January 9, 2020

Check Out This Online Encyclopedia of U.S. Architecture

  • By: Priya Chhaya

Any architecture lovers out there who want to fall down an Internet rabbit hole today? Then dive into the SAH Archipedia, an online encyclopedia about the built environment of the United States.

Organized by the Society of Architectural Historians and the University of Virginia Press, SAH Archipedia contains histories, photographs, and maps for over 20,000 structures. In addition to individual entries, the site allows visitors to filter sites based on location, style, or building type.

Connecting the dots from place to place to show the history and diversity of architecture and building practice across the country. I started out looking at sites by Julia Morgan, before wandering over to see all the sites that have courtyards, then to all the buildings built in the 1880s. But if that’s not enough for you, SAH Archipedia also has essays on a wide variety of topics such as “Women and Delaware Architecture,” “Slave Houses and Plantation Landscapes” " or for the Modernism lover, “Googie Architecture.”

Below we’ve shared just a sample of what SAH Archipedia offers. Let’s see where you end up!

View of the Musée Culturel du Mont-Carmel in Grand Isle, Maine.

photo by: Don Cyr

Musée Culturel du Mont-Carmel (1910, Maine)

Located on the gorgeous Grand Isle in Maine, this Acadian French Catholic Church is a rare surviving example of a St. John Valley Church. Designed by Léonide Gagné, this former church is built out of clapboard with a stone foundation and a decorative facade. Founded in 1848, the church closed in 1978 due to high maintenance costs. In 1979 it was sold to a nonprofit which restored the building into a museum of Acadian history and culture.

View of the Prairie Homestead in Philip, SD.

photo by: Michelle L. Dennis

Prairie Homestead (1909, South Dakota)

Built in 1909, The Prairie Homestead, located near the Badlands in South Dakota, is a well-preserved example of an early settlement era house and farm. Originally on land set aside as an Indian reservation, this homestead was built by Ed and Alice Brown after they appropriated the the land following the Homestead Act. The Prairie Homestead includes examples of three types of prairie dwellings—the dugout, the sod house, and the claim shanty.

An image of the Espada Aqueduct in San Antonio, TX.

photo by: Carol M. Highsmith, Library of Congress

Espada Aquaduct and Dam (1745, Texas)

Located in San Antonio, Texas to the north of Mission Espada,are the remnants of an extensive system of water control and irrigation planned and constructed by the monks who lived in the missions along the banks of the San Antonio River. The system extended 15 miles and irrigated 3,500 acres of land. Built in the 18th century, the Espada Aqueduct and Dam (a National Historic Landmark) continues to carry water into the fields, even though the main current of the river has been diverted to protect the system.

Exterior view of the Wells Fargo Bank in Casper, WY.

photo by: Mary M. Humstone

Wells Fargo Bank (1964, Wyoming)

Designed by Denver architect Charles Deaton, the Wyoming National Bank Building opened in 1964. Now a Wells Fargo Bank, the design has a domed rotunda dubbed by local residents as “the peeled orange.” Like much of Deaton’s work, this structure is dramatic and futuristic consisting of 17 (44 foot tall) leaf-like segments cast in concrete on site. The time-temperature pylon was built in 1968 to the north of the bank building.

Exterior view of the Dar Al Islam Islamic Education Center in Abiquiu, New Mexico.

photo by: Lillian M. Makeda

Dar al Islam Islamic Education Center (1980, New Mexico)

Designed by the Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy, this mosque and education center was built using a combination of New Mexican and North African traditions of adobe construction. Envisioned as a residential community for American Muslims, Fathy designed Dar al Islam to be built using mud bricks without formwork, bringing people from around the United States and Mexico who wanted to learn the traditional practices of Egyptian mud-brick building. The completed structure is a combination of Fathy’s original design with the addition of pumice bricks and foam insulation. Inside, the mosque and other buildings include vaults and domes with Byzantine and Egyptian influence.

Exterior view of the Cincinnati Museum Center in Cincinnati, OH.

photo by: Richard W. Burry - Volunteer Photography Group

Cincinnati Museum Center (1933, Ohio)

Originally Cincinnati Union Terminal, this example of Art Deco architecture was recently rehabilitated into the Cincinnati Museum Center. Built between 1927-1933, this station consists of an impressive rotunda (180 feet wide and 106 high) with murals depicting the history and evolution of Cincinnati life. In 2014 Union Terminal, named a National Treasure ofthe National Trust, was protected for future generations following a ballot initiative to complete the rehabilitation work. Today it stands as a dynamic cultural institution and a National Historic Landmark housing the Cincinnati Historical Society Library and Museum, Cincinnati Museum of Natural History and Science, and Children’s Museum, while also continuing to serve as an operating train station.

Captions adapted and excerpted from site descriptions on SAH Archipedia.

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While her day job is the associate director of content at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Priya spends other waking moments musing, writing, and learning about how the public engages and embraces history.

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