Long Beach California
The crowning feature of this Long Beach cottage is its original “seawave” roof, which has miraculously survived the assault of both fire ordinances and roofing contractors. With its rolled eaves, lovingly crafted shingles, and exceptionally prominent “eyebrow” dormer, it is among the best-preserved examples of the art of Storybook roof-building.
Shingles and shakes are the most common roof materials seen on Storybook Style homes. Shingles (which differ from shakes in being sawn rather than split) date back to medieval times, when they were often cut from the sapwood of species such as oak, beech, and chestnut, the heartwood being reserved for framing timbers. Storybook Style builders treated shingles and shakes--both modestly-priced materials--with refreshing creativity, installing them in a host of delightful patterns meant to evoke the naive rural architecture of medieval times. The butt ends of shingles were purposely misaligned or placed on a bias, while the spacing of courses was varied either regularly or randomly. Roofing contractors specialized in offset or undulating patterns with names such as “stagger” and “sea-wave”. In a final medievalizing flourish, some shingle roofs adapted the rural French practice of capping the hips and ridges of slate roofs with a row of clay barrel tiles.
The level of skill exhibited in such roofing work is truly remarkable: shingles meant to emulate thatch were carefully wrapped over rolled eaves, or puckered around eyebrow windows as bark grows around a knot-hole. Lamentably, due to haphazard workmanship, replacements roofs seldom achieve the original standard of quality.
After Storybook Style styles entered the housing mainstream following the Depression, shrinking construction budgets curtailed much of these whimsical roof details. Seldom could builders indulge in artful imitations such as rolled eaves to suggest thatch, let alone employ costly materials such as slate. Tar-an