Ferrebeekeeper has a longstanding obsession with Gothic concepts and forms. We have explored the long strange historical roots of the Goths (which stretched back to the time of the Roman Empire and the northern corners of Europe), and looked at Gothic aesthetics ranging from clocks, to beds, to gates, to houses, to alphabets, to cathedrals. Today’s Gothic-themed post straddles the divide between literature and architecture. We already saw such a two discipline dynamic at work with the beginning of the Gothic revival, an aesthetic movement which grew up out of a popular novel The Castle of Otranto.
The term “Steamboat Gothic” is sort of a reverse case. In 1952, Frances Parkinson Keyes published “Steamboat Gothic” a long-winded romantic novel about the lives and loves of a riverboat gambler and his progeny as they pursue their fortunes over generations beside the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. After the novel came out the great 19th century wedding cake mansions of columns and porches which stood along these rivers came to be known as “steamboat gothic.” This beautiful filigree style was thought to resemble the many tiered decks of great southern steamboats from the belle epoque of river travel.
Many different Victorian design trends come together in “steamboat gothic”–the Italianate, Gothic revival, and Carpenter’s Gothic mix together with style trends like Greek revival and “nautical.” The mixture simultaneously evokes the beauties of classical antiquity, the ante-bellum south, and 19th century middle America.
Look at these beautiful porches and porticoes. I wish I were on the veranda of one of these beauties sipping lemonade and looking out over the river (although really I would probably be being bitten by mosquitoes as I desperately painted yet another layer of snow white paint on a big empty house).