TEXT BY JULIE SENK
PHOTOGRAPHED BY TARA RICE
From our Fall 2022 issue
John H. Gordon was an established newspaper printer and photographer when he moved to the rural village of Brooks in the early 1860s. There, he opened a general store, then a clothing manufacturing business that, at its peak, produced more than 500 pairs of pants a day. In his spare time, Gordon developed patents, including a shoe blacking, an umbrella holder for carriages, and a whiffletree that unharnessed a horse from a wagon when one tugged on a strap. Gordon’s penchant for innovation extended to his 1886 residence, assembled using a rare technique known as crib construction.
With its walls composed of thin, tightly stacked boards, the John H. Gordon House is thought to be one of only a handful of crib-constructed buildings remaining in the country. The assembly ostensibly created fewer air gaps in a home, providing weather- and fireproofing, but fell out of favor around the turn of the 20th century, when more modern insulation methods were introduced. The exterior combines an Italianate-inspired square tower with Queen Anne styling seen in patterned wooden shingles, turned porch supports, and decorative brackets. Inside you’ll find hardwood floors, including parquet in the entry and living room, molded window and door trim, and a central staircase with a carved newel post.
The siding, trim, and eaves should be inspected for rot and repaired, and the porch needs refinishing. The roof is due for new shingles and the brick foundation on the eastern side of the house should be replaced. Inside, plan to refinish walls and floors and repair some of the ceilings. The kitchen could use some updates, save for a magnificent wood-burning cookstove. Consider adding storm windows to preserve the historic wooden windows and improve the home’s energy efficiency.