Various Slate Colours and Designs in History

North American architects designing in the Queen Anne mode from the mid-1870s shared the English preference for one-colour red roofs. The shift in focus appeared in the pattern books as early as 1878. Modern Dwellings, based on a scribes of designs Henry Hudson Holly had published in Harper’s Magazine, noted, “Red for roofs seems to be growing much in favor.” It added that introduction of several colours was “objectionable, as it is apt to destroy the repose, and appear frivolous.” Unlike their English counterparts, architects in the United States and Canada had access to the red slates of the New York/Vermont slate belt as well as black, grey, variegated, fading and unfading green slates for a new roof. Because of its proven experience and its availability in a wide range of colour, slate was always more accepted than tile for roofing Queen Anne buildings on this side of the Atlantic. Many designs for the famous American Shingle Style, a Shavian (Norman Shaw) inspired mode named forВ its indigenous exterior cladding, also called for slate roofs but one colour was de rigueur.

By December 1884 the change in slating taste was receiving notice in Colour effects are not nearly so popular with present architectural styles as they were formerly … The tendency [now] seems to be to use a single colour of slate, or at most two shades of the same general colour, and to obtain the principal effect by judicious combination of patterns. Canadian slated buildings of Queen Anne Revival influence, the largest stylistic grouping with slate roofs recorded by CIHB, reflect the one-colour roofs typical of the mode. Colour verification of a selection of black and white inventory photos indicated the predominant use of black slate. This finding is consistent with the fact that during this period the Canadian slate roofing tiles industry, which produced blue-black slate, was at its height. In the 1889 Montreal residence commissioned by Senator George Drummond, President of the New Rockland Slate Company, the steep black slate roof with its many turrets and gables was combined with rock-faced red sandstone walls. As a rule, however, the black slate-roofed Queen Anne buildings of Canada were brick houses situated in Ontario. Slating typically capped a building of brick walls trimmed with stone and tiled or decoratively shingled gables.

The polychrome slate roof represented the antithesis of the subtle layering of materials and colours the Queen Anne mode was to convey. It, nevertheless, appeared on a Queen Anne-inspired Chatcauguay, residence in one of the most picturesque, if stylistically atypical, slate roofs of this study.

Red slate roofs emerged on Canadian Queen Anne Revival buildings of Richardsonian Romanesque influence. It is a moot point whether such buildings should be labelled Queen Anne or Richardsonian. Architect H.H. Richardson was in the forefront of the aesthetic movement in the United States and created the first Shavian manor in American materials. He increasingly drew inspiration from French forms and boldly employed stone in the development of a highly personal style identified by pyramidal massing, and arcaded quarry-faced masonry walls. The features of Richardson Romanesque became the decorative cliches for public building all over North America and in the domestic sphere were liberally mixed with the Queen Anne mode. Many of these hybrid residences were slated black or grey but red became a favorite of those built with red or buff sandstone.

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