion of the English; and in
the heterogeneous conglomerations of America, made up of importations
from every land and nation under the sun,--a constant striving and
changing,--a mass of problems yet unsolved.

A friend once said to me while we were passing an incurably ugly
house, "The man who built that must have had a very good excuse for
it!" It was a profound remark, but if that particular building were
the only one needing apology for its ugliness, or if there were no
common faults of construction and interior arrangement, I should not
think you in special need of warning or counsel from me. There are,
however, so many ill-looking and badly contrived houses, so few really
tasteful ones, while year after year it costs more and more to provide
the comfortable and convenient home which every man wants and needs
for himself and family, that I am sure you will be grateful for any
help I may be able to give you.

We are told that all men, women, and children ought to be healthy,
handsome, and happy. I have strong convictions that every man should
also have a home, healthful, happy, and beautiful; that it is a right,
a duty, and therefore a possibility. Small and humble it may be, cheap
as to cost, but secure, refined, full of conveniences, and the dearest
spot on earth, a home of his own.

In the hope of making the way to this joyful consummation easier and
plainer for you, I propose to give you a variety of hints,
information, and illustrations relating to your undertaking, and will
try to make my practical suggestions so well worth your attention that
you shall not overlook what I may say upon general principles. There
is a right and a wrong way of doing almost everything. I am yours, for
the right way.



LETTER II.

From John.

A GRATEFUL CLIENT.


MY DEAR ARCHITECT: How did you know my ship was coming in? Queer,
isn't it, that when a man does get a few stamps, his friends all find
it out, and can tell him just what he ought to do with them. But
you're right. I've lived in an air-castle long enough. It's altogether
too airy for cold weather, and a house of my own I'm bound to have.
Your information and advice will be exactly in order; for it is a
fact, that, until a man has built at least one house for himself, he
is as ignorant as the babe unborn, not only of how to do it, but,
what is ten times worse, ignorant of what he wants to do. So go ahead
by all means; make a missionary of yourself for my benefit. Don't get
on your high heels too soon, and undertake to tell me what won't be of
the slightest use unless I have a fortune to expend.

[Illustration: MR. AND MRS. JOHN.]

Give me something commonplace and practical, something that I can
apply to a "villa" of two rooms if my ship happens to be empty. I
suppose it's all true that an ugly-looking house is a sign of want of
wit rather than want of money, but there are lots of people who
haven't either, precious few that have both. At all events, the man
who has only one thousand dollars to spend is just as anxious to spend
it to the best advantage as he who has five thousand or fifty.

Mrs. John is delighted. She is bent on the new house, but knows I
shall get everything wrong end first from cellar to attic. I always
supposed a good kitchen was a desirable part of a family
establishment, but the chief end of her plans is bay-windows and
folding doors. However, if you tell us to put the front door at the
back side of the house, or do any other absurd thing, it will be all
right.

As to your preachment on general principles, I'll do the best I can
with it; but don't give me too much at once.

Yours,

JOHN.



LETTER III.

From the Architect.

THE BEAUTY OF TRUTH AND UTILITY.


Dear John: I am glad my efforts in your behalf are likely to be
appreciated, especially if you share this common opinion of
architects, that their mission is accomplished when they have made a
pretty picture, and that they are an expensive luxury, which the man
who would build himself a house must forego if he would be able to
finish. Greater durability, comfort, and convenience are not expected
on account of their assistance, only that the house shall be more
surprisingly beautiful. Doubtless there is some ground for this poor
opinion, but the architects are not alone in their folly, or wholly
responsible; they attempt to supply an unreasonable demand, and are
driven to employ unworthy means.

The first grand lesson for you to learn (you must have patience with a
little more "preachment") is that the beauty of your building cannot
be thrust upon it, but must be born with it, must be an inseparable
part of it, the result and evidence of its real worth. We must forget
our great anxiety as to how our houses shall be clothed, aiming first
to make them strong and durable, comfortable and convenient, being
morally certain that they will not then be disagreeable to look upon.
Professing a great contempt for a man who tries to seem something
better and wiser than he is, let us be equally severe in condemning
every building that puts on airs and boldly bids us admire what is
only fit to be despised. The pendulum seems to have swung away from
the plain, utilitarian mode of building that was forced upon our
ancestors by a stern necessity,--possibly chosen from a sense of
duty,--to the other extreme; giving us, instead of the old-time
simplicity, many a fantastic design that claims admiration for its
originality or its modern style. The notion that there can be a mere
architectural fashion, having any rights that intelligent people are
bound to respect, is quite absurd. Improved modes of construction and
new helps to comfort and convenience are constantly invented, but one
might as well talk of the latest fashions for the lilies of the fields
or the stars in the heavens, as of a fashionable style in architecture
or any other enduring work of art. Whatever building is nobly and
enduringly useful, thoroughly adapted to its uses, cannot be uncomely.
Its outward beauty may be increased by well-contrived disposition of
materials, or even added details not strictly essential to its
structure; but, if rightly built, it will not be ugly without these
additions, and beware of using them carelessly. What might have been a
very gem of homely and picturesque grace, if left in modest plainness,
may be so overburdened with worthless trash that its original
expression is lost and its simple beauty becomes obtrusive deformity.
Even conspicuous cheapness is not necessarily unpleasant to see, but
don't try to conceal it by forcing the materials to seem something
better than they are. Let wood stand for wood, brick for brick, and
never ask us to imagine a brown-stone value to painted sheet-iron.
There is, too, a deeper honesty than mere truth-telling in material; a
conscientiousness of purpose, an artistic spiritual sense of the
eternal fitness, without which there can be no worthy achievement, no
lasting beauty.

Accepting this doctrine, which cannot be too often or too strongly
urged, although it is not new,--indeed, it is old as the
universe,--you will, I think, be puzzled to find an excuse for
yourself if you disfigure a charming landscape or a village street by
an uncouth building. Build plainly if you will, cheaply if you must,
but, by all that is fair to look upon or pleasant to the thought, be
honest. It will require some study and much courage, but verily you
will have your reward, and I for one shall be proud to write myself
your admiring friend.



LETTER IV.

From John.

PROFESSIONAL FOLLY.


My Dear Architect: I've been trying to learn my "first grand lesson,"
as laid down in your second epistle to yours truly. About all I can
make of it is: Firstly, that my house is for myself to live in,--wife
and babies included,--not for my neighbors to look at; and, secondly,
that however much I may try to humbug my fellow-sinners in other ways,
I'm not to build a lie into my house, where it is sure to be found
out, after I'm dead and gone, if not before.

You wonder what my opinion is of architects. Well, without being
personal, I'm free to maintain that as a rule I'm afraid of 'em. The
truth is, they don't care what a fellow's house costs him, whatever
they may say in the beginning; and I never knew a man to build from an
architect's plans that his bills didn't come in just about double what
he laid out for. They want to get up a grand display, if it's a
possible thing, so everybody that comes along will stop and say, "What
a charming house! Who made the plans?" while from beginning to end it
may be all for show and nothing for use, and mortgaged to the very
chimney-tops. That's my opinion, and I'm not alone in it, either.

There was my neighbor down the road,--he wanted a commonish kind of a
house. Nothing would do but his wife must have it planned by a
"professional" man. Result was, she had to put her best bedstead
square in the middle of the room, and there was no possible place for
the sitting-room lounge but to stand it on end behind a door in the
corner. Another acquaintance of mine had $5,000. Didn't want to spend
a cent more than that. Called on an architect,--may have been you, for
all I know; architect made sketches, added here a little and there a
good deal, made one or two rooms a few feet bigger, poked the roof up
several feet higher, and piled the agony on to the outside, until,
when the thing was done, it cost him $11,000! Of course it ran him
into debt, and most likely will be sold at auction. He'll never get
what it cost him, unless he can sell it as we boys used to swap
wallets,--without looking at the inside. But everybody says it's
"lovely," and wants to know who was his architect.

That, I expect, is just where the shoe pinches. If an architect can
only make a fine show with another man's money, he gets a reputation
in no time; but if he has a little conscience, and tries to plan a
house that can be built for a given sum, every one says it looks
cheap, no kind of taste, and very likely the owner himself is grouty
about it, and next time goes for another man.

I don't envy you a bit. But don't be discouraged.

Yours,

JOHN.



LETTER V.

From the Architect.

BUILDING-SITES AND FOUNDATION-WALLS.


DEAR JOHN: You seem to have made as much of my last letter as could
reasonably be expected. I might reply to your unfortunate experience
with architects, by describing the cost and annoyance of the
subsequent alterations, almost inevitable whenever a house is built
without carefully studied plans; and I do assure you that when the
cost of a house exceeds the owner's estimates, it is simply because he
does not know his own mind beforehand, or stupidly fails to have his
plans and contracts completed before he begins to build. It's no more
the fault of the architect than of the man in the moon. By and by you
shall have a chapter on the whole duty of architects, as I understand
it, but not until I have given you something more practical to think
of and possibly to work upon.

Nothing astonishes me more than the absurdly chosen sites of many
rural and suburban dwellings, unless it is the dwellings themselves.
Notwithstanding our great resources in this respect, all
considerations, not only of good taste and landscape effect, but even
of comfort and convenience, are often wholly ignored. For the most
trivial reasons, houses are erected in such locations and of such
shapes as to be forever in discord with their surroundings,--a
perpetual annoyance to beholders and discomfort to their occupants. I
will not at present pursue the subject, but shall assume that the
ground whereon your house will stand is at least firm and dry; if it
isn't, no matter how soon it falls, it won't be fit to live in. Any
preparation for the foundation in the way of puddling or
under-draining will then be quite superfluous.

Unless you are obliged to economize to the uttermost, let your cellar
extend under the whole house, and make it of good depth, not less than
7-1/2 feet,--8-1/2 is better. When this is ready, I suppose you will
start for the nearest ledge, and bring the largest rocks that can be
loosened by powder or dragged by oxen, and set them in solemn array
around the cellar, their most smiling faces turned inward. If you can
find huge flat stones of one or two yards area, and six to twelve
inches thick, you will feel especially fortunate. In either case you
will survey these with admiration, and rejoice in thinking that,
though the rains may fall, and the floods and the winds beat upon it,
your house will rest on its massive support in absolute security,
never showing the ugly cracks and other signs of weakness that spring
from imperfect foundations. Perhaps not, but it will be far more
likely to do so than if the first course of stones in the bed of
gravel or hard pan are no larger than you can easily lift. You cannot
give these huge bowlders such firm resting-place as they have found
for themselves in the ages since they were dropped by the dissolving
glaciers. However you handle them, there will be cavities underneath,
where the stone does not bear upon the solid ground. The smaller ones
you may rub or pound down till every inch of the motherly bosom shall
feel their pressure. Upon this first course of--pebbles, if you
please, lay larger ones that shall overlap and bind them together,
using mortar if you wish entire solidity. As the wall rises, introduce
enough of large size to bind the whole thoroughly. Above the footing
the imperfect bearings of the larger stones are of less consequence,
since there is little danger of their crushing one another.

[Illustration: ROUGH STRENGTH AND SMOOTH-FACED WEAKNESS.]

I say you will probably set their smooth faces inward, where they can
be seen, which is quite natural and well enough, provided this is not
their only merit. If behind there is a lame and impotent conclusion, a
tapering point on which it is impossible to build without depending
upon the bank of earth, it will be better to have less beauty and more
strength. I don't like a foundation wall that is "backed up"; it
should be solid quite through; if any difference, let it be in favor
of the back or outside. You will find plenty of walls bulging into the
cellar, not one crowding outward.

If the footing of a foundation is made as it should be, the upper part
may be much thinner, since there is no danger of crushing it by any
probable weight of building. It may be crowded inward by the pressure
of surrounding earth, especially if the building is of wood. To guard
against this, interior buttresses of brick, or partition walls in the
cellar, will perhaps cost less than a thicker main wall. The
buttresses you may utilize by making them receive shelves, support the
sides of the coal-bin, etc., while the partitions will take the place
of piers, and, if well laid, need be in smaller houses but four inches
thick.

Should your cellar happen to be in a gravelly knoll,--you are thrice
and four times blessed if it is,--and if there is a stony pasture
near it or a quarry from which you can get the chips, you may try a
concrete wall of small stones, gravel, and cement. It will be strong
and durable; with a wheelbarrow you can make it yourself if you
choose, and the rats will despise it.

Whether your house is one story or ten, built of pine or granite, you
can have no better foundation than good hard brick laid in cement
mortar; cellular above the footing, as brick walls should usually be
made. Between this and stone it will be then a question of economy to
be determined by local circumstances.

The details and accessories of cellars, their floors, ventilation, and
various conveniences, belong to the interior equipments. There is,
however, one point that even precedes the foundation,--the altitude.
As the question commonly runs, "How high shall the top of the
underpinning be?" Of course this can only be given on an actual site.
It is unfortunate to plant a house so low in the ground that its
cellar forms a sort of cesspool for the surrounding basin; most absurd
to set it up on a stilted underpinning until it looks like a Western
gatepost, lifted every year a few inches out of the ground by the
frost, till it finally topples over and has to be set anew. Two things
you will notice in locating your house,--as soon as the walls and roof
are raised, the distance to the street in front will seem to be
diminished, and the ground on which the building stands will appear
lower than before, lower than you expected or desired. There is so
much said and sung about houses being set too low, that it is quite
common to find them pushed out of the ground, cellar and all, as
though this would atone for a want of elevation in the land itself.
There is little danger that you will place your house too high, great
danger that you will not raise the earth around it high enough. Be
sure that after grading there shall be an ample slope away from the
walls; but whether you will have a "high stoop," or pass from the
dooryard walk to the porch and thence to the front hall by a single
step, will depend upon the character of the house and its
surroundings. To express a generous hospitality the main entrance
should be so convenient and inviting that it seems easier to enter
than to pass the door. This effect, especially in large rambling
houses, is most easily obtained by keeping the first floor near the
ground. That hospitality and good cheer will always be found beneath
your roof is my earnest wish.



LETTER VI.

From John.

GRAVEL-BANKS AND QUAGMIRES.


MY DEAR ARCHITECT: I'm all right on the gravel question. You don't
catch me building in anybody's quagmire. There's plenty of rheumatism
and fever 'n' ague lying around loose without digging for 'em, and
then building a house over the hole to keep 'em in. I don't want to
say anything against any man's building-lots, but how in the light of
common-sense a man can, with his eyes open, build his shanty on some
of the streets in your enterprising city, is too much for my
understanding. If they would first put in good big sewers, running
slick and clean to the river, and underdrain the whole premises, 't
wouldn't be quite so bad. But I don't want them, anyway; give me the
high land and the dry land. I'm not particular about founding on a
rock, either; that was well enough in old times when they didn't want
cellars, but let me have a good bed of sand or gravel. Cellar may not
be quite so cool, but all we need is to go down a little deeper,
while, as for health, I'd rather be ten feet under ground in such a
spot than occupy the "second-story front," in some places I could
mention.

Your foundation is all right in theory, and if I was going to put up a
steam chimney, a government building, or anything else that must be
done in the best way, regardless of expense, I should go for it. For
cheap, common work, 't isn't worth while to be over-nice or over-wise.
I tell you, there is danger of knowing too much about some things.
According to your notion, a man couldn't do better than to stick the
ground full of tenpenny nails to start with, and I should think a
thousand-legged worm would be about the most substantial animal that
treads the globe.

As to planting my house, when I've bought the lot, I'll ask you to
take a look at it. I have a fancy for some sort of a sidehill, so I
can get into my house, from one side at least, without going up stairs
out of doors, and still have the first floor airy and dry.

Yours,

JOHN.



LETTER VII.

From the Architect.

NATURE'S BRICKS ARE BETTER THAN OURS.


DEAR JOHN: Where to build your house may be, in truth, a question
quite as important as how to build it. I regret my inability to give
you the advice you need. Dr. Bowditch has, I think, intimated that
there is an elysian field not far from here of such rare sanitary
virtue that if its locality were known there would scarcely be
standing-room within its borders for those who would flock thither, or
something to that effect. I trust we shall some time have a scientific
practical investigation of the whole matter, and such definite
information as will enable us at least to qualify, by artificial
means, evils that cannot, in thickly settled regions, be wholly
avoided. Meantime stick to your text, keep high and dry. If you are
bound to have a sidehill, and can find none to suit, you can doubtless
make one of the earth thrown from the cellar wherever you locate.

Have you decided what materials to use, whether wood, brick, or stone?
You will hardly use any other. Glass houses are not popular, although
for their sunlight they ought to be; paper ones are not yet introduced
among us,--I'm expecting them every year; and iron, important and
useful as it is, and destined to become more so, is not adapted to
such buildings as yours. Wood, brick, or stone, then,--which of the
three? To spare you all possible confusion, we will take them
separately and in order, beginning with the hardest.

For rural dwellings in New England stone is rarely used, except for
foundations below ground, being, according to the common notion,
better for that purpose than brick, but not as worthy to be seen,
unless hammered and chiselled into straight lines and smooth surfaces.
Errors both. Well-burned brick laid in cement mortar are nearly always
as good as a stone foundation, while nothing can be more effective in
appearance than a well-laid wall of native, undressed stone. We have
too long neglected one of the most available of our resources in not
making use of the small loose stones that abound in many localities.
They are cheaper and better than bricks, and, rightly used, so
thoroughly in harmony with the nature around them that we should find
them in common use if men were half as wise in accepting the means of
grace provided for them as they are prone to seek out many inventions.
The earlier farmers with enormous industry built them into fences, and
then added a second story of wood to keep the sheep from walking over
them, or piled them up in conical heaps, watch-towers for the
woodchucks. The later farmers, with less patience but possibly more
enterprise, are running away from them to the smoother fields and
richer mould of the Western prairies. We can do better than either;
for, wherever found, they may be used most favorably, not only for
foundation walls that are deeply hidden from mortal view, but for the
main walls of the entire building,--favorably, not only in point of
economy and strength, but with most admirable result as to external
appearance. And here you touch your fundamental principle, that the
best outward effect can only be obtained by a judicious use of the
materials with which you build. You must not make the walls without
any reference to their composition or proportions, and then try to
conceal the poverty and awkwardness of the structure by pinning up
preposterous window-caps, hanging horrible brackets under the eaves
that must always be in doubt whether they support the cornice or are
supported by it, fixing fantastic verge-boards to the gables, and
covering the roof with wooden knick-knacks that mock consistency and
defy description. Look rather to the materials at your command, and,
whatever they may be, try to dispose them in such way that, while each
part performs a legitimate, necessary service, you shall still have
variety and harmony.

Because I have suggested building your main walls of natural undressed
stone, you must not attempt to construct them of that alone. The main
corners, the door and window jambs, the caps and sills, cannot well be
made of these rough hard heads and cobbles that are scattered over the
fields, or from quarry chips. And here will arise the question of
cost. It would seem decidedly grand to use for the corners
substantial blocks of hewn stone,--sandstone, granite, marble, or
porphyry,--channelled and chamfered, rock-faced, tooled, rubbed, or
decorated; key-stones and voussoirs embellished with your monogram or
enriched by any other charming device you choose to invent; bands of
encaustic tile, brilliant in color and pattern, belts of sculptured
stone, and historic tablets,--if you fancy and can afford them. Unless
your ship is heavily freighted with Australian gold or African
diamonds, by all means dispense with the cut stone, and use brick for
the corners, caps, and jambs, and some good flag-stones broken into
strips of suitable width and thickness for the sills and belt-courses.
This will give you a contrast in color (unless you have the reddest of
red sandstone for the walls), the utmost economy and durability of
construction, and a whole effect very likely better than that of the
stone. These brick dressings may be light, especially the jambs; but
the corners, at least, should be laid in such fashion as to bind well
into the stone walls, and if of considerable height, should be
strengthened by belts of stone, or iron anchors running through the
brick and extending into the main wall several feet each way. Any
large blank surface may be relieved by a little ingenuity in the
selection of the stones for the main walls, introducing, perhaps, some
of regular shapes and size, the raised mortar, which may be colored
dark or red, marking the joints, or inserting a belt of different
color. Horizontal bands of brick laid in fancy pattern may be
convenient and effective.

Of course you will not adopt this style of wall unless there is a crop
of suitable stones within easy distance. It is more probable that you
will be afraid to use what you have than that there are none to use.
Whatever can be made into a stone fence will make the walls of a
house, if you are not too ambitious of height, and do not attempt to
make them too thin. Other things being equal, the thicker the walls,
within certain limits, the better. You don't care to build a Bastile,
but deep window-jambs without and within add wonderful richness and
dignity. If the walls cost little or no more, as is often the case,
it is a pity to refuse the additional ground required for their extra
thickness. Such walls should not be monopolized by hundred-thousand-dollar
churches and fancy summer residences. They are quite suitable for the
simplest, most unpretending country homes.

[Illustration: STONE BODY WITH BRICK MEMBERS.]

You will understand the general idea thus far by the accompanying
sketches, with which I must close this letter, without concluding the
subject.



LETTER VIII.

From John.

THERE IS A SOFT SIDE EVEN TO A STONE WALL.


MY DEAR ARCHITECT: I'm slowly digesting your last production; not
being an ostrich, it goes rather hard. For all that, it may be worth
thinking of. Perhaps I shall be converted by the time the subject is
fully shown up. I suppose we've always looked upon these loose rocks
and stones sprinkled about the country as a part of the original
curse, and have never thought of turning them to any sensible use,
though good old Dr. Hopkins seemed to have faith that their soft side
would some time be discovered. Funny, isn't it, that we should burn
so much fuel and spend so much labor making bricks and other
artificial building-blocks, when there are piles of them ready made,
that would only cost the hauling? Not always on the square, to be
sure, although in some places the ground is full and running over with
flat stones that can be laid up as easily as shingles. They would
hardly need any mortar, and the brick trimmings you describe would be
a nuisance, except for looks. Miles and miles of stone-walls you will
see, up and down hillsides and across pastures that don't look worth
their taxes. Once in a while the lower half of a cider-mill, the back
side of a barn-yard shed, or something of that sort, is made of them;
but the people in these parts seem to think it would be folly to use
them for anything more dignified. I suppose, because they are too
simple and natural,--just as the Almighty made them.

These square-cornered, flat-sided fellows are not the commonest kind,
however; and I'm free to maintain that I don't want to build my house
more than seventy-five feet high of the smooth cobbles that will
scarcely hang together in a respectable stone-heap. I should expect
the whole thing would come tumbling down some rainy night.

Mrs. John don't take to the notion of a stone house--not yet. Says
they're wofully old-fashioned and poky,--look like Canadians and poor
folks. I just keep still and let her talk,--it's the best way.

Won't such walls be cold and damp? How am I to know whether the stones
that I can find are fit to use? Send you a boxful by express?

Yours,

JOHN.



LETTER IX.

From the Architect.

A BROAD HOUSE IS BETTER THAN A HIGH ONE.


MY DEAR JOHN: It will not be necessary for you to send me a stone-heap
or a section of pasture-wall for inspection. I would rather venture an
opinion from your description.

Of course, these walls alone, if solid, as they doubtless must be,
will be cold and damp; they must be furred off within to prevent
moisture from condensing on the walls of the rooms. This furring
should be done with light studs, secured to the floor timbers above
and below, having no connection with the stone walls, the inside of
which may be left quite rough, whatever the "builders in the elder
days of art" might say to such negligence. For greater permanence and
security against fire, instead of wood furrings you may build a lining
of brick, leaving an air space of several inches between it and the
stone, very much in the same way as if the whole were of brick.

You say you would prefer not to build walls as high as a church tower
of smooth cobblestones. Don't; it wouldn't be wise. Still I have seen
them, of more humble dimensions, laid in good cement, as such walls
always should be laid, that seem as firm as unbroken granite. But you
will remember I only advise this mode of building on the condition
that you are not ambitious of height. If you are, by all means curb
your aspirations, or else buy a city house six or seven stories in
the air, where you can gratify your passion for going up and down
stairs. There is the best reason in the world why a tall house in the
country should look grim, gaunt, and awkward; it is thoroughly
inconvenient and out of place. The area of arable land covered by
human habitations does not yet interfere with agricultural products.
So let us spread ourselves freely. When we have learned the beauty and
the strength of co-operation for mutual helpfulness, we shall see the
prevailing mode of constructing houses in cities very much modified.
Now they stand as books are placed on their shelves,--vertically and
edgewise. They would hold just as many people, and be far more
convenient, if they could be laid horizontally, one above the other.

[Illustration: BREADTH AND HEIGHT.]

True, this would involve floors impervious to sound, and
fire-proof,--by no means a fatal objection. Since we can neither "fly
nor go" in the air, like birds and angels, it is well for us, having
found our appropriate level, to abide thereon as far as may be. There
is no doubt that where dwellings must be built compactly in "blocks,"
as we call them, the "flat" arrangement, each tenement being complete
on one floor, is the cheapest and best. Even the fourth story in such
a building is preferable to a house of eight or ten rooms, two on each
floor. But this does not concern you, unless you have a few thousands
to invest in tenement-houses. In the right place I like an
old-fashioned one-story house, but most people have a prejudice
against anything so unpretending.

One other fact besides the worth of co-operation I hope the dwellers
in cities will learn to recognize practically. When there were no
swift and screaming locomotives, no cosey and comfortable horse-cars,
no red and yellow omnibuses even, there was good reason why men must
forego the boon of country air; must forget the color of the ground,
the smell of the green things growing, and the shape of the heavens
above them. But the reason no longer exists. Doubtless the business of
a city should be as compact as possible; but for its dwellings, every
consideration of comfort and happiness, of physical and moral
well-being, demands that the inhabitants shall make the most of their
migratory resources and--scatter; find room to build, not tenements
or residences, but _homes_ for themselves and their children. In the
old time safety was found by crowding together within mural walls. Now
the case is reversed. Where the population is densest, temptations and
dangers do most abound. We've outgrown the walls, let us overcome the
evils that were bred within them.

There may be a prejudice against another quality of these stone walls.
They are rough. Roughness means want of culture and labor; that
implies want of money, and that is--unpardonable. But roughness does
not mean any such thing. What are mouldings and frets and carvings but
a roughening of otherwise smooth surfaces? Artists of all kinds seek
to remove even the appearance of an unbroken plane, and nature abhors
a flat exterior, never allows one, even in the most plastic material,
if it can be broken. See the waves of the ocean, the mimic billows on
a snow-covered plain, the rugged grandeur of the everlasting hills.
Fancy a pine, an oak, or an elm tree with trunk and limbs smoothly
polished! What if the outside of your walls are somewhat uneven? Let
them be so. The shadows will be all the richer, the vines will cling
more closely, and maybe the birds will hang their nests in some sunny
corner. Do not, then, try to improve the natural faces of the stones
with pick and hammer; you will find it hard work, and, very likely,
worse than thrown away.

I think you will like, both in exterior effect and in practical
result, the plan of building the walls of the first story of stone
with brick dressings, as described in my last letter, making the
remainder of the house of wood, be the same more or less. If the
sketches I send you do not make you in love with this style, or if you
do not like to risk the experiment, examine something already built
before deciding against it. But first explore the country around you
and see if the stony prospect is good.

[Illustration: SECOND STORY OF WOOD.]

Mr. Donald G. Mitchell not only writes in favor of this mode of
building, but proves his faith by his work; his new house at Edgewood
being an admirable specimen of it. You will find, too, some noteworthy
examples at Newport, for which, with much else in the way of applying
a refined taste to rural affairs, we are indebted, directly or
indirectly, to the same well-known writer. If, after the pictures,
Mrs. John is still doubtful of the result, the examples above
mentioned will certainly allay her misgivings.

You must not think I would recommend this as a universal fashion, even
where the materials are abundant, but give it place according to its
merit.

I hope you will be spared the folly of building your house of dressed
stone of uniform size and color, lest it be mistaken for a large tomb
or a small jail. That you may not at present be compelled to take up
your abode in either, is my sincere wish.



LETTER X.

From John.

TROUT BROOKS ARE BETTER THAN STREET SEWERS.


My dear architect: We read, we saw, and--were conquered. The pictures,
the arguments, and especially the illustrious examples, brought down
the house, or rather brought it up. Mrs. John is not only fully
reconciled to stone walls, but she is decidedly unreconciled to any
other,--that is, for the first story; the second story is to be of
wood, the walls shingled or slated instead of being covered with
clapboards, in the orthodox fashion. She is delighted with the notion
that her "Baltimore belles" and the like can clamber against the
house without being torn away every two or three years for paint. On
the strength of this notion, she has already ordered a big lot of all
sorts of herbs and creeping things, from grape-vines and English ivy
to sweet-peas and passion-flowers. That's only one thing. Every time
we go out to ride she gathers up from the wayside such a load of small
rocks as makes the buggy-springs ache. We found a smooth round stone,
yesterday, that looks so much like my head she declares it must be a
fossil, and is bound to have it set over the front door instead of a
monogram. We follow your lead in another direction; if we can't rise
in the world without going up stairs for it, we'll try to cultivate
the meek and lowly style.

Your best point, according to my thinking, is on the migration
question. I read that paragraph over twice, and stuck a pin at the end
of it. It doesn't concern me, to be sure; but I have the utmost pity
for a man who is content to live all his life shut in between brick
walls. To undertake to bring up a family of boys and girls where all
the blessed freedom of out-door life is denied them, is worse than
pitiful,--it's heathenish. Not that every boy ought to live on a farm
and work in a barn-yard,--hoe corn all summer and chop wood all
winter,--but I don't believe a child can grow up strong, healthy, and
natural, body-wise and soul-wise, unless he has a chance to scrape an
acquaintance with Mother Nature with his own hands. When I stake out
John City it will be a city of magnificent distances, in the form of a
Greek cross,--two wide streets crossing each other at right angles in
the middle; all the business at the "four corners," where there will
be plenty of short cross streets; the dwellings stretching away for
miles on the two broad avenues; house-lots one to ten acres; Union
Pacific Railroad will cut through the centre corner-wise; and the
Metropolitan Transportation Company, or something else with a big
name, will run elegant cars like shuttles through the two main
streets, and Mrs. A at the West End can call on Mrs. B at the North,
South, or East End, ten miles away, with less trouble than you in your
city can go from Salem to Howard Street.

Similarly, Springfield ought to stretch from Longmeadow to Chicopee
Street, from Indian Orchard to Agawam. At all events, if your folks
will make the most of their opportunities, it will some day be one of
the most charming inland cities on the continent. Whether there is
good sense, public spirit, and patriotism enough to make it so remains
to be seen.

Yours,
JOHN.



LETTER XI.

From the Architect.

THE STRENGTH AND DURABILITY OF BRICK.


My dear John: It is encouraging to know that my suggestions find some
favor in your sight. Pray don't go too fast. It isn't well to make up
our minds fully until we have heard all sides, lest we have them to
unmake, which is always more or less painful.

Notwithstanding the peculiar merits of the stone walls, the coming
house,--the house that is to embody all the comforts and amenities of
civilized life,--the house of safe and economic construction, well
warmed, well ventilated, defiant alike of flood, frosty and
fire,--the millennial house, if you please, will doubtless be a brick
one. Don't be alarmed. I know just what vision rises before your
mind's eye as you read this. A huge square edifice; windows very high
from the ground, not very large, square tops, frame and sash painted
white; expressionless roof; flat, helpless chimneys perched upon the
outer walls, the course of their flues showing in a crooked stain; at
the back side a most humiliated-looking wooden attachment, somewhat
unhinged as to its doors and out at the elbows as to its windows,
evidently hiding behind the pile of brick and mortar that tries to
look dignified and grand, but only succeeds in making a great red blot
on the landscape; all the while you know the only homelike portion of
the establishment is in the wooden rear part. The front rooms are dark
and gloomy, the paper hangings are mouldy, the closets musty and
damp; there is a combined smell of creosote and whitewash pervading
the chambers, and the ceilings hang low. I don't wonder you object to
a brick house in the country. Yet, if you propose to build a model,
honest and permanent, a house that shall be worth what it costs and
look as good as it is, I shall still recommend brick. The growing
scarcity of wood, the usual costliness of stone, the abundance of
clay, the rapidity with which brick can be made and used,--one season
being sufficient to develop the most awkward hod-carrier into a
four-dollars-a-day journeyman bricklayer,--the demand for more
permanence in our domestic dwellings, and the known worth of brick in
point of durability and safety,--all these reasons will, I think,
cause a steady increase in their use. Hence it behooves us to study
the matter carefully, and see whether any good thing can be done with
them.

Since the time, long ago, when the aspiring sons of Noah said to one
another, "Go to; let us make brick and burn them thoroughly," to the
latest kiln in Hampden brick-yard, there seems to have been little
variety in the making or using of them, except that among different
nations they have assumed different forms. They are found as huge
blocks a foot and a half square, and in little flinty cakes no bigger
than a snuff-box. The Romans made the best ones, some of their
buildings having defied the elements for seventeen centuries, and
their mantle, as to brickmaking, has fallen upon the Dutch. They were
found among the ancient Peruvians, and the Chinese made beautiful the
outside of the temple by giving a porcelain finish to the brick. Still
I fancy they have always been more famous for their use than for their
beauty; but their utility is beyond all question. If our modern
experience doesn't prove it, read this inscription from an ancient
brick pyramid of Howara:--

"Do not undervalue me by comparing me with pyramids of stone; for I am
better than they as Jove exceeds the other deities. I am made of
bricks from clay, brought up from the bottom of the lake adhering to
poles."

Notwithstanding these claims to veneration, there is but little poetry
about them, and therefore, I suppose, but little progress. Compared
with other materials, they have undergone slight changes with us, in
color, shape, or modes of use. A block of wood or stone contains, in
the eye of the artistic workman, every possible grace of form and
moulding; but a brick is a square, red, uninteresting fact, and the
laying of them the most prosaic of all work. By common consent we
expect no improvement in their use, but rather sigh for the good old
times when work was honestly done and the size of the brick
prescribed by law. We associate them with factories, boarding-houses,
steam-chimneys, pavements, sewers,--whatever is practical,
commonplace, and undignified. Yet there are charming, even delicate,
effects possible with these unpromising rectangular blocks.

[Illustration: COTTAGE CORNICES.]

In your efforts to unite beauty and brickwork it will be well to begin
modestly, merely aiming to avoid positive ugliness. Do not feel bound
to enclose your house by four straight unbroken walls,--brick are no
more difficult to build in irregular shape than anything else,--and do
not, on any account, make square-topped openings, as the builders of
the old-fashioned brick houses were wont to do. Doubtless you have
read Mr. Ruskin's vigorous protest against this particular
architectural sin; if you have not, by all means do so, only he proves
too much, and would fain make us believe that our doors and windows
must not only be crowned by arches, but they must be Gothic
arches,--doctrine to be received with some grains of allowance. A
pointed Gothic arch may be, often is, very beautiful; but, applying
our test of utility, it is most obviously out of place, and therefore
inartistic, where close economy, convenience, and abundance of light
are required. For the sake of strength, if for no other reason, let
the top of the openings be arched, but a low arch of one arc or two is
often preferable to a high one. If, for economy's sake, you wish to
make the top of the sash square, do so, curving the upper portion of
the frame as a sort of centre on which the masonry may rest; but do
not attempt this if the openings are wide, and in any case relieve the
wood segment by ornamental cutting or some other device, otherwise you
will have a weak and poverty-stricken effect. Or you may use a
straight lintel of stone, taking care to build a conspicuous,
relieving arch above it of stone or colored brick. You will get the
idea from the sketches, and see that there is room for endless
variety of expression and ornament without violating any of the first
principles, which you will do if you try to cover a square-headed
opening with a "straight arch" of brick, or leave a light, horizontal
stone cap without a protecting arch above it.

[Illustration: SQUARE HEADS WITH BRICK CAPS.]



LETTER XII.

From John.

THE WEAKNESS AND SHAM OF BRICKWORK.


My Dear Architect: You must have had a brick in your hat when you
launched your last letter. I suppose there's no doubt that brick walls
will stand thunder and lightning in the shape of Chicago fire and
Boston gunpowder better than anything else. In fact, I've always had a
notion that if there are any houses in a certain place where they
don't need them to keep out the cold, they must be made of brick,
Milton's gorgeous testimony to the contrary notwithstanding. But when
you undertake to show up the softness and beauty of brickwork, you
soar a little too high for me. If our masons would only make walls
that are able to bear their own weight; not use more than half as much
mortar as brick, and that made of sand instead of dirt; if they would
build chimney-flues that will carry the smoke to the top of the
building, instead of leaving it to ooze out around the window-frames a
dozen feet away, as I once saw it in a costly building belonging to
one of our ex-governors, and remember that a wooden joist running
square across a chimney-flue is pretty sure to get up a bigger draught
than most of us care for; if they wouldn't fill up the inside of the
wall with bricks that it isn't safe to drop for fear they can never be
picked up again; in short, if they'd do the work that can't be seen
half as well as what is in plain sight, I'd never say a word about
beauty, I wouldn't even ask for those elegant caps the masons are so
fond of poking out over windows. You can find at least ten thousand
such in Springfield. Some folks paint them, sprinkle sand into the
paint, and then go on their wicked way rejoicing in the notion that
they have told such a cunning lie as "no feller can find out."

Now and then the corner of a brick building is cobbled up into blocks
and polished off in the same style. If these are some of the beauties
of brickwork, I pray you have me excused. If you have anything better
to offer, go ahead, I'm open to conviction; would rather be knocked
down by an argument than a brickbat any time.

Mrs. John says she doesn't care a straw about bricks, and hopes you
won't spend much time talking about them. She's bound to have a stone
house, whether or no, and wants you to give us your notions about
inside fixings, especially the kitchen. (Between you and me, she
wouldn't have said a word about the kitchen, if I hadn't accused her
of caring for nothing but bay-windows and folding-doors.) Her sister
Jane has been over to see her, and they've had a host of projects to
talk over; part of 'em I get hold of and part of 'em I don't. Jane
isn't married, but she's got some capital notions about housekeeping.
Great on having things nice and handy inside, especially for doing the
work, but she don't care much for the outside looks. So she hopes you
will get out of the brick-yard as soon as possible. Of course, I shall
read what you have to say whether they do or not, but don't run wild
on the subject.

Yours,
JOHN.



LETTER XIII.

From the Architect.

SKILL DIGNIFIES THE MOST HUMBLE MATERIAL.


Dear John: Please tell Mrs. John and Sister Jane that I am as anxious
to get into the kitchen as they are to have me; and if I can succeed
in giving suggestions that shall make the domestic work, on which our
comfort and happiness so largely depend, easier and
pleasanter,--restoring the wellnigh lost art of housekeeping to its
native dignity,--it will be a grander achievement than designing the
most beautiful exterior that ever adorned a landscape. I'm perfectly
aware that the outside appearance of the house is to the interior
comfort thereof as the body to the soul,--no comparison possible
between the two. Still, they must possess their souls in patience and
allow me to work according to my own plan. Moreover, they must not
neglect a careful study of the brick question. A decided opinion is a
good thing, provided it is grounded on the truth; otherwise it is a
stumbling-block.

For yourself, I assure you my head is level; would that all brickwork
were equally so. Beauty and bricks are not incompatible; but remember,
there is one beauty of brick, another beauty of stone, and another
beauty of wood. Do not confound them or expect that what pleases in
one can be imitated in the other. As you were admonished, some time
ago, "be honest; let brick stand for brick," then make the most of
them. Your criticism on a very common form of "brick-dressing" is
quite to the point. Aside from the stupid folly of painting them to
imitate stone, not only these window-caps, but all horizontal belts
having any considerable projection are essentially unfit for
brickwork. The mortar is almost sure to fail at the upper side, giving
the whole a look of premature decay, even if well done at first. A
level course of long stone, running through a wall of small stones or
brick, gives greater strength by binding the whole together. This has
not always a good excuse for extending beyond the wall-face. But a
projecting belt of brick adds nothing either in appearance or in
reality. If horizontal lines are required to diminish the apparent
height of the building or affect its proportions, make them of brick
of different color from those of the main wall or laid in different
position. Remember this; fanciful brick decorations are quite sure to
look better on paper than when executed. As a rule, the more complex
the design the greater the discount. Such work is apt to have an
unsafe appearance, as though the whole was at the mercy of the bottom
brick.

[Illustration: FRAGMENTS OF BRICKWORK.]

Your own sense of fitness must decide what shall be the general
character of your house, whether light, open, airy, or sober, solid,
and dignified. If the latter, let the strength of the walls be
evident. Set the window-frames as far back from the wall-face as
possible, in spite of any obstacles the builders may raise; make the
arches above the openings massive, and the recessed portions of the
cornice or any other ornamental work deep and narrow. There are not
the same objections to a recess as to a projection; it is better
protected, any imperfection is less apparent, and the desired effect
of shadow is more complete. Much variety in color will not increase
the appearance of strength, but the expression will be emphasized by
pilasters and buttresses; also by the low segment arches and wide
piers.

On the other hand, for a lighter effect, make the windows wider and
crown them with semi-circles or pointed Gothic arches. Leave out the
corners of the piers in building them up; introduce belts of brick
laid in various positions and of different colors, if you can get
them, as I trust you may. Indeed, this very season, a brickmaker has
reported himself prepared to furnish black bricks and buff, red bricks
and gray, all of good and regular standing. You may be sure I gave him
my blessing, and invited him to press on. I do not know whether he
will prove to be the coming man in this department, but whoever brings
a greater variety of brick in form and color within reasonably easy
reach will do a good work that shall surely have its reward; for brick
houses we must have, ugly ones we won't have, and rich decorations of
stone we cannot afford for common use. Meantime, if you can do no
better, do not hesitate to use brick that have been treated to a bath
of hot tar. They may look old-fashioned, by and by. No matter; an old
fashion, if it is a good one, is more to be admired for its age than
despised. It is only by reason of its falseness and inconvenience that
it becomes absurd.

In the same category with colored bricks (indeed, they are a sort of
spiritualized bricks) are the brilliant-hued encaustic tile that are
finding their way hither across the Atlantic. Let us hope that the
greatest country in the world will not long send three thousand miles
for its building materials. A variety of forms and sizes of bricks we
may easily have when we demand it in earnest. Beyond question there is
room for almost unlimited exercise of fancy in this direction. We only
need the taste to design appropriate shapes and to use them aright.
Mr. Ruskin mentions certain brick mouldings as being among the
richest in Italy. The matter of size relates rather to construction
than ornament, but it is very important here. I think it will some
time seem as unreasonable to make brick of but one size and pattern as
it would now be to have all timber sawn of uniform dimensions.

[Illustration: BRICKS THAT ARE NOT SQUARE.]

You are more liable to attempt too much in the way of decoration than
too little. Don't make your house look as though it was intended for a
brickmaker's show-case. You will find the simplest designs the best. I
have seen a really good effect on the side of a large building from
the mere holes left in the wall by the masons' stagings.

One thing more: Do not become possessed with the idea that a brick
house must be a large or an expensive one. It may be small and cheap,
but withal so cosey and domestic, so thoroughly tasteful and
picturesque, that you will have an unquestioning faith in the
possibility and the desirableness of love in a cottage, the moment you
behold it. On the other hand, by making the best of your resources,
it is possible to build a large, plain, square house, a perfect cube
if you please, that shall not only be homelike in appearance, but
truly impressive and elegant. How? I've been trying to illustrate and
explain. By being honest; by despising and rejecting all fashions that
have nothing but custom to recommend them; by using colored and
moulded brick if you can use them well; by _not_ laying the outside
work in white mortar, and by exercising your common-sense and
independence, both of which qualities I am sure you possess.

I must beg Mrs. John and Sister Jane (by the way, I'm flattered to
know that a notable housekeeper finds anything promising in what I
have thus far written you) not to give up the ship. One more broadside
for the brick-yard, and we will pass on to loftier themes.



LETTER XIV.

From John.

EVERY MAN TO HIS TRADE.


My dear Architect: There is one point you might as well square up
before you go any further. I understood that I was to build my house
for myself to live in, not for my neighbors to look at. But I appeal
to any white man, if you haven't had a deal more to say about the
outside of the platter than the contents thereof. To be sure, it's
what I might have expected. It's a way you architects have. You can no
more help thinking how a house is going to look, than a woman can help
hoping her first baby will be a beauty. I allow it would be a
first-rate thing if we could have some streaks of originality, just a
trifle more of variety, and a few glimpses of really good taste, along
with the crumbs of comfort; and I'm willing to admit that your moves
in that direction, as far as I can follow them, are all right. Still,
it's a downright fact, that, unless a man is a great simpleton or a
small Croesus, he is more anxious to make his house cosey and
convenient, than he is to outshine his neighbors or beautify the
landscape.

Sister Jane wants to know whether, in case one wishes to begin
housekeeping on a small scale, it would be as easy to make additions
to a brick house for future need, as to a wooden one. She doesn't ask
on her own account, but for a friend of hers who is talking of
building.

I expect you'll inquire pretty soon who's running these letters,--you
or I; but if we don't sometimes show our ignorance by asking
questions and making comments, how are you going to know what sort of
information to shed?

Yours,
JOHN.



LETTER XV.

From the Architect.

THE COMING HOUSE WILL BE FAIR TO SEE AND MADE OF BRICK.


Dear John: Once for all, your questions and those of Sister Jane or
any of her friends and relatives are always in order. The more the
better. I will do my best to answer them, if not exactly by return
mail, yet as soon as may be.

Other things being equal, a house built of brick may be as easily
increased to suit a growing family as one built of wood. There is
necessarily a loss attending any change in a finished building, yet it
is often well to arrange one's plans with reference to future
additions. Will it be in order for me to express to Sister Jane my
approval of any young man who is willing to begin life on a small
scale, undertaking no more than he can do honestly and well, yet with
ambitious forethought providing for future increase? You seem to be
slightly in error upon this point. I have not said you must build your
house without any regard to the exterior, or intimated that it would
even be right to do so. I only protest against building for the sake
of the exterior,--against sacrificing thoroughness and interior
comfort to outside display,--against using labor and material in such
fashion that they are worse than thrown away, their whole result being
false and tasteless,--against every kind of ostentation and humbug.
The truth is, we have all gone astray, literally, like sheep. We
follow, for no earthly reason than because some one, not a whit wiser
than we, happens to have rushed blindly in a certain direction.

"Of domestic architecture what need is there to speak! How small, how
cramped, how poor, how miserable in its petty meanness, is our best!
How beneath the mark of attack and the level of contempt, that which
is common with us!"

Thus Mr. Ruskin on the domestic architecture of England. What would
that merciless critic say, or rather what profundity of silence would
he employ to express his opinion, of ours? It will be well for him and
for us if he holds to his resolve never to visit America. This servile
spirit of imitation, blind following of blind guides, is by no means
confined to the outsides of our houses; it not only penetrates the
interiors, but more or less influences all our affairs. Charge me with
a professional interest if you will, I assure you no man can, in
justice to himself or the community, build a house for his own use
just like any other. He must attempt something better adapted to his
needs and tastes than that can be which precisely suits some one else.
If he can give no better reason for building as he builds, for
furnishing as he furnishes, for living and thinking as he lives and
thinks, than that another has done so before him, he may serve for the
shadow of a man, but will never make the substance. Eastlake, another
English authority, refers to continental cities and villages "the
first glimpse of which is associated with a sense of eye-pleasure
which is utterly absent in our provincial towns." And then, to drain
the dregs of our humiliation, we are asked by his American editor to
believe that, nevertheless, certain towns of the British Isles are
miracles of picturesqueness "as compared with American towns, which
have nothing but a succession of tame, monotonously ugly, and utterly
uninteresting streets and squares to offer to the wearied eye." Yes, I
am anxious about the outside of the house, but do not for a moment
forget that it should always be subordinate to the weightier matters,
the higher and holier uses of "home buildings."

[Illustration: "PICTURESQUE AMERICA."]

Have I squared up your point? Let us return to the trowel.

The somewhat vexed question of mortar you shall answer according to
your taste, so far as to choose between dark gray--"black" it is
commonly called--and some shade of red, resembling the brick used.
Between these two there seems to me to be one of those questions of
taste, concerning which we are not permitted to dispute. With the dark
mortar the joints will be visible, modifying the color of the wall,
in some cases, perhaps, improving it; while the red will give a more
uniform tint, on which not only colored brick or stone will appear to
the best advantage, but the lines of the openings and other essential
details are brought out in clearer relief. You would perhaps expect
coloring the mortar the same shade as the brick to give precisely the
effect of painting the entire wall. But it is not so. As in wood or
stone, though in less degree, there is a kind of natural grain, even
in the unnatural material, strengthened by oiling, but softer and
richer than any painted surface. There seems to be no evidence that
the mortar is injured by proper coloring-material,--mineral paints, or
even lampblack, if you like it; I don't. Whether you like it or not,
you are _not_ to use _white_ mortar for the outside work. Unless,
indeed, you propose to build of pressed brick, in which case you will
need it to show your neighbors how fearfully and wonderfully nice you
are. If you are so devoted to worldly vanity as to build in that
fashion in the country, I don't believe it will be possible for me to
help you.

Chimneys deserve a chapter to themselves, they are so essential and so
often abused. Let them start from the cellar-bottom and run straight
and smooth to the very outlet. If you wish to be exceptionally careful
and correct, use round pipe, cement or earthen, enclosed by brick.
When it is so well known how often destructive fires are caused by
defective flues, it is surprising that more care is not taken in
building chimneys. They should be intrusted to none but workmen who
are conscientious as well as skilful, otherwise every brick must be
watched and every trowel full of mortar; for one defect ruins the
whole, and five minutes after the fault is committed it can never be
detected till revealed by the catastrophe.

If the spaces between the bricks were always filled with good mortar,
it would be better not to plaster the inside of the flues, as the
mortar is liable to cleave from the brick, and, hanging by one edge,
form lodging-places for soot. As commonly built it is safer to plaster
them within and without, especially without, for that can be
inspected. The style of the visible part must depend upon the
building. One thing lay up in the recesses of your lofty mind: A
chimney is most useful and honorable, and you are on no account to be
ashamed of it. Don't try to crowd it into some out-of-the-way corner,
or lean it off to one side to clear a cupola,--better burn up the
cupola,--or perch it daintily on a slender ridge like a brick
marten-box; let it go up strong, straight, and solid, asserting its
right to be, wherever it is needed, comely and dignified, and
finished with an honest stone cap. Ruins are charming in the right
place, but a tattered chimney-top on an otherwise well-preserved house
is vastly more shabby than picturesque.

A common objection to brick houses is their redness; but there is no
law against painting them, if their natural color is really
inharmonious. Paint will improve the walls, will last longer on good
brickwork than on wood, and there is no deception about it, unless you
try to imitate stone. Still, it is not necessary, oil being just as
good; and there is a sort of solid comfort in knowing that your house
will look just as well fifty years hence as it does now, that it will
mellow and ripen with age, and not need constant petting and nursing
to preserve its tidiness.

The model house to which I alluded in beginning this subject will be,
in brief, somewhat as follows: The outer walls will be vaulted,
thoroughly non-conducting both of heat and of moisture. All the
partitions will be of brick, precisely adapted in size to their
use,--I am not sure but they will be hollow. The body of the floors
will be of brick, supported, if need be, by iron ties or girders, all
exactly fitted to the dimensions of the rooms, so that not a pound of
material or an hour of labor shall be wasted on guess-work or in
experiments. From turret to foundation-stone, the house will be a
living, breathing, organic thing. If the weather prophet will declare
what the average temperature of the winter is to be, we can tell to a
hodful how much coal will maintain a summer heat throughout the
establishment. You may be sure it will not be more than you now use in
keeping two rooms uncomfortably hot and in baking the family pies.
There will be no lathing, except occasionally on the ceilings; even
this will not be necessary. You may make a holocaust of the contents
of any room in the house, and, if the doors, finish, etc., happen to
be of iron, as they may be, no one in the house will suspect your
bonfire, until the heap of charcoal and ashes is found. Dampness and
decay, unsavory odors and impure air, chilly bedrooms and cold floors,
will be unknown. The ears in the walls will be stopped, there will be
no settlement from shrinking timbers, no jelly-like trembling of the
whole fabric when the master puts his foot down. Finally, the dear old
house will be just as sound and just as lovely when the future John
brings home his bride as when his grandsire built it. And it won't
cost a cent more than the weak, unstable things we're raising by the
thousand.

The coming house will surely be a brick one, but before it comes there
will be plenty of work for the carpenters, and I shall not be at all
surprised if you finally decide to build of wood.



LETTER XVI.

From Mrs. John.

DOMESTIC DISCIPLINE.


MR. ARCHITECT: Dear Sir,--Yesterday afternoon Sister Jane and I went
out after May-flowers. We didn't find any, but on our way home met the
schoolmaster, a friend of Jane's, who knew where they grew and offered
himself as a guide. I was too tired to walk any farther, so they went
off without me. Coming into the house, I was taken all aback by the
sight of John lying on my best lounge, his muddy boots on his feet,
his hat on the floor, and your last letter crumpled savagely in his
hand. I was vexed, thankful, and--frightened.

I've taught the baby, who is only twenty-nine months old, to hang up
his little cap, and not to climb into the chairs with his shoes on,
but I can't make a model husband of John. He is as good as gold, but
will leave his hat on the floor, his coat on the nearest chair, and
never keeps himself or any of his things in order in the house. He
says it's born with him; comes from a long line of ancestors (he's
been reading Darwin lately) who lived in houses without any cupboards
or drawers or closets, and he could no more put away his hat and coat
when he comes in than a blue-jay could build a hang-bird's nest. Yes;
I was vexed, but thankful, too, that Jane was out of sight. Of all
people in the world; she has the least mercy for anything like
domestic untidiness. I only hope she will some time have a house and a
husband of her own; if one doesn't shine and the other shake, her
practice will fall a long way behind her preaching. Let me warn you
now, not to attempt making any plans for her. It will be worry and
vexation of spirit from first to last. Every knot will be examined,
every shingle ironed flat before it is laid, every nail counted and
driven by rule. When I tell her it would wear me out, body and mind,
to feel obliged to keep things always in order, she gravely reminds me
that Mrs. Keep-clean lived ten years longer than Mrs. Clean-up,
besides having an easier time, a tidy house, and an enviable
reputation all her life. Yes; I was thankful she had gone philandering
off after May-flowers, and hoped she would stay till I had had time to
brush up the room and get John into presentable shape. But as soon as
I went to rouse him I was thoroughly frightened. His face was flushed,
his hair was ruffled, and he looked up in such a dazed kind of way, I
really thought he was going to have something dreadful. He held out
your letter and told me to read the last sentence, which I did. Even
then I didn't understand what was the trouble until he went on to say
that your final charge was too much for him. He was totally
discouraged. You began, he said, by urging him to build a stone house,
which neither of us liked, though we finally came around to it,--even
went so far as to commence hauling stones. All at once you went into
ecstasies over brickwork, and argued for it as though our hope of
salvation lay in our living in a brick house. Now, as he was beginning
to feel that he must change his mind again (he would almost as soon
change his head) and cultivate an admiration for brickwork, you must
needs switch off upon another track and coolly advise him to build of
wood! He declared he was further from a new house to-day than three
months ago. At that rate we should live in the old one till it tumbled
down over our heads, which I don't propose to do.

[Illustration: A WISE GENERAL.]

The baby was asleep, so I sat down on the lounge, took John's head in
my lap, and tried to explain what you meant. I told him I had heard
enough about brick, and didn't care what you said about wood. We
should hold to our original plan and have a stone house; but you
didn't know where it was to be, and wished us to be thoroughly posted,
then use our common-sense and decide for ourselves what it should be.
In some places it would be most absurd to build of wood; in others
equally so to build of anything else. The matter of cost, too, might
affect our choice, and that you knew nothing about.

In my efforts to restore his equanimity, I had forgotten my broom and
dust-pan, lying in the middle of the floor; forgotten John's big
boots, not only on the lounge, but directly on one of Jane's most
exquisite tidies; forgotten--actually forgotten--the baby, and was
treating my disturbed husband in genuine ante-matrimonial style, when,
of all things to happen at this very crisis, in marched Sister Jane
and her cavalier! Simultaneously the baby awoke with a resounding
scream.

Now there are three things that my notable sister holds in especial
abhorrence,--untidy housekeeping, sentimental demonstrations between
married people, and crying babies; and here they all were in an
avalanche, overwhelming, not only herself, but a most prepossessing
young man, who, for all I knew, was viewing me with a critic's eye,
as a possible sister-in-law, and wondering how far certain traits are
universal in families.

You will think I stand in great awe of Sister Jane; and so I do, for
though she is two years younger than I, unmarried, and, candidly, not
a bit wiser, she is one of those oracular persons who, unlike Mr.
Toots, not only fancy that what they say and do is of the utmost
consequence, but contrive to make other people think so, too.

It is one of my husband's notions that nothing in the house is too
good to be used every day by those he loves best, meaning baby and I.
So I have no parlor--no best room always ready for exhibition--into
which I could send them, but my inspiration came just at the right
moment.

"Don't, Jane, don't, for pity's sake, bring all that rubbish into the
sitting-room!" She had her hands full of moss and flowers. "Please
take it out on the piazza. John will carry you some chairs." And Jane
was positively too much astonished to say a single word, but turned
and walked out the way she came in, driving her dutiful escort before
her.

Fortunately, our piazza is eight or nine feet wide. I wouldn't have
one less than that. So John took out the chairs, and was properly
presented to the young gentleman.

Half an hour later, when order once more prevailed, I went out to find
Jane finishing a lovely moss basket, and the gentlemen amiably
building air-castles. John had been reading your last letter aloud,
omitting your reply to Jane's question, and was advocating brick in a
most edifying fashion. As I sat down, the young man inquired very
seriously if there would be any difficulty in making additions to a
brick house, in case one wished to begin in a small way. John gave one
of his queer looks, and guessed not; I, for a wonder, kept still; and
Jane blushed brilliantly, remembering that she had already asked the
same question on her friend's account.

I am, truly, anxious about the kitchen and closets, whatever nonsense
my husband may write, but should be sorry to have the house look just
like any other, and, of course, wish to have it look well. Why may not
our stone house be built in the manner of your model brick one, at
least basement and first story, thoroughly warmed and ventilated,
brick partitions, fire-proof, and so on,--that is, if we can afford
it? And that brings me to the question that I intended to ask in the
beginning, Are these suggestions intended to apply to common kind of
buildings or only to those that are usually described as "first
class"? Architectural rules and the principles of good taste are not
thought to concern those who, in building, know no law but
necessity,--with whom the problem is to get the greatest amount of use
for the least possible outlay.

John is industrious and serene, this morning. He thinks my letter
isn't very practical, and hopes you won't forget that the subject in
hand is house-building, not family history.

Yours truly,

MRS. JOHN.



LETTER XVII.

From the Architect.

GOOD TASTE IS NOT A FOE BUT A FRIEND TO ECONOMY.


MRS. JOHN: Dear Madam,--For your wise and tender treatment of John you
have my heartiest thanks and admiration. It is not strictly an
architectural suggestion, but could you not found a sort of
training-school for wives who have not learned to manage their
refractory husbands? I'm sure you would have plenty of pupils.

Your query as to applying these hints I am glad to answer. Instead of
preventing its indulgence, close economy demands the exercise of the
most refined taste. The very houses that must pay strict regard to the
first principles of art are those upon which not one dollar can be
wasted. But these fundamental rules are identical, whether the
building costs five hundred dollars or fifty thousand. When the
newspapers describe "first-class" houses, those above a certain size
or cost are meant. Let us henceforth have a truer standard, placing
only those in the front rank whose design and construction are
throughout in wise accord with the material of which they are built
and the uses for which they are intended.

Notwithstanding your want of interest in the wood question, I must
give your husband one chapter on that subject, and promise him it
shall be thoroughly practical, free from all romance and family
allusions.



LETTER XVIII.

From John.

OUR PICTURESQUE ANCESTORS.


MY DEAR ARCHITECT: I've no doubt it would be vastly agreeable to you
to have Mrs. John keep up this end of the correspondence. Very
gratifying, too, to another party,--the paper-makers. It would be a
big thing for them. But I don't want to hire a housekeeper, even in so
good a cause, not till I have a house.

In spite of Mrs. John's devotion to her first love (I mean the stone
walls), it is, as you say, quite possible that our family mansion will
be wood; and Barkis is willin' to hear what you have to say about it.

One topic in your reply to my wife's historical report I hope you will
work up more fully. Just explain, if you can, why the cheap buildings
we have nowadays are so much less satisfactory to look at than those
built fifty or a hundred years ago. Do you suppose the bravest artist
that ever swung a brush would dare put an ordinary two-story house of
modern style on the front seat in a New England landscape? It would
ruin his reputation if he did,--even without the French roof. Can you
tell why? There's no such objection to the homesteads of a generation
or two ago. Don't tell me age is venerable, and moralize about the
sacred associations and old-time memories that lend a halo of poetry
and romance and what-'s-his-name to these relics of the past. That's
all very well in its place, but if our grandchildren can discover
anything artistic or even picturesque in our common houses of to-day,
they'll be a progeny of enormous imaginations,--regular Don Quixotes;
windmills will be nothing to them.

Yours,

JOHN.



LETTER XIX.

From the Architect.

THE USE AND THE ABUSE OF WOOD.


DEAR JOHN: One reason, among many, why the old-time houses are more
grateful to the eye than those of similar cost but modern style, is
that they were built of wood honestly and legitimately used, when wood
was on all accounts the most suitable material for building. It is so
still, and will be for a long time in many places, for its economy and
convenience. Given a fair chance, it may be made very durable, and is
even rendered practically fire-proof without great cost, by kyanizing
and various other methods that are adopted for the same purpose. You
will find one mode described in the June number of Harper's Magazine
for 1870. Wood is effective, too, in appearance, when rightly used,
which, more's the pity, does not often happen; for of all the
materials that minister to human comfort and needs, this seems to me
the most abused. Iron, like the old-time saints, betrays not its solid
worth till it has been tried by fire,--is all the better for being
hammered and beaten; stone is as much improved as an unruly boy by a
good dressing; while bricks, like ghosts, come forth from their
purgatory for the express purpose of being laid. All of these, by
appropriate treatment, are invested with graces and glories that by
nature they never owned. But a tree, graceful, noble, and grand beyond
all human imitation, is ignominiously hewn down, every natural beauty
disguised or annihilated, and its helpless form compelled to assume
most uncouth shapes and grimmest colors.

[Illustration: THE GROVES WERE GOD'S FIRST TEMPLES.]

Of late our injustice is greater and more disastrous; for we are
destroying the very sources of supply without providing for the
future, using wood in large quantities where other materials would be
better and cheaper. Yet we think ourselves very economical. Once it
was common to enclose wood buildings of all grades by walls at least
ten or twelve inches thick, sometimes much more, and solid at that.
They were called log-houses. Now it is the fashion to use two by four
inch studs standing in rows at such distances that the whole substance
of the frame in a single sheet would be about half an inch thick.
These are suggestively called balloon frames. The former would be huge
and inconvenient, the latter are often fair and frail. That the frame
of the outer wall of a wooden building should be mainly vertical is
evident, the outer studs, if possible, extending from the sill to the
plates, and as many of the inner ones as may be reaching through both
stories, especially those by the staircase, where the shrinking of the
second-floor timbers will reveal ugly cracks and crooks. That the
greatest strength and economy of material are secured by sawing logs
into thin, wide scantling is also beyond question, but don't try to
save too closely on a bill of timber. A thousand feet added to the
width of the studs and the depth of the joist will make the difference
between a stiff, unterrified frame, and a weak, trembling one.
Neither be sparing of the number of these light sticks. Sixteen inches
between centres is far enough for studs or joists; twelve is better,
though particulars will depend on circumstances. We have no use for
the old-fashioned huge square posts, horizontal girts, and braces
midway the walls of a two-story building, having found that studs two
inches by five will carry all that is required of them as well as if
ten times as large. Let us generously give the light frame the stanch
support of a sound, well-matched, and bountifully nailed covering of
inch boards. There's great virtue in tenpenny nails. Let the building
be well peppered with them. Even after boarding, your walls will have
less than two inches of solid wood. If you wish to make an example of
yourself, lay this boarding diagonally; and, to cap the climax of
scientific thoroughness, having given it a good nailing and a layer
of sheathing-felt, cover the whole with another wooden garment of the
same style as the first, and crossing it at right angles. All of this
before the final overcoat of clapboards, or whatever it may be. A
house built in this way would laugh at earthquakes and tornadoes. It
couldn't fall down, but would blow over and roll down hill without
doing any damage except disarranging the furniture, and, possibly,
shaking off the chimney-tops! It would hardly need any studs except as
furrings for lath and plastering, and would be very warm. You know my
mind about floors. If you can't afford joists stiff enough to hold you
without jarring, even when you chance to cut a caper with the baby,
defer building till you are a little richer. Floors need the
well-nailed linings, too, especially those of the upper stories,
almost as much as the outer walls, and should be deafened with mortar
if you can stand the cost; if not, with felt. The upper floors we will
talk over by and by. Some people have a fancy for filling in between
studs with soft brick, but I don't believe in it. It is seldom well
done, it injures the frame, and costs more than back plastering,
without being much if any better. Rather build a brick house outright.
It is well, however, to lay a course or two of brick in mortar against
each floor, filling the space between the inner base board and the
outer covering entirely full and solid, leaving never the faintest
hint of the beginning of a chance for mice. Then when you hear the
dear little creatures galloping over the ceiling, driving hickory-nuts
before them and making noise enough for a whole battalion of wharf
rats, there will be a melancholy satisfaction in knowing that you did
your best to keep them out, and these brick courses will make the
house warmer by preventing currents of air.

Here is one advantage in wood not easily obtained in brick or
stone,--the overhanging of the whole, or a part of the second story,
which may be made picturesque in effect and will add much to the charm
of the interior. It may be simply an oriel window swinging forward to
catch the sun or a distant view, an entire gable pushing the
guest-chamber hospitably forth, or the whole upper story may extend
beyond the lower walls, giving large chambers, abundant closets, and
cosey window-seats. Of course, such projections must be well
sustained. Let their support be apparent, in the shape of massive
brackets or the actual timbers of the house.

Speaking of brackets, if we could learn to think of them, wherever
they occur, simply as braces, we might have better success in their
treatment. Our abominable achievements in this line spring from an
attempt to hide the use of the thing in its abstract beauty. The
straight three by four inch braces found under any barn-shed roof are
positively more agreeable to look at than the majority of the
distorted, turned, and becarved blocks of strange device that hang in
gorgeous array upon thousands of "ornamental" houses. Besides these
there are a host of pet performances of builders and would-be
architects that deserve only to be abolished and exterminated; put up,
as they are, with an enormous waste of pine and painful toil of the
flesh, to become a lasting weariness to the spirit. Far more
satisfying and truly ornamental is it, to let the essential structure
of the building be its own interpreter. Very much can be done by a
skilful arrangement of the outer covering alone. Don't try to clothe
the house with a smooth coat of boards laid horizontally with no
visible joints or corner finish. Such a covering is costly, defective,
and contrary to first principles. Clapboards are good. Hardly anything
is better, but don't feel restricted to one mode. I send you some
sketches suggesting what may be done in this department by a careful
design in the use of wide boards and narrow boards, clapboards and
battens; boards horizontal, vertical, and cornerwise,--any and all are
legitimate, and it may be well to use them all on one building.

[Illustration: OUTER FINISH OF WOOD.]

Many points relating to the use of wood and appertaining equally to
buildings whose walls are of brick or stone, we may find farther on.
In closing, let me adjure you by all your hope of a comfortable, safe,
and satisfying house,--by all the common-sense in your possession and
all the capital at your command,--resolve that you will never--no,
never--build your house of unseasoned timber.



LETTER XX.

From John.

A SURRENDER AND CHANGE OF BASE.


MY DEAR ARCHITECT: It was very well for Noah and the other
antediluvians, who had any little building to do, to wait for their
timber to season. When a man has a thousand years or so to live, he
can afford to take things easy. It's different in this great and
glorious nineteenth century, when the chief aim is to make the
shortest time on record. You know our Western farmers have a brisk way
of going out into their thousand-acre wheatfields before breakfast,
reaping, threshing, and grinding the grain, which their thrifty wives
make into biscuit for the morning meal; and you've heard of the young
man who caught a sheep in the morning, sheared it, carded, spun, and
wove the wool, cut the cloth and made the coat to wear at his own
wedding in the evening. Young America don't understand why a pine or
an oak tree can't be put over the course, like a sheep or an acre of
grain. Besides, you talk like an old fogy. When a man says he has
decided to build a house, he means he is ready to begin,--right off;
and if our lumber-dealers won't keep dry stuff (which of course they
won't unless obliged to), then he must use green.

I'm surprised you don't admire the fanciful brackets and other wooden
straddle-bugs people are so fond of decorating their houses with. By
the way, if these brackets are purely ornamental, there ought not to
be two alike, any more than you'd have two busts or two pictures alike
in one room. Suppose you collect an assortment of the rich and rarest
specimens, and hang them, like Lord Dundreary's shirts, "all in a wo,"
on somebody's villa. Wouldn't they be lovely? I'd like to pursue the
subject, but have other fish to fry.

Mrs. John is right, as usual; our house will be a stone one, and will
not be built until next year. Meantime, the timber will have a chance
to season, and we shall have time to study up our plan and sort of get
the hang of it.

Now I want you to transfer your interest to another case. Who should
drop down upon us, last week, but our old friend Fred? Been out West
for the last dozen years or more; enterprising and prosperous, you'll
be glad to hear. Come home to stay, bringing a wife who is sure to
make Mrs. John jealous, a triplet of boys (the oldest half as big as
his dad), and plenty of stamps. He has bought the Captain Adams place,
and is going to move off the old gambrel-roofed house (has a dozen or
two men at work already) and build a brick one in place of it. I've
given him the benefit of your advice in my behalf, and now he invites
me, in Western fashion, to stand aside and give him a chance,--which
I'm very willing to do, for he's a tiptop fellow and so is Mrs. Fred.
Eastern people Westernized,--if you can find a better sort of
neighbors I'd like an introduction!

Yours,

JOHN.



LETTER XXI.

From the Architect.

HOSPITALITY AND SUNLIGHT.


DEAR JOHN: Our old friend shall not be neglected. He has only to
present his case and make known his wishes. Meantime, in arranging
your own plans, be generous if you can; not lavish or extravagant in
expenditure, but generous in feeling and expression. Let your doors
and windows be wide, and your roof be high. A wide door is far more
convenient than a narrow one, usually much better in appearance; and
for the windows,--when shall we learn the unspeakable worth of the
bountiful light of heaven? Does Mrs. John complain that the sunlight
will fade her carpets? Let them fade, and know of a truth that all the
colors of all the carpets of all the looms that ever throbbed are not
worth to the civilized mortals who tread the dust-containing fabrics
one single hour of unobstructed sunshine. Is it that our deeds are
evil, that we seem to love darkness rather than light; or is it
through our ignorant exclusion of this glorious gift, "offspring of
heaven first born," that we are left to wander in so many darksome
ways? Be generous, did I say? rather try to be just to yourself.
Practically, the larger opening is scarcely more expensive than the
small one. The work of construction is no greater, and the material
for the door or window costs but little more than the thicker wall of
wood, brick, or stone.

[Illustration: "THE OLD HOUSE AT HOME."]

I remember an old farm-house on the side of one of our rocky New
England hills, a type of a fashion almost extinct, broad and
brooding, low in the walls, small windows and far between, high roof,
wide gables, pierced by windows of various sizes, and queerly located,
as if the huge garret were inhabited by a mixed company of dwarfs and
giants, each with his own particular window suited to his height; in
the centre a massive chimney like the base of a tower, out of which
the smoke rolled in lazy curves. At the east side of the house, under
the narrow eaves, and opening, I think, into the long kitchen, was
one huge window, as high as the others, and as wide as it was high.
How it found a place there I never knew, but nothing could be more
benign in effect than its generous breadth. The panes were small and
green and warped, after the manner of glass known to former times; but
through it the sun poured a flood of warm light every morning, and on
winter evenings the glow of the firelight within made a grand
illumination far across the snowy hillsides; yet I don't think the old
window was ever truly appreciated. The others seemed to despise it,
and try to keep at a distance in their narrowness and regularity. The
little square loopholes in the gables lifted their diminutive eyebrows
in contempt; even the green door looked blank and scowling, as though
at a possible rival. I fancy the housekeeper fretted at the larger
curtain covering this wide, unwinking eye, and the extra labor
required on cleaning-days. But this one great square window was the
sole redeeming feature beneath the roof of the ancient farm-house.
Beneath the roof, I say. The roof itself was, and is, and ever shall
be the great charm of those antiquated houses,--not of the old alone,
but if any new house shall ever rise, if you succeed in building your
own so that it shall seem to be the abiding-place of the incarnate
genius of domestic happiness, the roof of your earthly paradise will
be bold and high. Pierced by windows it may be, and broken by gables,
but steep enough to shed rain and snow, and high enough to be plainly
visible to the coming guest, promising safety and welcome beneath its
tranquil shade. Practically, the steep roof is better than any other,
because a flat one cannot be as permanently covered with any known
material at so little cost, the multitudes of cheap and durable patent
roofings to the contrary notwithstanding. By steep roofs I mean any
that have sufficient pitch to allow the use of slate or shingle. Such
need not be intricate or difficult of construction to look well, but
must be honest and useful. They can be neither unless visible, and
here we see the holy alliance of use and beauty; for the character and
expression of a building depend almost wholly upon the roof. You will
lose, too, under the flat roof, the roomy garret of the old
high-roofed houses. These have for me a wonderful fascination. Whether
the rain upon the shingles, the mingled fragrance of seeds and drying
herbs, the surprising bigness of the chimney, the mysteries hidden in
the worm-eaten chests, the almost saintly charm of the long-unused
spinning-wheels, crumbling mementos of the patient industry of former
generations, or the shine of the stars through the chinks in the
shrunken boards, the old garret and all its associations are among the
"long, long thoughts." I sometimes doubt whether the modern
conveniences we are so fond of proclaiming are really an equivalent to
the rising generation for this happiest of playrooms, this storehouse
of heirlooms, this silent but potent tie, that binds us to the life,
the labor, and the love of the past.

[Illustration: FORTY-TWO FEET SQUARE.]

Let there be light, too, in this upper story. Spinning spiders and
stinging wasps are not half so terrible to the children who will make
a half-way paradise of the garret as the darkness that is covered by
an unlighted roof.

If you have been living in cottage-chambers,--rooms in which a
full-sized man can hardly stand erect in the centre, and a well-grown
baby scarcely creep at the sides, unventilated, heated beyond
endurance during the hot summer days, and retaining their heat through
the long, wakeful nights,--rooms in which the furniture must stand at
various distances from the walls as if marshalled for the
house-cleaning battle, but in which even the making of beds is a work
of supreme difficulty,--if you've been living in such rooms as these,
I don't wonder, whatever architects or other men may say, that Mrs.
John objects, and insists on good, square chambers. But good, square
chambers no more require flat roofs than good, square common-sense
requires a flat head. I don't believe you will contrive a house, of
whatever form or size, that may not be covered more cheaply, more
securely, and more tastefully by a steep roof than by a flat one. Of
course, I'm supposing your house to be isolated. Buildings in crowded
streets or in blocks require, on all accounts, entirely different
treatment. By all means, then, have wide doors, generous windows, and
high roofs; and if you must build with strict economy you may be
morally certain that your house, though not perhaps as altogether
lovely as you might wish, will still be cheerful and homelike.

Allow me to add, that, while faithfully striving to build a house that
shall be honest and cheerful, you will surely find yourself growing in
the same direction.



LETTER XXII.

From Fred.

UNPROFESSIONAL SAGACITY.


DEAR ARCHITECT: Our mutual friend John recommends me to ask your
advice in regard to plans for my new house. Possibly you may help me,
although the floor plans sent herewith are about right; rooms enough
and of the right size, the principal ones adapted to the usual widths
of carpeting. I am willing to expend something for the outside
appearance,--in fact, intend to have the best looking house in
town,--but think it would be foolish to build more rooms or larger
than I want, much more so to dispense with needed room in order to
get a certain proportion of parts. I merely mention this because, with
all due respect, I am doubtless the best judge of my own wants, and
don't care to have the dimensions of the building changed. The
relative location of the different apartments is also satisfactory,
except perhaps some slight deficiencies in the rear portion, which I
left incomplete for want of time. As to exterior, would like a French
roof and tower, with fashionable style of finish throughout.

Shall commence laying foundation next week, and you will please
consider yourself invited to eat turkey with us in the new house next
Thanksgiving.

Truly,

FRED.



LETTER XXIII.

From the Architect.

STAIRWAYS AND OUTLOOKS.


Dear Fred: Your plans are before me, also your letter; also the
proverbs of Solomon, from which I read, in order to fortify myself for
the work before me, sundry suggestions concerning the duty of faithful
friends,--the undaunted, disagreeable sort who cry aloud and spare
not. It's quite right for you to try to show what you would like,
quite true that you ought to know your own needs and tastes better
than any one else, and though I cannot agree with you, I'm glad you
have a mind of your own; those who have not are of all men most
miserable to deal with, most difficult to suit. Indeed, when a man
feels clearly a lack in his own home-life which nothing but a new
house will supply, he is sure to have some decided notions as to what
that house shall be. But when you assure me in good set terms that
this plan is your beau-ideal, I must ask, also with profound respect,
if you know what you are talking about. Put in your foundation, by all
means, but remember how much easier it is to change a few lines on
paper than to remove a stone wall. It is not a pleasant job to cut a
door into a finished and furnished room, or even to change the hanging
of it. This house, if I understand aright, you intend for a permanent
home. How immeasurably better to spend six months, if need be, in
perfecting the plans, than by and by to be tormented with defects that
can only be removed by great expense and trouble! It's a grand thing
to go ahead, provided you are right; the more "go," the worse, if you
happen to be on the wrong track. Candidly, your plan hardly deserves
to be called a beginning. The arrangement of the rear part, which you
chiefly omit, is, in fact, the most difficult and important of the
whole. But I've promised Sister Jane a chapter on kitchens, of which,
when the time comes, you can have the benefit. Meanwhile, complete the
unfinished part of your plan,--it only requires you to spend a few
brief moments,--and I will venture some suggestions on this which lies
before me.

The front stairs as laid down would reach just half-way to the second
floor,--a peculiarity of amateur sketches so universal that we will
say nothing more about it. But what principle of good taste or
hospitality requires you to blockade the main entrance to your house
with this same staircase? Do you send all your visitors, of whatever
name or nation, direct to the upper regions the moment they enter?
Why, then, make the northwest passage thither the most conspicuous
route from the door? Do you intend to restrict the family to the back
stairs, which by your showing are, like the famous _descensus Averno_,
wonderfully easy to go down, but mighty hard to get up again? Yet you
place these front stairs at the very farthest remove from the rooms
most constantly used in both stories. Perhaps you propose to announce
"apartments to let" on the second and third floors. No? What reason,
then, for imitating hotels, lodging-houses, double-barrelled
tenements, and other public and semi-public buildings from which a
short cut to the street is essential? Don't tell me you wish them to
be ornamental as well as useful. I know that; but remember the stairs
are built for the house, not the house for the stairs. You had better
lose them wholly as an ornamental feature, than destroy the charm of
what should be the most prepossessing portion of the interior.
Moreover, they can have no pleasure-giving beauty if manifestly out of
place,--a safe rule for general application. Build them where they
will be most useful, that is, as near the centre of the house as
possible; make them grand and gorgeous as the steps to an Oriental
palace,--so broad and easy of ascent that the upward and onward way
will be as tempting as were the Alps to Mr. Longfellow's aspiring
youth. But keep them away from the front door,--out of the principal
hall, which should be open, airy, and free, suggesting something
besides an everlasting getting up stairs. If the staircase hall cannot
be arranged at right angles to the main hall, an arch or ornamental
screen may be introduced, partially separating the two and giving
character to both.

Have you been living in a city of late? It must be, else why so
complacent with a narrow hall, steep, obtrusive stairs, and, O, why,
tell me why, do you not fix the location of your windows with some
regard to views, not only out of the house but through it. I remember
one country dwelling built by a retired civilian in the inevitable
city style; windows at the end giving a narrow view of the road in
front, while the entire side walls were absolutely blank and bare,
never so much as a knot-hole through which the occupants could get a
glimpse of the field and forest that stretched broadly away at either
side. I've no doubt the owner hung oil-paintings on his parlor walls,
and thought them more lovely than all out-doors,--especially when he
remembered their cost. The old Roman who declared his soldiers made a
bigger racket with their arms than Jupiter with his thunderbolts, was
modest beyond comparison with such a man. Your arrangement is not
quite so bad as that of the aforesaid civilian, but, like hosts of
others, you fail to make the most of your opportunities. Suppose you
were able to secure for a small sum a landscape painted by one of the
masters and esteemed of great value. You would think it folly to let
the chance pass unimproved. By simply cutting a hole in the wall you
may have a picture infinitely grander than human artist ever painted;
grander in its teaching, in its actual beauty, its variety, and its
permanency; grander in everything except its market value. I am not
sure but your children's children will find some one window in the old
homestead that commands a view of the everlasting hills, an heirloom
even of greater pecuniary value than the rarest work of art. Do not
forget, either, the views _through_ the house. If your windows can be
placed so that throwing open the doors from room to room or across the
hall will reveal a charming prospect in opposite directions, there's a
sense of being in the midst of an all-surrounding beauty, hardly
possible when you seem to look upon it from one side only. You have
surely been abiding in a city. The interior of your house is all that
concerns you or your family. The outside--French roof and fashionable
finish, forsooth!--is for the public to admire. They are not to have
any intimation what sort of a home is sheltered by your monstrous
Mansard; and it never occurs to you that there can be anything out of
doors worth building your house to see.

[Illustration: "LOOK OUT, NOT IN."]

Here is another unhappy result of evil examples,--the sliding-doors
between the two parlors, as you call them,--an arrangement convenient
enough, sometimes indispensable in houses built on crowded streets,
houses that only breathe the dusty air and catch the struggling
sunbeams at their narrow and remote extremities,--air and sunlight at
nobody knows how many hundred dollars the front foot. They are worse
than useless in such a house as yours.

I say your plan is scarcely a beginning; the same of this letter. But
it's enough for once.



LETTER XXIV.

From Fred.

IN A MULTITUDE OF COUNSELLORS IS SAFETY.


MY DEAR ARCHITECT: Your criticisms are not wholly without reason. I
can only plead haste and inexperience.

Have been studying arrangement of rear part, and seem to get farther
and farther from a satisfactory result. The kitchen and dining-room
must be convenient to each other, but not adjacent; the pantries and
larder easy to get at; back stairs accessible from all parts of the
house, and side entrance worked in somehow; washbowl and water-closet
not far off, but out of sight, and the whole department quite
isolated from front hall. My wife can't think of pantry and
store-rooms at the south side, nor do we want kitchen or outer door at
the north. John's sister-in-law, Miss Jane, who appears to have some
sensible notions, thinks a kitchen should always have windows on
opposite sides for light and ventilation. John says I should have a
kitchen large enough for wash-trays and a set kettle, but one of my
neighbors, who has just built a house, advises a laundry in the
cellar. Altogether it's a troublesome problem, and, frankly, I give
it up.

Do you really expect us to dispense with sliding-doors between the
parlors? I'm sure that won't pass. We would almost as soon give up the
bay-windows,--everybody has them nowadays.

Truly,

Fred.



LETTER XXV.

From the Architect.

DOORS AND SLIDING-DOORS, WINDOWS AND BAY-WINDOWS.


DEAR FRED: "Everybody has them!" What a monstrous load of iniquity and
nonsense that scape-goat has to carry! Everybody wears tight boots and
bustles and chignons and stove-pipe hats. Everybody smokes and brags,
and cheats in trade, not to mention a host of other abominations that
can give only this excuse for their being: they are common to a few
millions of people who have not learned to declare a reason for the
faith that is in them or the works that grow out of them.

Let us take time to consider this sliding-door
question,--folding-doors they used to be, and, truly, I'm not sure
that the rollers are any improvement on the hinges,--there is
something dreadfully barny about sliding-doors. Why do you want
either? You have one room which you call the parlor, supposed to be
the best in the house, as to its location, its finish, its furniture,
and its use. Three of its walls are handsomely frescoed, curtained,
and decorated with pictures or other ornaments; the fourth is one huge
barricade of panel-work. When the two parts are closed you have a
constant fancy of rheumatic currents stealing through the cracks, and
an ever-present fear lest they should suddenly fly open with
"impetuous recoil, grating harsh thunder" on their wheels, and not
exactly letting Satan in, but everything in the room fall out; an idle
fear, for they can only be shoved asunder by dint of much pushing and
pulling, especially if they are warped by having one side exposed to
more heat than the other, as usually happens. Being at last opened by
hook or crook, another room is revealed, commonly smaller, more shabby
in appearance, a sort of poor-relation attachment, spoiling the
completeness and artistic unity of the larger one. By care you may
avoid something of this; if you follow the fashion, you will have the
most of it. When the two rooms are twins, alike in every respect, they
are really one large room, fitted up, for economical reasons, with a
movable screen in the centre, by means of which you may warm
(excepting rheumatic currents as above) and use one half at a time.
But call things by their right names. Don't talk grandly about your
two parlors when you mean two halves of one. Have wide doors, by all
means, not only between rooms but into main hall,--four, six, or eight
feet, if the rooms are so wide and high that they shall not be
disproportionately large. Then, if you must have the whole broadside
of sliding or folding doors, let the two rooms thus connected be of
different styles but equal richness,--different, that they shall not
seem one room cut in two,--peers, that one shall not shame and cheapen
the other.

Doors are a great bother, at best. I wish they could be abolished.
They are always slamming, punching holes in the plastering with their
knobs, creaking on their hinges, bruising the piano, pinching babies'
fingers, and making old folks see stars when they get up in the night
to look for burglars. Heavy curtains are infinitely more graceful,
equally warm, and not half so stubbornly unmanageable. Then think of
entering a room. By her steps the goddess is revealed; but who can
walk like a goddess while forcing an entrance between two
sliding-doors, maybe wedging fast half-way through? How different
from passing in quiet dignity beneath the rich folds of overhanging
drapery! But I suppose we must leave all that to the Orientals, at
present.

"You would almost as soon give up the bay-windows!" Well, you might
e'en do worse than that. Now let your indignation boil. Bay-windows
are very charming things sometimes; sometimes they are nuisances. Some
have been so appropriate and altogether lovely that any pepper box
contrivance thrusting itself out from the main walls and looking three
ways for Sunday is supposed to be a bower of beauty, a perfect pharos
of observation, an abundant recompense for unmitigated ugliness and
inconvenience in the rest of the building. Truly, a well-ordered
bay-window will often change a gloomy, graceless room into a cheerful
and artistic one, but large, simple windows are sometimes rather to be
chosen than too much bay. In many, perhaps the majority, of cases, it
is wiser to extend the whole wall of the room in the form of a
half-hexagon or three sides of an octagon, costing no more, and
repaying the cost far more abundantly.

While on the subject let us finish it. If you indulge in a regular
bay-window, make it large enough to be of real use; don't feel
constrained to build it with more than fifteen sides; remember that
two stories will not cost twice as much as one, while the second is
pretty certain to be the pleasanter; don't carry the ceiling of the
main room level and unbroken into the bay, or, because a certain one
you may have seen looks well in its place, resolve to have another
just like it, regardless of its surroundings. I sometimes fancy there
must be a factory where bay-windows are made for the wholesale trade,
all of one style, strictly orthodox, five-sided, bracketed, blinded,
painted with striped paint, and ready to barnacle on wherever
required. In the stereotyped pattern the blinds are apt to be
troublesome. If outside, they clash against each other and refuse to
be fastened open; while inside they are a mighty maze of folds, flaps,
brass buts, and rolling slats. In the first case, wide piers between
the sash are necessary; in the second, boxings for the blinds. Both
require ample room, which, fortunately, you have. Sixthly, and in
conclusion, there is no one feature which may be more charming,
combining so much of comfort and beauty, as windows of this class,
from the simple opening, pushed forward a few inches beyond the wall
face, to the broad extension of the entire room; but there be bays and
bays.

Speaking of blinds,--what shall be done with the other windows? You
will protest against concealing your elegant, single panes of
plate-glass by outside blinds,--it won't answer to hide your light
under a bushel in that way,--and yet while there is no complete finish
without well-arranged inside shutters, they alone are sadly
inefficient in rooms with a southern exposure, where light and air are
needed. They may be fitted with boxings, into which they are folded,
or arranged to slide into the wall. I like the old-fashioned boxing,
window-seat and all, also the ancient close-panelled shutters. True
they make a room pitch-dark when closed, and it is doubtless wisest to
have some of their central folds made with movable slats, but they
give a charming sense of security and seclusion when the wintry blasts
roar around our castle. On the other hand, the light outside blinds,
that shake and rattle and bang when the stormy winds "do blow, do
blow," are a fair substitute for the cooling shade of forest-trees.
You may have learned that life is a succession of compromises.
Building in New England certainly is. No sooner do we get nicely
fortified with furnaces, storm-porches, double windows, and forty tons
of anthracite, than June bursts upon us with ninety degrees in the
shade. Then how we despise our contrivances for keeping warm, and
bless the ice-man! We wish the house was all piazza, and if it were
not for burglars and mosquitoes, would abjure walls and roof and live
in the open air. Just here is our dilemma. We go "from Greenland's icy
mountains to India's coral strands" and back again every twelve
months, whether we will or no, and are obliged to live in the same
house through it all. It's really a desperate matter. I've been to the
ant and the beasts and the birds. They recommend hibernating or
migration, but our wings are too short for the one, our fur too thin
for the other!

Seriously, you must not forget to prepare for extremes of climate.
Fortunately the walls that most thoroughly resist the cold are
effective against the heat. The doors and windows--the living,
breathing, seeing, working part of the house--demand the twofold
provision. You must have double windows in winter, to be taken off
(laid away and more or less smashed up) in summer; outside blinds to
ward off the summer sun, which may, in their turn, be removed when we
are only too glad to welcome all the sunshine there is. The
vestibules--portable storm-porches are not to be tolerated--must also
be skilful doorkeepers, proof against hostile storms, but freely
admitting the wandering zephyrs. Piazzas are not so easily managed. We
like them broad and endless in July and August, but the shadows they
cast we would fain remove when the very trees fold away their
sunshades. Often a platform, terrace, balcony,--whatever you please
to call it, practically a piazza without a roof,--is the best thing to
have, for this will not keep the sun from the windows, when comfort
requires it may be shaded by a movable awning, and by its sunny
cheerfulness it will lengthen our out-door enjoyment two or three
months in the year.

You are still floundering helplessly in the kitchen. I've no doubt
Sister Jane has excellent ideas on the subject,--probably knows ten
times as much about it as you do. Why not ask her to arrange matters
for you?



LETTER XXVI.

From Fred.

EXPERIENCE KEEPS A DEAR SCHOOL.


MY DEAR ARCHITECT: We will let the sliding-doors slide, but hold on to
the bay-windows. I've acted upon your suggestion, and called on Miss
Jane to help me through the kitchen. She is studying the matter and
will report to you soon. Meantime, will you give directions about
other inside work? I want it to be ornamental and modern in style.
Shall finish mostly in hard wood,--oak, walnut, or chestnut, perhaps
mahogany and maple. Please give me your opinion on that point. What do
you think of graining where hard wood is not used? Shall probably
carpet throughout, and hope you will not change dimensions of rooms to
spoil the fit of them. What about wainscoting halls or any of the
rooms? Suppose common floors will answer, and common plastering for
the walls, if I paper; but shall I,--or do you recommend frescoing;
and what do you say to cornices and other stucco-work?

I've no time to go over all the points in your last. Some of them seem
well put, others a little wild. But I give them a fair hearing and
suppose you won't insist upon my adopting them. Am beginning to think
I've a good deal to learn, and ought, I suppose, to be well satisfied
to learn, in some other school than that of experience.

Truly,

FRED.



LETTER XXVII.

From the Architect.

FASHION AND ORNAMENT, HARD WOOD AND PAINT.


DEAR FRED: The tone of your last, just received, is hopeful.
Conviction of ignorance is the only foundation on which Wisdom, or any
other man, ever builded a house. But it must be a genuine agony, as
I'm sure it is in your case; so you are forgiven for asking more
questions in half a dozen lines than I can answer fully in a score of
pages. Instead of taking them up separately, I might give you a
chapter of first principles, hoping you would then need no special
directions; but I find the value of most general observations lies,
like Bunsby's, in the application of 'em. It's not enough to say, "Be
honest and upright." Each particular falsehood and folly must be
summoned, tried, and condemned.

You ask for a style of finish that must be ornamental and modern. But
I don't understand your meaning; shall need more definite instruction.
Is your house intended for ornamental purposes, as summer-houses,
dove-cots, bird-cages, and the like, often are? Is it to be a museum,
art-gallery, or memorial hall? Diamonds and pearls are commonly
thought ornamental to those who can afford them; from pink plaster
images and china vases to bronze dragons and Florentine mosaics, there
is an endless variety of ornaments for domestic apartments. I've heard
of a woman who was an ornament to her husband, and of a man who
ornamented a whole town; but when you ask me to furnish you an
ornamental style of finishing your house, I'm obliged to ask for
particulars. You may have curious carvings in the woodwork about the
doors and windows and on the base-boards; paint pictures, or set
bright-colored tile, grotesque and classic, on the flat surfaces; cut
a row of "scallops and points" around the edge of the casings in
imitation of clam-shells, as I have sometimes seen; or you may build
over your doors and windows enormous Grecian cornices supported by
huge carved consoles,--regular shelves, too high for any earthly use
except to remind you, by their vast store of dust, of your mortal
origin and destiny. I hold it to be the duty of the amiable architect
to carry out the wishes of his employer as far as consistent with his
own peace of mind; and if you insist on having a row of brass buttons
around all your casings, and setting your own tin-type, life-size, at
every corner, I shall acquiesce; but my sober advice is that the
interior work be simple and unobtrusive. The most perfect style in
dress or manner is that which attracts the least attention; so the
essential finish should not, by its elaborate design, challenge notice
and thus detract from the furnishing and true ornamentation of the
room. Avoid fine, unintelligible mouldings, needless crooks and
quirks, and be not afraid of a flat surface terminating in a plain
bead or quarter round. Stairways and mantels are not strictly a part
of the essential structure, and may be treated more liberally. The
doors, too, should be of richer design than the frames in which they
are hung; while on the sideboard, bookcase, or other stationary
furniture you may, figuratively speaking, spread yourself, always
provided you do not make, in the operation, a greater display of
ignorance than of sense.

Rich woodwork throughout, carved panels upon the walls, inlaid floors,
and elaborate ceilings, each separate detail a work of art,
intrinsically beautiful apart from its constructive use, would require
a corresponding treatment in the setting of the doors and windows; but
the most of what is commonly considered ornamental work, in such
cases, is wholly incongruous with walls and ceilings of lath and
plaster and floors of cheap boards. I know you will paste mouldy paper
to the walls and spread dirty carpets on the floors (beg your pardon,
I mean the paper will be mouldy before you know it, and if you ever
saw a wool carpet that had been used a month without being, like
Phoebe's blackberries, "all mixed with sand and dirt," your
observation has been different from mine); perhaps "run" stucco
cornices around the top of walls, and "criss-cross" the ceilings into
a perfect flower-garden of parallelograms with round corners. But the
inharmony remains all the same. Any great outlay of labor or material
on the casings of doors and windows or the bases, when there is no
other woodwork in the room, is surely out of place.

These are my sentiments, in general, upon the ornamental; of the
merely fashionable you already know my opinion. Not that this most
fitful dame has no rights that deserve respect, but her feeble light
is a black spot in the radiance of real fine art. When you can give no
other reason for liking what you like than that Mistress Fashion
approves, beware! beware!--trust her not. The time will come when you
will wish even the modest handmaiden Economy had blessed it. And if a
thing is really beautiful, what difference whether it was introduced
by Mrs. Shoddy last spring, or by Mrs. Noah, before her husband
launched his fairy boat? Nor is fine art unattainable, even in the
door-casings. It does not imply fine work. The size, shape, and
position of the doors and windows, and the relative proportions of
the work about them, is the first thing to be studied. Then have a
care that such mouldings as may be needed are graceful, and you cannot
go far wrong.

You propose to finish with "hard" wood, and ask my opinion. It
depends: if it's the hardness you want, should recommend lignum-vitae
and ebony; if the wood, economy would suggest that white-pine, and
certain other softer sorts, be not overlooked. To answer according to
the spirit of your inquiry, I should say, by all means (if you do not
mind the cost) use wood instead of putty. With all respect for white
paint and striped paint and all other kinds of paint, there is nothing
more enduringly satisfying than the natural tint and grain of the
different kinds of wood suitable for building, of which we have such
great variety in style and color, from the overestimated black
walnut, to the rarely used white-pine,--rarely used without having
its natural beauty extinguished by three coats of paint. What I wish
to say is, that finishing your woodwork without paint does not,
necessarily, require the said wood to be of the kinds commonly called
"hard." Any wood that is not specially disposed to warp, and that can
be smoothly wrought, may be used. Those you mention are all good; so
are half a dozen more,--the different kinds of ash, yellow-pine,
butternut, white-wood, cherry, cedar, even hemlock and spruce in some
situations. There are several important points to be religiously
observed if you leave the wood, whatever the variety, in its unadorned
beauty. It must be the best of its kind; it must be seasoned to its
inmost fibre; it must be wrought skilfully, tenderly cared for, and,
finally, filled and rubbed till it wears a surface that is not liable
to soil, is easily cleaned, resists the action of moisture, and will
grow richer with age. Hence, I say, by all means finish with
unpainted wood, if you are not afraid of the expense, and yet paint
and varnish are good, and putty, like charity, covereth a multitude of
sins. Nothing protects wood better than oil and lead, and by means of
them you have unlimited choice of colors, in the selection and
arrangement of which there is room and need for genuine artistic
taste. Yes; good honest paint is worthy the utmost respect. When it
tries to improve upon nature's divine methods and calls itself
"graining," it becomes unmitigated nonsense,--yes, and worse. It is
one of the sure evidences of man's innate perversity that he persists
in trying to copy certain beautiful lines and shadings in wood, not as
an art study, but for actual use, when he may just as well have the
perfect original as his own faulty imitation. What conceit, what
blindness, what impudence, this reveals! What downright falsehood! Not
in the painter,--O, no, skill is commendable even when unworthily
employed,--but in him who orders it. You may buy a pine door, which is
very well; pine doors are good; you tell every man that comes into
your house it's black-walnut or oak or mahogany. If that isn't
greeting him with lying lips and a deceitful heart, the moral law
isn't as clear as it ought to be. You may think it's of no
consequence, certainly not worth making a fuss about, but I tell you
this spirit of sham that pervades our whole social structure, that
more and more obtrudes itself in every department of life, comes from
the bottomless pit, and will carry us all thither, unless we resist
it, even in these milder manifestations, as we would resist the Father
of Lies himself. Truth and falsehood are getting so hopelessly
confused that we can scarcely distinguish one from the other.

One other suggestion in this connection. Without either painting or
graining you may get a most satisfactory effect, both in looks and
utility, by staining the less costly kinds of woods; using a
transparent stain that will not conceal but strengthen the natural
shading, and at the same time change its tint according to your fancy.
This is an honest and economical expedient. It only requires that your
lumber shall be sound, tolerably clear,--a good hard knot isn't
alarming,--seasoned, and put up with care. The cost is less than
common painting, and the effect as much better than graining as
nature's work is more perfect than ours.

Don't ask me any more questions till I've disposed of these already on
hand.



LETTER XXVIII.

From Fred.

THOUGHT PROVOKES INQUIRY.


MY DEAR ARCHITECT: In spite of your prohibition, I must pursue one or
two of the inquiries already raised, in order to understand the
answers given.

What is the objection to cheap floors, if they are always covered with
carpets? Am I to understand that you do not approve of lath and
plaster for walls and ceilings of first-class dwellings? If so, what
would you substitute?

It seems much easier to say what to avoid than what to accept; but
that, I believe, is the privilege of critics and reformers.

Why do you despise the modern fashions so heartily? Are the old any
better?

Yours,

FRED.



LETTER XXIX.

From the Architect.

CONSISTENCY, COMFORT, AND CARPETS.


MY DEAR FRED: I don't despise the new fashions. I admire them--when
they are good. Will you please try to understand that a thing of
beauty is a joy _forever_? Whatever is born of truth, whether in art
or religion, belongs to eternity; it never goes out of fashion. Will
you also remember that modern styles, modes, fashions, inventions,--call
them what you will,--are the mere average product of human thought and
labor during a few years; the old that abides is drawn from the
superlatively good of former countless generations, culled over and
over again till that alone remains which has stood the test of your
critics and reformers all along down from Adam, or up from the last
monkey who wept to find his first-born without a tail and morally
accountable.

Certainly it is easier to say what to avoid than what to accept, for
there's more of it. Broad is the road of error, and the faults and
follies, vices and sins, that wrangle and riot therein, are thicker
than crickets on a sandy road in October,--thicker and blacker. You
may catch them all day and there'll be just as many left. But the
devoted followers of truth you may count on your fingers and carry
them home in your bosom. Besides, the right thing to do cannot be told
in detail for another, since every man must manifest his own
individuality as he must work out his own salvation. In the millennium
I expect we shall find no two houses built or furnished alike.

No; you are not to understand that lath and plaster are unfit for
first-class dwellings, but there is no sense in trimming a gingham
suit with point lace. A general uniformity of value in the material of
which your castle is built is as essential as uniformity of style.

Yes; there is an objection to cheap floors, carpets or not; and now
I've gone through your last lot of interrogation-points backward,
which brings me where I left off in the former letter.

You propose to carpet the floors and ask to have them made to fit the
carpets. Would you also like the walls to fit the paper-hangings, and
the windows the curtains? Do you know what kind of carpets you will
use in each room; just how long and how wide they will be to half an
inch; the width of the borders; how much they will stretch in putting
down; how much "take up" in the making (you see I can use
interrogation-points)? Do you really know anything about them with
certainty? I ask for information, as the same request is often made as
to building the house to fit the carpets, and any attempt to comply
with it seems to me a great waste of mathematics.

Concerning, the floors themselves,--leaving the yardstick out of the
question,--even if they are covered by carpets six inches thick, it
will not pay to lay poor ones. They should be double for solidity and
warmth, well nailed for stiffness, seasoned for economy, and of good
lumber for conscience' sake. Seasoned for economy, I say, since
nothing is more destructive to carpets, especially to oil-cloth, than
cracks in the floor underneath them. Yes,--one thing; the warped edges
of the boards, that sometimes raise themselves,--that are almost sure
to do so in spruce, which is never fit for floors, though often used.
It's my conviction that spruce floor-boards, two inches thick and one
and a half wide, would contrive to curl up at the edges. If you have
good floors, furthermore, you will not feel obliged to cover them at
all times and at all hazards. I remarked that the houses built when
the good time coming comes will not be all alike. I can tell you
another thing about them, though you may not believe it; there will be
no wool carpets on the floors,--no, nor rag ones either. The people
will walk upon planks of fir and boards of cedar, sycamore from the
plains and algum-trees, gopher wood and Georgia pine, inlaid in forms
of wondrous grace. There will be no moth or _dust_ to corrupt and
strangle, neither creaks nor cracks to annoy. It's a question among
theologians whether the millennium will come "all at once and all
o'er," or gradually. I think the millennial floors must be introduced
gradually,--say around the edges,--for I do not suppose you or any one
else in New England will give up the warm-feeling carpets altogether.
And yet one who has seen a carpet of any sort taken and well shaken,
after a six months' service, will hardly expect added health or
comfort from its ministration. If your observation of this semiannual
performance isn't sufficient, and you are curious to know how much
noisome dirt and dust, how much woolly fibre and microscopic animal
life, you respire,--how these poisonous particles fill your lungs with
tubercles, your head with catarrh, and prepare your whole body for an
untimely grave,--you can study medical books at your leisure. They
will all tell the same story, and will justify my supposition that you
will cover the floors with _dirty_ carpets. Doubtless they will be
shaken and "whipped" (they deserve it) two or three times a year, and
swept, maybe, every day. The shaking is very well, but though it seems
neater to sweep them, yet for actual cleanliness of the whole room,
carpet and all, I suppose it would be better at the end of six months
if they were swept--not once! For whatever can be removed from a
carpet by ordinary sweeping is comparatively clean and harmless,--that
which sinks out of sight and remains is unclean and poisonous.

[Illustration: DUST TO DUST.]

There are two ways of lessening the evil without exterminating the
cause. One is to shut the room, never using or opening it, except for
the spring and fall cleaning; the other is to lay the carpet in such
way that it may be taken up and relaid without demoralizing the entire
household. Talk about the carpets fitting the rooms; there should be a
margin of two feet--a few inches, more or less, is unimportant--at
each side. Then if you have a handsome floor, the carpet becomes a
large rug--no matter how elegant--that may be removed, cleansed, and
put back again every morning if you like. You may fancy a border of
wood either plain or ornamental, the surface of which shall be level
with the top of the carpet. This is easily made, either by using
thicker boards around the edges or by laying wood carpeting over the
regular floor. One caution concerning fancy floors; don't make them
too fanciful. We don't like to feel that we're treading under foot a
rare work of art, and I've seen certain zigzag patterns which merely
to look at fairly makes one stagger. Thresholds are on the floor,
but not of them, nor of anything else, for that matter, and though
somewhat useful in poetry, are often provoking stumbling-blocks in
practice. Necessary at times, doubtless, but we have far too many and
too much of them. Even where rooms are carpeted differently they are
not needed. If you must have them, let them lie low and keep dark.

[Illustration: WOOL AND WOOD.]

If you paint or paper the walls, as you will if they are plastered,
keep this in mind: the trowel finishes them as far as use is
concerned. Whatever is added is purely in the nature of ornament, and
must be tried by the laws of decoration. If you enjoy seeing "a
parrot, a poppy, and a shepherdess," bunches of blue roses, and
impossible landscapes, spotted, at regular intervals, over the inner
walls of the rooms, you will choose some large-figured paper. Perhaps,
if the pattern is sufficiently distinct and gorgeous, you will think
you need no other pictures; and the pictures themselves will be glad
to be left out if they have any self-respect. I'm sure you don't enjoy
any such thing. Some of the fancy paper-hangings are artistic and
beautiful in design; for that very reason they ought not to be
repeated. I would as soon hang up a few dozens of religious-newspaper
prize-chromos. The general effect is the point to be considered. Why
not have both? Because you can't. When you have a picture so pretty
and complete as to attract your attention and fix itself in your
memory, the general effect is lost if you discover the same thing
staring at you whichever way you turn. 'T is the easiest thing in the
world to have too much of a good thing. Sometimes the better the thing
the worse the repetition. This general effect which we must have is
well secured by a small, inconspicuous figure, or by those vine-like
patterns, so delicate and wandering that you don't attempt to follow
them. Better than either are the plain tints, which give you, in
fact, all you require; a modification of the cold white wall, and the
most effective background for pictures and other furnishing. As much
ornament as you please in the border at the top, and at the bottom,
too, if the rooms are high enough. All horizontal lines and
subdivisions reduce the apparent height of the room. Indeed, you may
use trimming without limit, either of paper or paint, wood and gilt
moldings, provided they are well used. Color, after all, is the main
thing. If there is any good reason for putting this upon paper and
then sticking the paper to the wall, I've not learned it. It is
cheaper, cleaner, and better to apply it directly to the plastering,
either in oil or water-colors. Oil is the best; water the cheapest. In
any case, the best quality of plastering is none too good. For the
papering it may be left smooth, but for painting, especially with
distemper, the rough coarse-grained surface is very much the best. The
chief objection to stucco arises from its being a cheap material,
easily wrought. It is so often introduced as if quantity would
compensate for quality,--a common error in other things than stucco.
Though often desirable and appropriate, as a general rule the more the
worse. No amount of gilding will give it anything but a frail, often
tawdry appearance, that does not improve, but deteriorates, with age.

[Illustration: WOODWORK ON PLASTERED WALLS]

Wainscoting is always in order; it is a question of harmony, when and
where to use it. What you have in mind is really an extended and
ornamented base. Of course, it enriches the room, but it begins a work
to which there is no limit. It should be supplemented by a
corresponding wood cornice at the top of the room, and between the two
as much decorative woodwork as you can afford; until "the walls of
the house within, the floor of the house, and the walls of the
ceilings" are carved with "cherubims and palm-trees and open flowers."
A costly wainscot at the base of the walls, with paper and stucco
above, seems to me a great lack of harmony. I would spread my richness
more evenly. In using different kinds of wood, the raised portions,
being more exposed, may be of hard varieties, the sunken portions of
softer materials, even lath and plaster, which may be frescoed,
covered with some rich colored plain paper, or hung with violet
velvet, according to your taste and means. The old-fashioned
chair-rail seems to me a sensible institution It occupies the
debatable ground between use and beauty, and may therefore be somewhat
enriched. The plastering beneath it may be given a different tint from
that above, and when the walls are high its effect is good. It is
really carrying out the idea of panelling, to which there is hardly a
limit in the way of variety.

Some of your questions have led me a little way from the building
toward the furnishing, but I've tried to dispose of them
categorically, and am now ready for another lot.



LETTER XXX.

From Miss Jane.

AUTOBIOGRAPHY AND ARCHITECTURE, POTATOES AND POSTSCRIPTS.


MR. ARCHITECT: Dear Sir,--After so long an indirect acquaintance
through our mutual friends, it is quite time we were formally
introduced. Allow me to present myself: Sister Jane, spinster; native
of New England, born to idleness, bred to school-teaching; age not
reported, temperament hopeful, abilities average; possessor of a
moderate competence, partly acquired, mainly inherited; greatly
overestimated by a friendly few, somewhat abused as peculiar (in
American idiom "funny") by strangers; especially interested in the
building of homes, and quite willing to help Mr. Fred carry out his
ambitions in that direction by any suggestions I am able to make.

[Illustration: "SISTER JANE, SPINSTER."]

I've taught school, and I've taught music; sold goods in a store and
worked in a factory; run a sewing-machine, travelled with
subscription-books, and hired out to do house-work; and I solemnly
aver that the only time I was conscious of genuine enthusiasm for my
work, or felt that I was doing myself or others any actual good, was
while keeping house. In school I was required to teach things I knew
little and cared less about, and to punish the dear children for doing
precisely what I would have done myself had I been in their places,
losing all the while in amiability more than was gained in mental
discipline. My experience in a factory was limited to three months.
From working with the machines and as they worked, hardly using more
intelligent volition than they, I began to fancy myself becoming like
them, with no more rights to be respected, no more moral
responsibility, and left without even serving my notice. Clerking I
tried "just for fun." If all people who came to trade were like some,
it would be the pleasantest, easiest work imaginable; if all were like
others, the veriest torment. It was an excellent place to study human
nature, but made me somewhat cynical. My sewing-machine had fits and
gave me a back-ache, so I've locked it up until some one invents a
motive-power that can be applied to house-work, washing, churning,
mincing meat and vegetables, driving sewing-machines, and--if it only
could--kneading bread, sweeping floors, washing dishes, ironing
clothes, and making beds. My book agency was undertaken for the sake
of travel,--of learning something, not only of the land we live in,
but of its people and homes. If I had gone from house to house and
with malice aforethought begged an outright gift of a sum equal to my
commission on each book, I should have felt more self-approval than in
asking people to buy what I had not the slightest reason to suppose
they wanted.

Now I'm sure you are beginning to think me one of the disagreeably
strong-minded, who think the whole world has gone astray when it's
only themselves who are out of tune, but, truly, I'm not; only I don't
like to be or to feel idle and useless, nor yet to be constantly
striving to do from a sense of duty what is positively distasteful.

Like many other important discoveries, my aptness for house-work was
found out by accident. Our next neighbor happened to be thrown,
without a word of warning, into one of those dreadful whirlpools in
regard to help, to which even the best regulated households are
liable. My services, charitably volunteered as temporary relief, were
gladly accepted, and the result on my part was two years of pleasant
and profitable labor. All I earned was clear profit, and I had the
satisfaction of knowing I saved the family many times over what was
paid me. I'm converted beyond the possibility of backsliding to this
truth: that there is no work so fit and pleasant, so profitable and
improving, to the mass of womankind,--rich or poor, wise or
unlearned, strong or weak,--yes, proud or meek,--as the care and
control of a home; none so worthy of thorough study, none so full of
opportunity for exercising all the better bodily and mental powers,
from mere mechanical and muscular skill, up through philosophy and
science, mathematics and invention, to poetry and fine art.

From potato-washing to architectural design the distance is great, yet
there are possible steps, and easy ones too, leading from one to the
other. I began with the potatoes and know all their tricks and their
manners. The accompanying sketch is the nearest approach to
architecture yet attained. A long way off, you will say; but I insist
it is worthier of recognition than the plans of amateurs who begin
with the parlor and leave the kitchen out in the cold. It is not for
Mr. Fred; he must work out his own kitchen. If Mrs. Fred can't help
him, more's the pity. I give my notions of general principles; the
application of them I leave to you.

My kitchen is not merely a cook-room, nor yet the assembly and
business room of the entire household, as in the olden time. It is the
housekeeper's head-quarters, the mill to which all domestic grists are
brought to be ground,--ground but not consumed. I should never learn
to be heartily grateful for my daily bread if it must always be eaten
with the baking-pans at my elbow. Indeed, we seldom enjoy to the
utmost any good thing if the process of its manufacture has been
carried on before our eyes. Hence the dining-room is a necessity, but
it must be near at hand. If the kitchen cannot go to it, it must come
to the kitchen. If this goes to the basement, or to the attic, that
must follow, but always with impassable barriers between, protecting
each one of our five senses. The confusion usually attending the
dinner-hour should be out of sight; the hissing of buttered pans and
the sound of rattling dishes we do not wish to hear; our sharpened
appetites must not be dulled by spicy aromas that seem to settle on
our tongues; we do not like, in summer weather, to be broiled in the
same heat that roasts our beef; while, as for scents, wrath is cruel
and anger is outrageous, but who is able to stand the smell of boiling
cabbage? Yes; the kitchen must be separated from the dining-room, and
the more perfect its appointments, the easier is this separation. The
library and the sitting-room are completely divided by a mere curtain,
because each is quiet and well disposed, not inclined to assert its
own rights or invade those of others; but the ordinary kitchen, like
ill-bred people, is constantly doing both. Thomas Beecher proposes to
locate his at the top of the church steeple. That is unnecessary; we
have only to elevate it morally and intellectually, make it orderly,
scientific, philosophical, and the front parlor itself cannot ask a
more amiable and interesting neighbor. As the chief workshop of the
house, the kitchen should be fitted up and furnished precisely as an
intelligent manufacturer would fit up his factory. Every possible
convenience for doing what must be done; a machine for each kind of
work and a place for every machine. Provision for the removal and
utilizing of all waste, for economizing to the utmost all labor and
material. Then if our housekeepers will go to school in earnest,--will
learn their most complicated and responsible profession half as
thoroughly as a mechanic learns a single and comparatively simple
trade,--we shall have a domestic reformation that will bring back
something of the Eden we have lost.

Respectfully yours,

SISTER JANE.

       *       *       *       *       *

P.S.--Surreptitiously enclosed by Mrs. John.


DEAR MR. ARCHITECT: Jane has just read her letter to you aloud for
John's and my benefit. John listened to the end without moving a
muscle. When she wound up with the garden of Eden, he got up, took off
his hat (he will keep it on in the house), made a fearfully low bow
and said, "Perfectly magnificent, Jane! I begin to feel like old Adam,
already." Then he burst out laughing and took himself out of the room,
leaving the door wide open, of course, and kicking up the corner of
the door-mat. You see he's one of those men who think home isn't
home-like unless it's sort of free and easy. He'd be perfectly willing
to eat and sleep and live in the kitchen,--if I had the work to do;
and though he likes pretty things, and would feel dreadfully if I
didn't look about so, has a perfect horror of smart housekeepers, and
thinks women who care for nothing else the most disagreeable people in
the world.

The trouble with Jane's letter is that she doesn't go into
particulars enough, and that's why I want to add a postscript. I wish
I could describe the kitchen in the house where she has been living.
The people had so much confidence in her judgment, that they just
allowed her to fix things as she chose, and it's really quite a study.
It mightn't suit anybody else, but it shows what may be done.

She began by taking one of the pleasantest rooms in the house,
although 'twas in the basement, and had windows cut to bring them on
the south and east sides. Then she had an outside door at the south
with a wide piazza over it, which made the room actually just so much
larger. Across one side of the room is a wide stationary table,--I
suppose men would call it a work-bench,--with a fall-leaf, in front of
one of the windows, especially for an ironing-table. Of course it can
be used for anything else. One part of it is about eight inches lower
than the common height, where ever so many kinds of table-work can be
done sitting. Underneath the higher part are drawers and places for
all the things that are useful about the laundry-work. Her sink is in
the midst of a perfect cabinet of conveniences. There's a hook or a
shelf for every identical rag, stick, dish, or spoon that can be used
or thought of; shelves at each side, and drawers that never by any
possibility will hold what doesn't belong in them. One thing she won't
have; and that's a cupboard under the sink for pots and kettles. She
says it's impossible to keep such a place clean and sweet. Things are
shoved into it sooty and steaming to get them out of the way, and it
soon gets damp and crocky beyond all hope of purification. Hot and
cold water run to the boilers and kettles, and there's a funny
contrivance for sprinkling clothes. The washing almost does itself.
The tubs are of soapstone, at the opposite side of the room from the
ironing-table. Over the entire stove--she might have had a range, but
didn't want one--there's a sort of movable cover with a flue running
into the chimney that carries off every breath of steam and smoke from
the cooking. One would never guess at the dinner by any stray odors.
It is made of tin; the kettles boil quicker under it, and it makes the
room a great deal cooler in summer by carrying the extra heat off up
the chimney. She has a place for the bread to rise, and a cupboard
close by for all the ironmongery belonging to the stove, zinc-cloth
and blacking-brush included.

[Illustration: SISTER JANE'S KITCHEN.]

Her pantry I won't undertake to describe. It adjoins both dining-room
and kitchen. John says she never does anything in getting dinner but
just sit down in an easy-chair and turn a crank. That's one of John's
stories, but she certainly will prepare a meal the quickest and with
the fewest steps of any person I ever knew. The funniest thing about
it is, that I've known eight people at work in the room all at once
without being in each other's way one bit. But that's no closer than
men work in their shops.

Jane intends to stay with us this winter, and I expect we shall have
jolly times, for we're going to board the schoolmaster. If he calls to
see you, as I think he will, I want you should read Jane's letter to
him. She would take my head off if she knew I mentioned it, but I
think he ought to know what's before him.

Respectfully,

MRS. JOHN.

P.S. No. 2.--Unnecessarily appended by John.

MY DEAR ARCHITECT: If we've got to go through the whole establishment
on transcendental principles, I shall send in my resignation straight.

Sister Jane's a regular trump; Penelope and queen of Sheba rolled into
one. But when the women-folks begin to preach, I always find it best
to keep still and consider my sins. I haven't had a chance to say much
lately, but I've kept up a tremendous thinking, and when I do get the
floor look out for me. How do you happen to know so much about the
millennium?

Yours patiently,

JOHN.



LETTER XXXI.

From the Architect.

DOMESTIC-SERVICE REFORM.


Dear Miss Jane: Your very kind letter was received and gratefully
appreciated. As the world grows less ignorant and wicked, we should
naturally expect missionaries and reformers to find their occupation
going, if not quite gone; that modern reforms would be mere play
compared with the stern and mighty movements that in former times have
blessed mankind and balked the Evil One. But somehow the need for
missionary work seems greater every year. We are not even permitted to
go to the heathen. They come to us without waiting for an invitation;
if not as pupils in the lessons of civilization, they come as
teachers. Sometimes they are aliens, sometimes our own kith and kin.
To keep what we have won and gain the next height requires new zeal,
and ever greater efforts,--requires the very work you are doing; for a
well-ordered home, though it consist of but two members, is a
tremendous missionary society. The light streaming from its windows is
an ever-burning beacon of safety to our most cherished social
institutions.

First and chiefly, this essential home work needs to be taken from the
hands of indifferent, careless servants and confided to those who
realize the nobleness of the responsibility, and will strive to meet
it faithfully. Ultimately, the ignorant, careless ones must be taught,
but that will never be till culture is a manifest necessity and finds
a fit reward. When a man undertakes the charge of a new business, he
learns, not only its general principles, but as far as possible, its
minutest details, otherwise he fails inevitably, and the place is
given to his well-qualified competitor. If our prospective
housekeepers were amenable to similar rules, the competent mistresses
of this most useful art would find plenty of apprentices glad to serve
them long and well for their tuition, and if those who have now the
care of households will patiently instruct their help, they will find
abundant recompense in a more faithful and efficient service.

Doubtless we must wait a little longer for our lost Eden to be
restored by the angels of the household; but, in the hastening of that
good time, such examples, permit me to say, as your own will be worth
far more than any multiplying of conveniences and labor-saving
machines for the benefit of those who do not know or care to learn
how to use them,--examples of the nobleness, the gentility if you
please, of all useful labor. Until that everlasting truth is
understood and applied, there will be more need of your teaching than
of my plans. If you will teach your neighbors what a fully equipped
home building should contain, I will try to show them how their wants
can be supplied. Teach them, at the same time, what it need not
contain. As certain folks do not understand how heaven can be
enjoyable without a Tartarean attachment to which all disagreeable
people and performances are consigned, so a common notion of home,
that earthly epitome of heaven, appears to be that it should also
contain an abridgment of the same direful institution; that there must
be somewhere in the house a place of torment, the angels who abide
therein, giving us our daily bread and doughnuts, being of a totally
different type from the glorious creatures singing songs of praise
and operatic melodies in the upper stories. That the genius of the
kitchen and the parlor can be one and the same is a conception too
stupendous for the average understanding.

This, too, I hope you will insist upon. Every man who would build
himself a house shall first sit down and--not count the cost, that
comes into my department, but--ask himself solemnly what the house is
for. To live in, of course. But living is a complex affair; it is
constant growth or gradual death; there can be no standing still. Is
the house to be an end, or a means; a help to make the life-work
larger and better, or an added burden? Shall it lift, or crush him?
When this solemn questioning is honestly done, we shall have a new
order of domestic architecture. It may not be classic, neither Grecian
nor Roman, Gothic nor French, but the best of all that has gone before
and the last best thing thrown in. We shall have more cheap houses,
more small ones, I think; more comfort and less show, more content and
fewer mortgages.



LETTER XXXII.

From Fred.

GO TO; LET US BUILD A TOWER.


MY DEAR ARCHITECT: I've been hearing a variety of suggestions from
Miss Jane, the substance of which she has already forwarded you in a
letter. Her ideas are excellent. They ought to be adopted in every
household. I wish to have them carried out as far as possible in mine,
when the time comes. She favors a basement kitchen, which I had always
thought objectionable. If adopted it would change my arrangement
considerably. What do you think of it? How high shall I have the
different stories, and will you give me some hints for exterior? I
intended to have a tower or a cupola, but after so much change I
hardly know where I am coming out. There is something very imposing
about a tower, and a cupola seems to finish the house handsomely,
besides affording fine views. I feel decidedly partial to French
roofs, but have seen some very awkward ones that I should be sorry to
imitate. They give excellent chambers and have a modern look. The
latter point I suppose you will not think important.

Truly,

FRED.



LETTER XXXIII.

From the Architect.

BASEMENTS AND BALCONIES.


Dear Fred: Of course Miss Jane's ideas are good. When a woman honestly
tries to understand her work and do it well, she is sure to succeed,
especially in this matter of the equipments of home.

The basement arrangement depends mainly on the location. When this is
favorable it is undoubtedly economical, nor is it necessarily
inconvenient or unpleasant in any way, but quite the reverse. You are
fortunate if your site will allow it, for it adds enormously to the
capacity of the establishment. At least two sides of this lower
story, "basement" you call it, should be above ground to insure
dryness and plenty of light. Then all the heavier work of the house,
including the eating and drinking, can be done on this floor, leaving
the upper stories intact for loftier purposes. The old-fashioned
cellar as a storehouse for a half-year's stock of provisions--bins,
and barrels by the dozen, of potatoes, apples and cider, corned beef,
pork, vegetables, vinegar, and apple-sauce--is extinct. Hence the
space once thus occupied is almost a clear gain if made into finished
apartments,--an economy that will commonly allow a family room on the
next floor, whereby the going up and down stairs is no more serious
than if both are one story higher. The sketch is an illustration of
what the basement adds. The capacity of the little house is more than
doubled by it, while in point of style the augmentation is even
greater than in room.

[Illustration: WHAT THE BASEMENT ADDS.]

As to height of stories, you are quite as liable to make them too
high as too low. For rooms within the common limits of size, ten to
eleven feet in the clear is enough. Even nine is by no means
dangerous. If too high for their area, they seem like large closets,
giving a feeling of being walled in, hardly less unpleasant than the
low-hanging ceilings of the last century. I know the argument of
better ventilation. But that depends. The old, seven-foot rooms, with
their huge fireplaces, big enough to hold a load of wood, ox-team and
all, undoubtedly held purer air than is found in the hermetically
sealed apartments of the present time, whose ceilings are out of
sight.

As you say, a tower is often very imposing. It is not always certain
who feels the imposition most heavily, the man who pays for it or the
man who looks at it. They are not only imposing, but they contain six
or seven stories, one above another, of eight-foot square rooms,
deducting a Jacob's-ladder stairway at one side, whereon people climb
to the topmost room for the sake of looking out in the wrong direction
through a round dormer-window, scratching their heads in the mean time
on the nails that come through the roof! Cupolas too are
lovely,--especially on a barn,--and top off a house in the daintiest
fashion possible; just as, to set forth great things by small, the
"knob" on the sugar-bowl cover finishes the sugar-bowl. Many houses do
appear unfinished without a cupola, and I'm sorry for them, because
when the cupola is built it looks so much like the handle on a big
cover that I half expect some giant to come along and lift it off to
take a peep at the curious animals underneath. For, truly, they are
curious animals, and build some curious nests. I like, as well as you,
to get up above my neighbors now and then, and look down upon them. I
never see a tall chimney or church spire without wishing there was a
spiral staircase around the outside of it, from which to view the
landscape o'er. In fact, to be candid, if I had happened to live a few
thousand years ago, I am afraid I should have taken stock in the Babel
enterprise, not really expecting to leave this terrestrial ball in
that way, but just to see how high we could go. The audacious tower of
the Centennial I shall certainly patronize. But on domestic buildings,
unless for better adaptation to the site, or for some special use,
there are other things more to be desired than these lofty appendages.
An open balcony, hanging from the highest point of the main roof, just
below the scuttle, or the flat, if there is one, on the top of the
whole, surrounded by a protecting balustrade, affords a better place
for observation and costs less than those laborious affairs whose use
and beauty often neutralize each other.

[Illustration: OUTLOOK FROM THE ROOF.]

How dare you think anything claiming to be a French roof ugly to look
at? People who are fond of that style admire them from a sense of
duty, because they are French roofs. Perhaps if I was a Frenchman I
should like French roofs, too; being an American, I like American
roofs better. You do, however, give one reason for your
preference,--the complete chambers,--which is merely another way of
saying you like three stories better than two,--a good argument, by
the way, for the basement, which is surely more convenient than an
attic. I enclose a sketch, intimating an outline and style that will
suit your location. The roof, which is not French, either in form or
_costliness_, will contain all the dormitories and store-rooms you can
use, unless you propose keeping a three-story boarding-house.



LETTER XXXIV.

From the Schoolmaster.

FOUR ROOMS ENOUGH.


MR. ARCHITECT: Dear Sir,--Once, in conversation with you, I made some
inquiries as to the feasibility of building houses, especially of
brick, with reference to future enlargement. My present ambition is
bounded by a house of four rooms. One in which all the household work
shall be done, including the eating. It shall contain the
cooking-stove, the dining-table, laundry conveniences, etc., and may
be called kitchen, dining-room, laboratory, or simply work-room. An
apartment to be used solely on account of its facilities for doing
house-work. It should be of good size, and a pleasant outlook is
desirable, but not necessary. A second room for ordinary and
extraordinary use; to sit in, to talk in, to read and write and visit
in; the books are kept in it, and the sewing-machine, the piano and
the flower-stand, the birdcage and the pictures; a large, pleasant
room, where the sunlight loves to shine in upon us and we love to look
out upon the sunshine. It is parlor, library, drawing-room, living
room; in fact, it is the house itself, to which everything else is
accessory. A family sleeping-room, sunny, simple, and airy, and a
guest-room of similar character, complete the establishment. More than
these four principal rooms would be a burden, less would hardly
suffice for comfortable living. The problem is to arrange a plan that
shall be convenient and complete before it begins to grow, and to
which future additions may be made without serious loss. I also want
counsel concerning ventilation, both on general principles and with
reference to the unfortunate box in which I am daily compelled to
breathe my own breath over and over, variously flavored with the
commingled exhalations of sixty pupils, with whom I grow cross,
restless, or stupid, according to the state of the school-room
atmosphere. I believe it is just as wicked to allow children to
breathe impure air in their school-rooms or their bedrooms as it would
be to put poison in their dinner-pails and require them to swallow it.

My friend, Mrs. John, takes a kindly interest in my quadruple plan,
and assures me it will be quite sufficient for a sensible housekeeper.
Do you suppose such a one can be found?

If convenient, I will call upon you in a few days.

Truly yours,

SCHOOLMASTER.



LETTER XXXV.

From Mrs. John.

CONVENIENCES AND CONJECTURES.


Dear Mr. Architect: The building-fever seems to be contagious in our
neighborhood. The teacher who boards with us is the latest subject. He
pretends it's all for fun, but has been studying plans for weeks, and
now, after getting the advice of the entire household, is going to
throw it all away and apply to you, as he should have done in the
first place. I overheard him explaining to Jane how the cooking-stove
is to be in a sort of recess by the chimney, with tin-lined doors to
shut it out of sight; the wash-boiler at the opposite side, enclosed
in the same way, and having a contrivance overhead to carry off the
steam; how there are to be cupboards at each side of the wide window,
making it a sort of bay, with a wood-box window-seat; how the sink is
to be converted into an elegant sideboard by an ornamental cover, and
everything else in the room contrived so it can be shut up or folded
up out of sight when not in use. Of course Jane assists, and the
combined wisdom of the two is something appalling to ordinary
mortals. I should certainly think the affair was getting serious if
anything of the kind ever did turn out as other folks think it ought.
They are wonderfully harmonious now, but I don't believe Jane will
ever be satisfied without a separate dining-room.

[Illustration: THE OLD, OLD STORY.]

John wishes me to ask what he shall do about warming his house. Says
he has not decided whether to have fireplaces or stoves, grates or a
hot-air furnace, steam, hot water, solar heat, or depend on a scolding
wife to keep things warm.

Yours truly,

MRS. JOHN.



LETTER XXXVI.

From the Architect.

THE LESSON OF THE ICE-HOUSE.


MRS. JOHN: Dear Madam,--Without doubt the affair is getting serious,
but do not give yourself any uneasiness as to the issue. The Divinity
that shapes our matrimonial ends is, happily, a wiser power than that
which designs our houses, however it may appear to outsiders. Your
friend talks like a gentleman and a scholar. I admonished him
discreetly, promised to study his interesting problem and give him a
chapter on ventilation; which, by the way, is so intimately connected
with warming, that I may be obliged to make a sort of company letter
in answering your husband's inquiry on that subject. Tell him, in
brief, to use fireplaces if he has a hundred acres of wood-land to
clear up; stoves, if he can live without air; grates, if he doesn't
mind the trouble and the ashes; furnace, if he can set it directly
under each room and can find one that won't strangle him some windy
night with poison gases; and steam or hot water, if he can run a
machine-shop and keep a competent engineer. Solar heat may be more
available than he thinks, but his doubt as to the last-named mode
proves that he has no experimental knowledge of it. Neither have I.

Tell him also to protect his family as carefully as he protects his
ice, and the house-warming will be a simple matter. The conditions are
identical, only turned inside out. In one case the heat is to be kept
from penetrating, in the other from escaping, and both require the
same treatment; not, perhaps, to the extent of stuffing with
sawdust,--confined air is just as good,--but the walls and the floors,
the roofs and the windows, should be made to prevent the escape of
heat. He may think I underrate his scientific attainments, but it will
do no harm to remind him that an air-tight house may be a very cold
one. A man would freeze to death in a glass bottle, when a coarse,
porous blanket would keep him comfortable. Double windows are not to
keep cold air out, but to keep the heat in. India-rubber
weather-strips have, doubtless, caused ten times as many influenzas as
they have prevented. More heat will radiate through a window of single
glass than would be carried out by the air through a crack, half an
inch wide, at the side of it.

These suggestions are "just to set him a thinking."



LETTER XXXVII.

From John.

SHINGLES, SUNSHINE, AND FRESH AIR.


MY DEAR ARCHITECT: When I stepped into the background, I didn't
propose to be left entirely out in the cold. I've followed Fred
through the most of his gropings after grandeur, and listened
patiently to one of Jane's dignified essays on the sublimity of
housekeeping; but when my wife begins romancing, and the schoolmaster
is allowed to run wild, as though his moonshine was brighter than that
of other folks, I think it's time to call the meeting to order.

While you have been gossiping I have been at work, and now our house
is almost done,--that is to say, it's well begun. The stone walls of
the first story are finished, the frame is raised and covered. I've
done one thing without asking anybody's advice; covered the roof with
the best cedar shingles I could find. I hired an honest man to lay
them, who would throw out all that were dubious and lay the
cross-grained ones right side up, and painted the tin valleys both
sides before the shingles were laid. Then I took the difference in
cost between this and a good slate roof and put it in the
savings-bank. At the end of twenty years, if my roof lasts as long, my
deposit will put on the best kind of a slate roof and leave three
hundred dollars to go to the Society for the Promotion of Fine Art in
General and Rural Architecture in Particular. I know the shingled roof
may burn me up, if the chimney should happen to take fire some windy
night, but 't won't cost so much for repairs as slate if they should
blow over, either all at once, or one brick at a time. My neighbors
may not like the looks, especially while it's new; but if we have
nothing uglier than a mellow gray-shingled roof, I don't think
anybody'll be hurt. I wish we had something like the tile roofs I've
seen in foreign pictures. They'd go first-rate with my stone walls.

The eave-spouts bother me. I don't need to save the water from the
roof, and have concluded to let it pour where it pleases. The porches
protect the doorsteps, and I think it will be easier to take care of
it after it falls than to hang gutters all around emptying at the
corners and angles. They are troublesome things anyway. The leaves
clog them, the ice dams them, the snow comes down in an avalanche and
smashes them, they fall to leaking and spoil the cornice, and after
they are all done there's no certainty that the water won't run the
wrong way. I can put them up afterwards if necessary, but don't
believe it will be.

The last counsel you gave me was to open the eyes of my house for the
daylight to shine through without let or hindrance. I'm beyond advice
on that subject. Carpets and curtains shall fade rather than wife and
babies. My windows yawn like barn-doors. There isn't a room in the
house that won't have the sun a part of the day, and he looks into the
sitting-room from the moment his cloudy bedclothes are thrown off in
the morning, till he hides his face behind Mount Tom at night. My
glass bill will count up, but I'd rather pay for glass in windows than
for iron in the shape of tonics.

Now, if you will settle the question of warming and ventilating you
shall be honorably discharged. Don't try to show off your science by
telling me how carbon, the wicked, poison stuff, is heavy, and we must
leave a hole near the floor where it can run out and be coaxed up to
the ridgepole after it gets cold, and then make pictures covered with
arrow-heads to show how well-educated air ought to go! Talk as many
gases as you please to other folks. I know two or three things for
certain. Coal costs ten dollars a ton; that's one. I want just as
large a house in winter as in summer; that's another. I mean the whole
house must be comfortable, in shape to use when needed. I know a man
will be cut off suddenly by his own breath if he has nothing else for
his lungs. Mixing fresh air with it will prolong his career more or
less, but it's only a question of time when he shall give up the ghost
if he attempts to subsist on anything less simple and pure in the way
of respiration than the out-door atmosphere. That's bad enough in some
places. What I don't know and want you to tell me, is how to keep
cool in summer, warm in winter, and at the same time have all the
fresh air we can possibly consume. I know how to keep warm: build a
tight room, keep it shut up, set a box stove in the middle of it, and
blaze away. A ton of anthracite or a cord of hickory will keep you
warm all winter, especially if you die before spring, as you probably
will. I know how to have fresh air too: open the windows and let it
blow; but unless a man lives down in a coalmine he can't well afford
to keep warm under such circumstances.

I believe this question is the chief concern of builders here below,
and whoever invents an economical solution of it will not only make a
fortune, but he'll deserve one. Why don't you go for it?

Yours,
JOHN



LETTER XXXVIII.

From the Architect.

WHEN THE DOCTORS DIFFER.


DEAR JOHN: Your economical reasons for using shingles would justify
cheap jewelry and rag carpets. Try to be consistent. I should object
to slate on a log-barn or shingles on a stone-house. I hope you
furnished your honest carpenter with a stout jack-knife, and required
him not only to lay the shingles right side up, but to lay the upper
ends close together, leaving them apart at the butt. Gutters are
troublesome truly, but often indispensable; there is no resource but
to have them thoroughly made. Poor ones are worse than none. Those
that hang independently of the cornice are safest for cheaper
buildings, but should be treated as an essential feature; that is, you
should not complete the cornice without a gutter and afterwards
disfigure it by a sloping spout having no apparent kinship to the rest
of the finish.

The problem of warming and ventilating is easily solved for those who
desire its solution sufficiently to make the necessary appropriations.
One quarter of what is commonly spent for vanity and deceit will be
ample. Most men and women, at least the unthinking, prefer fashionable
show rather than health! A fearful statement, but sadly true. There is
doubtless more danger from impure air than from cold. Our senses warn
us quickly of the latter; the prompting of knowledge is needed to
guard us against the former,--of a practical knowledge unfortunately
rare. Men, women, and children are dying daily through ignorance and
indifference on this subject. There is hardly a school-house to be
found in which the murder of the innocents is not continually
rehearsed, hardly a church in which the spiritual elevation resulting
from attendance therein is not counterbalanced by an equal physical
depression, and rarely a hall or lecture-room wherein an audience can
even listen to a physiological discourse on the fatal effects of
impure air without experimentally knowing that they are listening to
solemn truth; while as to the dwelling-houses, the homes of the dear
people, it requires no bloodhound's scent to distinguish them one from
another! The moment the front door is opened to me, I am assailed by
the odor peculiar to the establishment. It may be tuberoses or garlic,
mould or varnish, whitewash, gas, lamp-smoke, or new carpets, a
definite and describable or an indefinite and indescribable fragrance,
but it is sure to be something besides pure fresh air.

[Illustration: SHINGLING.]

Let me give you first a suggestion for summer ventilation. Did you
ever shingle the south side of a barn on a calm, hot, sunny day in
July, thermometer at ninety degrees in the shade? Did you ever lay
your hand on a black slate or tin roof exposed to the direct rays of a
midsummer sun? Have you ever, at the close of some hot, labor-spent
day in August, sat out of doors until the evening air became
deliciously cool, and then climbed to your attic dormitory, there to
spend a sleepless night in perspiration and despair, anathematizing
the man who built and the fate which compelled you to occupy such a
chamber of torment?

Now, there is no good reason why the rooms immediately under the roof
of a house should be any more uncomfortable on account of heat than
those of the first story. Nay, more, by the simplest application of
common-sense, these upper rooms may be so coolly ventilated that the
hotter the sun pours his rays upon the roof the more salubrious shall
be your palace in the sky. And this I call a triumph of genius, making
the seemingly destructive wrath of the elements to serve and save us.

M. Figuier tells us with just how many hundred thousand horse-power
the sun, by the caloric of its beams, operates upon the surface of the
earth. I cannot tell precisely how much force is spent upon the roofs
of the houses that cover so much of the good mother's bosom in certain
localities, but I know that it is wonderfully great, and that rightly
controlled it will make the space immediately under these roofs cool
instead of hot.

And this is the way to cause the heat of a burning sun to cool the
attic chamber: Make the space between the rafters on the sunny sides
of your building as smooth and unobstructed as possible. Arrange
openings into the outer air at the lower end of each, simple or
complex, according to your taste and ability. Provide also means for
closing the same in cold weather. Be sure that these spaces, or flues,
are enclosed either by lath and plaster, or by smooth boards, quite to
the highest part of the roof, whether your rooms are finished to the
top or not,--and provided with an abundant outlet at the top. This may
also be as simple as the dorsal breathing-holes of a tobacco barn,
gorgeously imposing as an Oriental pinnacle, or it may be a part of
the chimney; only let it be at the very summit, ample, and so arranged
that an adverse wind shall not prevent the egress of the rising
currents of air. Mind this, too; it is by no means the same thing to
let these flues open into a loft over the attic rooms, with windows in
gables or other outlet.

Now, do you not see that as soon as the sun has warmed the flues,
there will be a stiff breeze blowing, not over the roof, but really
between the roof and the house, and the hotter the sun the stiffer the
breeze; in the words of one who has tried it,--"a perfect hurricane."
That is, the lath and plaster, or sheathing, which forms the inner
roof, is shaded by a canopy of slate, shingles, or tin, and fanned by
a constant breeze as cool at least as the outer air. But we can do
vastly better than that. Instead of opening the lower ends of these
flues to the outer air, they may be extended wherever the needs of the
house require, or its construction will allow.

Let me remind you, under the head of general principles, that there is
no such thing as "suction." Of course, you know it when you stop to
think, but bear it in mind, and wherever the motive-power seems to be
applied on which you rely to lift the column of air, remember that if
raised at all it must be raised from the bottom. Maybe you will
discover room for a moral here.

This summer ventilation is simple enough, and relates rather to
comfort than to health. The great question in building, for New
England and similar climates, is, indeed, how to keep our houses warm,
and, without great expenditure of fuel, have a constant change of air.
As you suggest, we have learned that wood costs eight or ten dollars a
cord instead of the mere labor of cutting and hauling; hence we have
shut the mouths of the old-time fireplaces, mouths that it would cost
a fortune to feed. We find the value of building-timber increasing
every year; so we make thinner walls, lined outside and inside with
paper, and have cold houses, no fresh air, anthracite coal, and
disease. Our grandfathers carried foot-stoves to church, where they
sat and shivered, sometimes with the cold, sometimes at the doctrines.
We have warm air and stale. Let us hope our children will have warmth
and freshness for body and soul. They, in their homes, had big
fireplaces, loose doors, rattling windows, cracks in the walls, and as
they lay in bed looked at the stars through the chinks in the roof, or
felt the snow blow on their cheeks which were ruddy with health and
vigor. We have cylinder stoves, double windows, tight walls plastered
and papered, and pale faces.

[Illustration: GOOD OLD TIMES.]

Yet we build and furnish more wisely than our ancestors. They
ventilated because they couldn't help it, couldn't afford to build as
we do, and could afford to burn an acre of woodland every year.

It is no light task you have set me preliminary to an honorable
discharge. Next to theology and government finance there is no subject
on which the doctors differ and dogmatize as in this matter of warming
and ventilating, most of them preferring that the universe should
suffocate rather than their pet theories and furnaces be found
wanting. (I'm not speaking of the theologians.)

Let me restate a few general principles, simple and obvious, yet so
important that we must not risk forgetting them. Air runs away with
heat fast enough if allowed to move. Confined it is a more effectual
barrier than granite walls and plates of steel. Hence the spaces in
the wall should not extend its whole height unless for local
ventilation. Cut them off surely at each floor, and as much oftener as
you please; also make the floors tight and warm. Deafen with mortar if
you can afford it, and do not allow the open spaces between the
floor-timbers to extend unbroken through the house, or fail to close
them between the rafters when the ceiling of the highest story is
above the plates. If you wish to warm the entire house, it will be
good economy to lath and plaster along the under side of the rafters
quite to the ridgepole. Finally put on your double windows, and you
are ready for winter quarters.

In theory, the house being once warmed, the temperature within should
scarcely change, even if the fire goes out. Practically, the walls
cannot hold this subtile caloric, however scientifically they are
padded. There will be crevices, too, though the prince of joiners
builds your house, through which the warm air will escape. But
replenishing this inevitable loss would be a small matter, if the
breath of life were a needless luxury. Unless, however, we are willing
to suck poison into our veins with every breath we draw, slow but
sure,--poison expired from our lungs and emanating from our bodies,
poisonous gases liberated by the combustion of fuel, poison dust and
decay from the waste of inorganic material,--we must have a
never-ceasing supply of fresh air around us everywhere and always. Now
this incoming fluid, cold as ice, eats fuel like a hungry giant, yet
we must receive it with open arms, and, as soon as fairly warmed, send
it off through the ventilating flue, bearing whatever noxious
elements may chance to be afloat, and, of course, much of the warmth
we love and buy so dearly. We have then to supply these three sources
of loss. Obviously for economy the two former must be prevented to the
utmost, the latter rigidly controlled.

Thus far, except the old fogies who don't believe in ventilation, we
can all travel together harmoniously. Now our way divides, the doctors
begin to differ, and the patients begin to die.

The first fork is at the two modes of warming, direct and indirect.
The former includes stoves of all sorts,--sheet or cast iron,
porcelain, soapstone, brick or pottery, box or cylinder, for wood or
coal, air-tight, Franklin, "cannon," or base-burner, parlor cook or
kitchen cook, charcoal basin, warming-pan or foot-stove,--anything in
which you can build a fire. It includes open grates and fireplaces,
ancient or modern, large or small; it includes steam-pipes, hot-water
pipes, and stove-pipes; and last, but not least, steam-radiators, than
which it has never entered into the heart of man to conceive anything
more surprising and unaccountable,--flat, pin-cushiony things, big as
a bedquilt, dangerous-looking hedgehoggy affairs, some huge and
bungling, others frail and leaky, but radiators still. In brief, the
heating apparatus, whatever it may be, stands in the room to be
warmed.

By the indirect mode it is enclosed in a chamber more or less remote,
commonly called a furnace, and made of brick, sheet-iron, or wood
lined with tin. Into this chamber cold air is admitted from some
source, and escapes by its own levity, usually through tin pipes, to
the rooms where the heat is needed. Sometimes it is driven out by
mechanical means.

The advocates of the latter indirect mode claim for it many
advantages. It is apparently clean. There are no ashes to be taken
up, no hearths to sweep, no andirons to polish, no stoves to black.
One fire will warm the entire house if well arranged, and, for a trump
card, there may be a supply of fresh air straight from the north pole,
but agreeably warmed, constantly entering the room.

The objections are less numerous but more weighty. The liability to
imperfect construction and careless management often makes a furnace,
especially a cast-iron one, a savor of death unto death rather than of
health and comfort; also, when we are warmed by air thrown into a room
at a high temperature, and dry at that, a greater degree of heat is
necessary for comfort than if our bodies and clothing absorb heat from
a radiating surface. The furnace, in short, compels us to breathe an
atmosphere highly rarefied. We have the most careful and competent
authority for believing this to be gravely injurious.

Direct radiation from stoves, or other heating apparatus, except open
fireplaces, is, moreover, economical of fuel, but, on the other hand,
unless abundant ventilation is provided, the atmosphere in rooms thus
warmed soon becomes unfit for respiration.

Now you may stop and think. Next time you shall have the conclusion of
the whole matter.



LETTER XXXIX.

From John.

HOW TO DO IT.


MY DEAR ARCHITECT: I'm in a hurry. Let me ask you a few square
questions. Give me square answers if you can; if not, say so. What
kind of a furnace shall I get? I've interviewed about a dozen; each
one is warranted to give more heat, burn less coal, leak less gas,
give less trouble and more satisfaction, than all the others put
together. I suppose you object to cast-iron, because it's liable to be
heated red-hot and burn the air.

Is wrought-iron any better?

Shall I put the registers in the floors or in the partitions?

What do you say to steam?

How shall I ventilate?

Will it answer to have the ventilating flues in the outer walls?

There seems to be no doubt that the foul air should be drawn from the
bottom of a room; but if it's cold, how am I to get it to the
ventilator on the top of the house? If a room is as tight as a
fruit-can, a chimney might draw like a yoke of oxen without doing any
good, and Nebuchadnezzar's furnace wouldn't drive air into it unless,
in both cases, the inlets and outlets were about equal! When I go to
sleep in such a room I want to be sure the dampers won't get
accidentally shut.

Give me your opinion on these points, but don't make a long story or a
tough one. If a house is to be kept warm from turret to
foundation-stone, I don't see that shutting up the spaces between the
timbers would amount to much, except to stop sounds from echoing
through them; but when the attic is as cold as out-doors, it's plain
that the cold air will be always crawling down next the inside
plastering of every room in the house if it finds a chance.

Yours,

JOHN.



LETTER XL.

From the Architect.

THE BREATH OF LIFE.


DEAR JOHN: No man ever built himself a house without getting out of
patience before it was finished.

Among all the furnaces you have examined, a certain one is doubtless
better for you than any other; when I find out which one, you shall be
informed. Reliable testimony on the subject can only be given by some
one who has tried different kinds in the same house under similar
circumstances for a considerable time. As we never have two seasons
alike, and do have about three new first-class furnaces every year,
it is difficult to find this valuable witness. Printed testimonials
are worth three or four cents per pound. I do not know that cast-iron
furnaces are more liable to be overheated than others, and you cannot
"burn the air" with them if they are, unless you burn the furnace too.
You may fill a room with air, every mouthful of which has been passed
between red-hot iron plates, not over half an inch apart, and I do not
suppose the essential properties of the air will be perceptibly
changed, or hurt for breathing when properly cooled.

The danger from cast-iron is in its weakness, not in its strength.

You speak of poison carbon. Carbonic acid is not poison. It is
harmless as water,--just. It will choke you to death if you are
immersed in it. Trying to breathe it in large quantities will strangle
you. But we drink it with safety and pleasure, and may breathe a
little of it, even as much as thirty per cent, for a short time,
without serious harm. But carbonic oxide, which is also liberated from
burning anthracite, is an active poison, and one per cent of it in the
air we breathe may prove instantly fatal. Now it is fully proven that
these gases laugh at cast-iron and pass through it freely whenever
they choose. Wrought-iron plates are supposed to be more impervious.
The popular notion that foul air must be drawn from the bottom of a
room is based, I think, upon a superficial knowledge of the weight of
carbonic acid, an ignorance of the law of the diffusion of
gases,--upon a realizing sense of the cost of coal, and an
insensibility to the worth of fresh air. Even such unreliable
witnesses as our senses assure us that the air at the top of a high
room--say the upper gallery of an unventilated theatre--is far less
salubrious, though not overheated, than that below. We know, too, how
quickly the sulphurous gas that sometimes escapes from those
warranted furnaces not only ascends through the tin pipes, but rises
in the open stairway if it has a chance. The hurtful carbonaceous
gases doubtless go with it, and are then diffused through the room.
The most forcible objection to allowing the air to escape through the
ceiling is that it is a wanton waste, not only of heat, but of the
fresh air that has just come from the north pole by way of the furnace
and cold-air box, and which, by virtue of its warmth, goes in all its
purity straight to the ceiling. Accordingly the heavy cold air lying
near the floor and laden with poison must be drawn out through the
ventilating flue, till the upper warmth and freshness fall gently on
our heads, like heavenly blessings.

Let me digress here to answer another question. No, don't put your
ventilating flues in the outer walls if you expect the air to rise
through them in cold weather; for it will not, if they reach the
moon, unless it is warmer than that lying at their base. You may as
well expect water to rise from the cistern to the tank in the attic
because the pipe runs there, as that air will rise simply because
there is a passage for it. Sometimes holes are made into the
chimney-flues, but this is robbing the stoves or the fireplaces. It is
better to build an independent flue so close that it shall always feel
the heat from the black warm heart of the chimney, for warmed by some
means it must be. Yet warm air does not choose to rise. It falls like
lead unless lifted by something heavier than itself.

To return to the former point. When you can warm within a ventilating
flue all the air passing through it more economically than you can
warm the same quantity in the room from which it is taken, then you
may admit the air to feed this same flue near the bottom and perhaps
save fuel; but I doubt whether the remaining air will be any purer
than if an equal amount had been allowed to escape near the ceiling.
The answers to your square questions necessarily dovetail. The hot-air
registers should always be in the partitions if possible. It saves
sweeping dust into the pipes; it saves cutting the carpets; it lessens
the risk of a debilitating warm bath to people addicted to standing
over them; it diffuses the heat more evenly through the room; and,
owing to this better diffusion, there is less waste through the
ventilating outlet at the top of the room, if it should be there.

The foregoing refers to rooms heated on the furnace principle, where
all that seems needful for complete ventilation is a sufficient
outgoing of the air to cause a constant change. In theory, too, the
warm air must cross the room to make its exit. Indeed, the plan of
admitting it at the top and drawing the cold air from the base has
been strongly urged by one of the most earnest and thoughtful
advocates of thorough ventilation. In practice, this fresh air is apt
to come from the region of the coal-bin and potato-barrels, especially
in very cold weather, and I doubt whether it will find the door of
escape sooner at one side than another, unless immediately over the
entrance. As to your next inquiry, I do not think our winter quarters
can be warmed so safely and healthfully in any other way as by steam
or hot-water radiators; but the first cost of the modes now in use
puts them beyond the reach of common people, the very ones who need
them most. Whether it's the tariff on pig-iron, the patent royalties,
the skilled labor, the artistic designs, the steam joints and high
pressure, or all combined, that make the cost, I cannot say, but I
have faith that some one of the noble army of inventors will,
erelong, give us a system more economical in manufacture and simple in
use than any at present known. It will hardly bring him a fortune,
however. The real benefit to humanity will be too great for a temporal
reward. Not only will this coming system be available for cheap and
isolated houses, but when they stand compactly, one boiler will send
its portable caloric to the dwellers on one entire square, as gas and
water are now distributed.

If stoves or other local radiators are used, you must of course
provide for the entrance of pure air as well as the exit of the
impure. With two openings in the ceiling, the air will commonly ascend
one and descend the other. Open fireplaces, whether for wood or coal,
are in favor with those who have learned to love fresh air, besides
being, for their cheerfulness, an unfailing antidote to melancholy,
and other selfish, spiritual ills.

The truth in regard to their healthfulness is simply that they compel
us to sacrifice a large amount of fuel to the goddess of ventilation,
far more than would be needed to give us a better state of the
atmosphere, if applied in some other way; for the fire itself is
hungry for oxygen, fireplaces for wood are mightily prone to smoke,
and anthracite coal releases its poisonous gases at times so rapidly
that none but the most voracious chimney will carry them safely away.
To answer your questions directly: with a good stove in the hall and
in each of the rooms not commonly used, you would probably afford one
or two open fires for those constantly occupied, and keep comfortable
with less outlay for fuel than with a furnace. But you would need an
accommodating fool to make your fires, and an industrious philosopher
to keep them burning. In this matter of warming and ventilating the
more you know the more you will wish to learn. My hope is to set you
thinking and studying. Read Dr. George Derby's little book on
Anthracite and Health, from which I have drawn already for your
benefit; read the statistics of the increase of pulmonary diseases;
get the physiological importance of fresh air so clearly before your
mind's eye that your dinner seems a secondary consideration, and don't
be deceived by any bigoted commentators, or forget to use your own
common-sense.

While warming our backs we may dispose of some adjacent matters. You
can make a very pretty fireplace for wood of the common buff-colored
fire-bricks, either alone or variegated with good common red bricks; a
hearth of encaustic tile, pressed bricks, or even Portland cement. Let
the hearth be a generous one, two and a half feet wide, and at least
two feet longer than the width of the fireplace, if you mean it for
actual use. You must not suppose I object to cheap things because
they are cheap and therefore common. The more so the better if they
have real merit; but the marbleized slate mantels so abundant have not
enough intrinsic beauty to justify them in supplanting the more honest
and unpretending ones of wood. Real marble ought to be too expensive
for such houses as yours.

[Illustration: BRICK FIREPLACE.]

With a furnace your house becomes a lumber-kiln, and any wood that has
not been tried as by fire will, under its influence, warp and crack
and shrink; in carpenters' phrase, "it tears the finish all to
pieces." The rapid shrinking of the joists and studs near the hot-air
pipes is also apt to cause cracks in the plastering that would never
appear if the whole frame could shrink evenly, for shrink it will more
or less. The application of these remarks would be, putting in the
furnace as soon as possible, and keeping it steadily at work drying
sap from the wood and water from the plastering till it enters upon
its legitimate mission of warming the house.

When you have read all this about heating and ventilating two or three
times over, these conclusions will begin to crystallize in your
mind:--

Open fires give the surest ventilation and the best cheer.

If stoves are used for economy, fresh air must be systematically
admitted.

Furnaces are immensely useful to warm the bones of the house and as a
sort of reserve force; but the heat they give is somewhat like a
succession of January thaws.

If you begin to investigate you will discover a fearful amount of
ignorance and indifference where you should find positive information,
and the most discouraging obscurity or conflicting statements among
those who profess to be wise in such matters.



LETTER XLI.

From John.

ETERNAL VIGILANCE.


MY DEAR ARCHITECT: You did well to send the key to your puzzles, else
I might have frozen to death before finding out how to keep warm. But
you've earned your discharge, which I forward herewith. Now I'm going
to send you some grains of wisdom, gathered during my experience in
building, which you may distribute at your discretion among your
clients. When a man--I don't care if it's Solomon himself--undertakes
to build a house, tell him from me, to wind up all other earthly
affairs before beginning; wind them up so tight they'll run for a
year or two without any of his help. Then turn over a new leaf,--learn
to get through breakfast before seven A.M., in order to be on the
ground every moment, from the time the first spadeful of dirt is
thrown out till the last touch of paint is put on. You may make
full-sized drawings for him of every stick and stone, write
specifications by the yard, and draw up a contract that half a dozen
lawyers can't expound, there'll still be a thousand little things that
won't be done as he wants them.

The openings in the basement wall somehow get out of place, an inch or
two too high or too low, or at one side, then the windows over them
will look askew. The air-spaces in the wall will be filled up where
they ought not to be, or left out where they ought to be filled; then
the frost will go through one and the rats the other. If he uses
colored mortar, it will be too dark or too light, or too
something,--then he'll be obliged to paint the whole wall. The drains
won't be put in the right place, or they'll pitch the wrong way; then
he'll have to dig out new ones. The receivers for the stove-pipes will
be forgotten or set in the ventilating-flues; then he might as well
have no chimney. The masons will drop bricks and mortar and trowels
down the flues; then he'll have to climb upon the roof with a brick
tied to a rope and try to churn them out. Just at the place where the
flues ought to be plastered outside and in, against the floor and roof
timbers, the masons can't reach, and like as not they'll turn a brick
up edgewise if a joist happens to crowd; then his house will burn up
and never give him any more trouble.

The war with the masons is short and sharp; that with the carpenters
long and tedious. There are ten thousand ways you don't want a thing
done, only one that suits you. Setting partitions looks like easy
work; I don't believe a house was ever built in which all of them and
the doors through them were in just the right places. I know they 're
not in mine. I'd give three times the cost of the door if one of them
could be moved, two inches, and as much more if another could be made
six inches wider. I tried to have one of the mantels set in the middle
of one side of the room, but somehow it got fixed just enough away
from the centre to look everlastingly awkward.

The rough work gets covered up pretty quickly, but it pays to keep
watch and see that the spikes are put in where they belong; that the
back plastering reaches quite up to the plate and down to the sill;
that timbers are not left without visible means of support, or hung by
"toe-nails" when they ought to be well framed and pinned. It's hard to
make a carpenter believe that plastering cracks because his joists
and furrings and studs won't hang together, but it's true a good many
times. You like, also, to have something more than a good man's
assurance, that the furnace pipes are "all right," and will sleep
better on windy nights if you have seen all exposed corners guarded by
a double lining.

The gas-man had his work to do over because some of the drop-lights
were not in the centre of the ceilings.

I tremble to think of what might have been if I had left the painter
to his own devices. It seems very clear to say you'll have the outside
painted a sort of a kind of subdued gray, with trimmings a little
darker, bordering on a brown; but unless you stand over the paint-tub
with a loaded revolver, you'll get anything but what you expect. It
may be a great deal better, but it won't be what you wanted. By the
way, there's a great responsibility resting on the painters,--I don't
mean the old masters, nor the young ones either, who seem to have
forgotten that outside decoration was once considered quite worthy the
tallest genius,--but the more modest artisans, who call themselves
house and sign painters. Their broad brush often makes the beauty or
the ugliness of a whole village. I'm ready for any suggestions on the
subject. Hanging the doors is another point that needs watching.
They'll be sure to open the wrong way. I've had three changed already,
and I'll never hang another door with less than three butts, whatever
its size. I suppose they always settle more or less. Why don't the
workmen make allowance for it in fixing the catches? I tremble when I
think of the painters, but I rejoice at my watchfulness when I reflect
on the plumbing. The chances for leaking and freezing and bursting;
the hidden pipes and secret crooks that were possible and only
avoided by constant oversight! Now I can put my hand on every foot of
pipe in the house, know where it goes to, what it's for, and that it
won't burst or spring a leak with fair usage. I don't call it just the
thing to drive a tenpenny nail square through a lead pipe, pull it
out, and say nothing about it. You want to be on hand, too, when the
trimmings are put on, and see that they are not too high or low, or
fixed so you will bruise your knuckles every time you pull out the
drawers or open the cupboard doors. Speaking of cupboards, there's no
end to the bother if you don't just camp down in the pantry and stay
there till the top shelf is up and the bottom drawer slides in its
groove. In spite of our efforts, Mrs. John says there's no place for
her tallest covered dish except the top shelf, which she can't reach
without a step-ladder. You'll never know whether you are specially
bright or the joiners extra stupid, but it's certain your way won't
be their way, whichever is right. I say the man who pays his money
should take his choice. But I haven't time to tell the whole story.
It's the same thing from first to last. The only sure way of having a
thing done well is to do it yourself; the next best is to tell some
one else precisely how to do it and then watch them till it's done.
The worst of these little blunders is, that they won't improve with
age. They stare at you every time you see them, and they'll rise up
before your great-great-grandchildren, monuments of your carelessness
and ignorance.

I told you my house was half done when it was well begun; now that it
is almost done it seems to me only fairly begun.

Yours,
JOHN.



LETTER XLII.

From the Architect.

SAVED BY CONSCIENCE.


Dear John: We are just beginning to learn the importance of color. I
don't allude to the wonderful revelations of the spectroscope almost
passing belief, but the new departure in the useful art of
house-painting.

The old weather-stained, unpainted walls were not unpleasant to see;
even the unmitigated red, that sometimes made a bright spot in the
landscape, like a single scarlet geranium in the midst of a lawn, had
a kind of amiable warmth, not to be despised; but there is no
accounting for the deluge of white houses and green blinds that
prevailed a few years ago. If nature had neglected our education in
this respect we might be excused for our want of invention.

With infinitely varied and ever-changing colors smiling upon us at all
times and in all places, it is blind wilfulness not to see and strive
to imitate them. We need not look to the sky nor even to the woods in
their summer brightness or autumn glory. The very ground we tread
glows and gleams with the richest, softest tints of every hue and
shade. Look through a hole in a piece of white paper and try to match
on the margin the color you find. Turn in a dozen different
directions, avoid the trees and the sky, and you will have, in summer
or winter, a dozen different colors. Look in the same places
to-morrow, and they will all be changed, an endless variety. Some one
of these soft and neutral tints should clothe the body of your house.
Enliven it, if you choose, with dashes of crimson, green, or even
blue and gold, but use these bright colors carefully. Aim to make your
house (in this as in all other respects) in harmony with its
surroundings, not defiant of them. Your proffered advice shall be duly
applied, for it's true that a man may easily occupy all his leisure
time, be it more or less, in watching the building of his home,
however carefully the work may be laid out before he begins. No two
builders will interpret and execute the same set of plans exactly
alike.

There are different habits of training and tricks of trade. What seems
finished elegance to one is coarse awkwardness to another; and when
you enter upon the more artistic part of the work, there are fine
shadings impossible, even with the best intent, to any save the
cultured hand and eye. The inability to perceive and therefore to
bring out these delicate expressions in the execution of the work
must be borne patiently. We can pardon failure when it follows an
humble, honest effort.

The unpardonable sin of builders is their wilful attempt to improve
the architect's design by making alterations in cold blood, through
sheer ignorance and conceit. They will reduce the size of the doors
and windows; substitute some other moulding for that on the drawing;
or tell you they have made a bracket, or a bay-window, or a cupola,
for Mr. Rusticus that looked first-rate, and advise you to have the
same thing. No thought of harmony or fitness, no fine sense of a
distinctive idea, pervading the whole, and giving it unity and
character, ever enters their heads. Argument and persuasion are alike
useless. Your only safety lies in finding some young builder, who is
not yet incurably wise in his own conceit, or an old one, who has
learned that, while architects are not infallible, the taste and
opinions of a man who studies faithfully a special department, are
entitled to more respect than even his own. As you say, these defects
are commonly incurable. Neither is there any redress. The builders
will either tell you they "couldn't help it," "did the best they knew
how," "thought the lumber was seasoned," "understood the plans that
way," or else insist that it's better so,--and maybe ask you to pay
extra for what you do not like. As to your own right to spoil the
house by any alterations that strike your fancy or accommodate your
purse, that is unquestioned. Architects who insist upon your having
what you don't want or choose to pay for, exceed their prerogatives,
and bring disfavor upon us considerate fellows. _We_ never try to
dissuade a man from carrying out his own ideas. We only beg him to be
certain that he has a realizing sense of what he is undertaking, then
help him to execute it as well as we can. The more he leaves to our
discretion the more hopefully do we work.

All this is too late for you, but you may pass it along to Fred, the
schoolmaster, Miss Jane, and any other friends or neighbors who may be
in an inquiring mood. Tell them, too, there is no safety, even with
the utmost vigilance, unless every workman carries with him that
old-fashioned instrument, a conscience. Give me credit here for great
self-control. This is the place for some preaching of the most
powerful kind, but I refrain, knowing you are too much engrossed with
the finishing of your house to heed it. Do you remember how it is
recorded in terse Scripture phrase that "Solomon builded a house and
finished it"? Evidently the finishing was then quite as important and
onerous a matter as the building. I think it is a great deal more so.
The carpenters and masons, to whom you pay a certain sum of money,
build it. Before they come and after they go you exercise upon it
your noblest, manliest faculties. Yet it will never be done. The walls
may not grow any larger or the roof any higher, but every year will
add some new charm, some new grace and harmony without and within.
More and more the ground around it, the trees, the walks, and the
grateful soil will assimilate themselves to its spirit. More and more
each article of furniture will grow to be an essential part of the
home, dear for its comfort, and beautiful in its fitness and
simplicity. More and more you will learn the worthlessness of boastful
fashion, and the exceeding loveliness of truth.



LETTER XLIII.

From John.

FINAL AND PERSONAL.


MY DEAR ARCHITECT: We've moved in. The house wasn't done but the
plastering was dry, and the paint too, what there is of it, and enough
rooms were finished to hold us comfortably. Mrs. John thought we
should somehow feel better acquainted if we took possession while
things were in a chaotic state, before the house had a chance to put
on airs, and make us feel like intruders; that it would fit us better
if it wasn't entirely hardened before we crawled into it. I told her
't would be a great deal easier to wait till everything was cleared
up and we could take a fresh start, but she couldn't see it in that
light. Said she'd known lots of folks to be completely overpowered by
a new house, and she proposed to take it while it was sort of
helpless, and would be under obligation to her. It's better, too,
according to her notions, to get familiar with the rooms before
furnishing them, and--I've forgotten what other reasons, all good
enough but not exactly correct, as I've since found out. I'd noticed
some unusual and rather suggestive performances of late, but wasn't
quite prepared for a request to rent the old house the very day we
moved. Matters seemed to culminate one night after the schoolmaster
had received your sketches and estimates for his brick beginnings. I
can't say as to their merits architecturally, but they cleared one of
the rough places in a certain course that never runs quite smooth. The
dining-room and kitchen arrangements are all right, and the
establishment is already begun. It will take all summer to finish it,
and, meantime, Sister Jane will have an opportunity to reduce some of
her fine theories to practice in our old cottage. Whether they will
all stand the test remains to be seen. I only hope these two wise
people won't pin their sole chance of domestic happiness to scientific
housekeeping, and if common-sense and dutiful intentions fail, as they
sometimes will, that love will come to the rescue. Fred will build
next year. He's concluded it's better to have his work well done than
done too quickly.

Yours,
JOHN.



BY WAY OF APPENDIX.

A CHAPTER FROM ACTUAL EXPERIENCE.


"Now you can stay just as long as you please, and I wouldn't have you
feel hurried, on any account; but if you're really going to go pretty
soon, I'd like to know when it's to be, so I can lay my plans
accordingly."

Thus our good landlady, when we said our new house was beginning to
look nearly ready for us. A most reasonable request, and we, always
cheerfully responsive to such, replied, "By all means; certainly;
quite right: we'll see the workmen to-day and find out just when the
new domicile will be ready for us."

In pursuance of this object, straightway then we flew to the
carpenter. "Tell us, O worthy master!" we cried, "when shall the new
house be done?"

"Wal, let me see." And he scratched his head with the scratch-awl.
"It's a'most done now. Ther ain't much more to do. We've pretty much
finished up. Ther's the doors to hang and trim, 'n' the closet shelves
'n' things to fix up; the stairs ain't quite done, n'r the front
steps. I d'nno; ther's a number o'little jobs 'round,--don't amount to
much,--coal-bin, thresholds, and one or two things you want to change;
take three or four days, I guess, if the plumbers and furnace folks
get out of the way; week, mebbe."

"You think, then, by a week from next Saturday--to-day is Thursday
morning--you will have everything cleared up?"

"O yes, easy!"

Alas! ingratitude is not confined to republics. We thought it a most
kind and judicious thing to grant nine days, when but three or
four--six at the most--had been asked. Worldly wisdom would have said,
"No, sir; three days you can't have; it must all be done to-morrow
night." But we are not worldly-wise; innocent, confiding, and
rejoicing, we went our way,--went our way to the plumber.

"O good plumber!" quoth we, "how long will it take you to complete the
work you have begun so well?"

"How long? 'Twon't take no time. Just as soon as the copper comes for
the tank, I shall finish it all up. There ain't much of it, anyhow;
it's all done but that."

"And when is the aforesaid copper coming?"

"When is't a coming? Any time. Shouldn't be surprised if 'twas here
now."

"You can finish it then surely within a week."

"Within a week? I sh'd think likely,"--the last remark backed up by
such a smile as made further question impossible.

Once more we pursued our investigating tour, saying to the prompt
proprietor of the centrifugal-stove store, "Is that new furnace that
is to make June of January, that never does what it ought not to do or
leaves undone what ought to be done, that asks a mere handful of coal
every twenty-four hours and runs itself, ready for its trial trip?"

"It is, sir."

"Registers all set and--"

"Well, no; the registers can't be set till everything else is out of
the way."

"Ah, yes, of course; but 't won't take long to do that?"

"They shall all be set in the twinkling of an eye, at a moment's
notice."

And now it only remained to hie away to the painter. So we hied and
hailed him.

"Tell us, O man of many hues! how much time will you need to paint and
stain and grizzle and grain and tint and stripe and fill and shellac
and oil and rub and scrub and cut and draw and putty and sand-paper
and size and distemper and border and otherwise exalt and glorify the
walls and woodwork of our house, after the other workmen are through,
making allowance for what you have already done and will be able to do
while they are still at work?"

"I tell you what it is, Mr. Architect, it shall be done just as soon
as possible. The fact is, we've got the heft of it done now. We shall
follow the carpenters up sharp, and get through almost as soon as they
do."

Outwardly serene, but smiling triumphantly within, we went to our
daily roast-beef, and in the sweet simplicity of a blissful ignorance
and a clear conscience assured our patient hostess that the dog-days
and her unworthy guests should go out together. Yet we never told a
lie or wilfully deceived any man, much less a woman.

But we anticipate. At the close of the third day we essayed to examine
progress at the new house. As we approached, a dim and doubtful but
wondrous pleasant anticipation took possession of our fancy. What if
it should, indeed, be finished! The carpenter had suggested three or
four days,--three had already passed. The painter was to get through
_almost_ as soon, the plumber would surely be out of the way, and
there would be only the furnace registers. It was, perhaps, too good
to be true, and we lingered to give the notion time to grow. Opening
the door at last, we received something the same shock the traveller
feels when he encounters a guide-post telling him the next town is
half a mile farther on than it was three miles back. But we've not
lived forty years without learning to bury our "might-have-beens" with
outward composure, whatever the internal commotion. We remembered
there was still a week, and resolved to keep a sharp lookout that no
time was wasted; an idle resolution, for the workmen were as anxious
to get through as we were to have them. Faithful industry and
attention we may demand, haste we have no right to ask. But our men
actually hurried. We were instant in season and out of season, and can
testify, with both hands in our empty pockets, that there was not an
hour wasted. Yet our full-blown hopes fell, as the roses fall, leaf by
leaf; drop by drop our patience ebbed, till, ere the close of the
week, we sank slowly down on a pile of black-walnut shavings in the
calmness of despair.

To make a long story short, we gave up, beaten, trespassed a week on
our long-suffering hostess, then went to visit our rich relations.
They were glad to see us when we came, and wondered how long we were
going to stay. We thought best to let them wonder, which they did for
the space of a few weeks, when we folded our nightgowns and silently
stole--not the spoons, but ourselves--away.

We mentioned the calmness of despair. From that depth it is often but
a single step to the serenity of faith, on which sublime height not
the wreck of matter and the crush of worlds hath power to vex or make
afraid, much less a few pine shavings and the want of a little paint.
Despair is never endless; it's a short-lived emotion at the worst, a
selfish one at the best. Moralizing thus, it was by some means
revealed to us that people are happy in paying twenty-five dollars a
week at Martha's Vineyard and Mount Desert for the blessed privilege
of living in unfinished and unfurnished rooms,--breathing plenty of
fresh air, typhoid malaria thrown in,--and eating such food as the
uncertain winds and waves may waft thither. If at Mount Desert why not
at Rock Rimmon, especially as the cost is somewhat less, the fresh air
equally abundant, with nothing more malarious than the pungent perfume
of the pines, and all the products of the civilized world within easy
reach? Moreover, our third, fourth, and fifth stories--the floor of
the latter just above the ridge pole, its ceiling just beyond the
stars--were, for all purposes of use and comfort, ready for
occupation. So we entered, hung up our hats, and told the busy
builders we had come to stay.

Which we have done; and now it's the first of October. The leaves are
falling, the rooks are calling, the crickets are crawling, and the
katydids are--well, squalling. There's a work-bench bigger than Noah's
ark in the drawing-room, another in the library, next size larger,
five tool-chests in as many different rooms, a thousand feet of lumber
in the front hall, and nine hundred and thirty-seven different colored
paint-pots in the guest-room,--more or less. We pry into cupboards and
drawers with our finger-nails, we keep next the wall going up stairs,
draw water through a straw, and to open doors we thrust a square stick
through a round hole and twist and turn till the stick breaks or the
door opens. Generally the stick breaks.

But we are no longer desperate. The sound of the builder's axe and
hammer mingles harmoniously with the rattling of dishes and the
drumming of the piano. A profound peace possesses our souls, for
Nature's own infinite glory is around us, and we go from our castle in
Spain to our cottage by the sea, from our house of active industry to
our restful home in the New Jerusalem, with the opening and the
closing of a door. We are not anxious or impatient, being well
assured that steadfast industry will finally conquer and our house be
finished as far as mortal house should be. Which leads us to remark
just here, that a man ought never to think his house is quite
complete; he will not, if he is wise, and grows as long as he lives.
Our present point is the inevitable delay in the outward finishing to
which home building is especially subject,--a difficulty familiar to
all who have tried it, but which people cannot always get out of by
jumping squarely into it as we have done.

There are various reasons for it. A superficial view of building is
one. The masons are scarcely noticed before the foundation-walls are
laid; the walls shoot up in a single day; the roof spreads its saving
shelter as easily as though it were a huge umbrella; the windows open
their eyes in new-born wonder; the chimneys breathe the blue breath
of home life out into the world; the painter touches the clapboards
with his magic wand; and, with one accord, all men cry out, and
especially all women, "Wal, I do declare! That air house goes up in a
hurry, don't it? Guess there hain't much but green lumber gone into
that. Folks'll be movin' in 'n a few days. Ketch me goin' into a house
like that! I'd a good deal druther live in an old house than die in a
new one."

But, for some reason, the folks don't move in. Week after week passes
without visible change till we hear no more of haste, but owner and
neighbors grow impatient, and can't for their lives see why that house
wa'n't done weeks and weeks ago! In point of fact, when it appeared
almost wholly built, it was hardly begun. The work thus far had been
of the sort that can be quickly executed, much of it done by
machinery. Even after the plastering is dry, the floors laid, the
windows in, and perhaps the greater part of the interior woodwork in
place, the actual labor of finishing is but fairly begun.

Changes always cause delay more or less serious. Whoever makes
alterations in his house builds four houses. There is the first doing
it, which is one; then there is the "cussing and discussing," the
hesitating and final deciding to make the change, equivalent, at least
in time and nervous wear and tear, to the original work, which is two;
the undoing is three; and the final adjusting it to your mind is four.
Woe to him by whom the change cometh, but come it will. It can be
wholly avoided only by having things done as you do not want them and
will never be satisfied to leave them. Of course, the want of plans is
a fruitful source of alterations. We are too modest and too sensible
to say all plans should be drawn by an architect, but carefully
prepared they must be, and, what is commonly more difficult,
thoroughly understood by the party most interested, that is, the
owner.

Another reason why the lengthened sweetness of finishing is so long
drawn out comes from the constant increase of "modern
improvements,"--accessories deemed essential to the completeness of
home comfort and convenience. Nowhere is the fertility of inventive
genius more apparent than in these household appliances, to all of
which the apostolic injunction applies, "Prove and hold fast the
good." Hold fast and be grateful, for they are the world's best
benefactors whose work makes happier homes.


THE END.


Cambridge: Electrotyped and Printed by Welch, Bigelow, & Co.





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