This post focuses on a familiar but mostly overlooked decorative accoutrement – window shutters. Before I get to the multiplicity of shutters I’ve laid eyes on while riding around St. Paul, here’s a bit of historical context.
A Brief History of Shutters
According to several websites, shutters first appeared in ancient Greece; constructed of marble with unmovable louvers. The louvers allowed air to flow into homes while offering some relief from insects and the hot Mediterranean sun.
Over time wood replaced marble as the favored material for exterior shutters. Then moveable louvers became commonplace. In Medieval Europe – before windows had glass – wood shutters provided security, privacy and insulation, especially in colder climates. Glass windows were introduced in the late 1400s but the expense limited its use for a couple hundred years.
The Spanish imported shutters to what we know as the Americas in the 1800s. By the middle of the 19th century, period homes (Gothic Revival and Italianate-style) in the U.S. were frequently clad in dark colored – forest green, brown, and black – shutters. The color choices were primarily aesthetic. When open, shutters and matching sashes presented a consistent look. When closed over windows, it created for passersby the impression of darkened windows. In the late 1800s, the variety of shutter colors expanded to include several earth tones.
Shutters remained popular for much of the first half of the 1900s, although in most cases, at least in the Midwest, their purpose morphed from functional to decorative. In the later couple of decades of the 20th century, other materials – vinyl, aluminum, fiberglass and most recently, wood-plastic composites – began to supplant wood for shutter construction.
Notes About St. Paul Shutters
More houses have shutters than I expected. Shutters more frequently adorn homes of certain architectural styles, such as Cape Cod, Dutch Colonial and ramblers (a.k.a. ranch.) Of course, that statement is based on my random, unscientific observations. Starting and finishing every ride in St. Paul’s southwest corner means I most frequently ride through Highland Park and Macalester-Groveland while visits to Highwood and the East Side are significantly less frequent. I’ve organized the photos of shutters by neighborhood. So, with the history lesson and background complete, let’s sample the shutters in St. Paul.
Click on any picture to enlarge it.
Greater East Side
St. Anthony Park
West End a.k.a. West 7th
As you’ve seen, there’s a fascinating variety of style and flourishes on shutters around town, even in the small sample here. I’ll keep looking for others as I ride on. So concludes the first, but likely not the last, shutter sampler.