Territorial Style, c. 1880

historic moldings

This post submitted through the generosity of the good folks at Lazy Gardens.

These (moldings) are in an early 1880’s adobe house in New Mexico.

Totally flat, wide, butt-jointed wood, and 100% original. There was never any detailing, there are no scars or traces of anything except several generations of doors and door stops.

Under all that paint it appears to have been painted or stained with “Asphaltum” because it’s deep black-brown and soaked into the wood. My testing with paint-strippers got to that layer and quit.

wood floor installation

We may frou-frou it up a bit around the door casings, like the original builder would have if they had the time and money to do so.

— Lazy Gardens

From Ken

A Bit About Adobe Homes

If you’re not familiar with Southwest home construction techniques, then you may not know that an adobe home is made from mud bricks. And boy are they hot in the Sonoran Desert summer. Like living in an oven!

I’ve lived in two such historic homes, and neither one had any moldings at all, save the hand-hewn lintels — usually made from mesquite or ironwood — over the doors and windows.

The adobe homes I lived in did have other charms to make up for the lack of architectural detailing, like tin roofs that sounded wonderful in the rain, adorable pack rats scampering around in the rafters; gila monsters and rattlesnakes curled up on the doorstep and mischievous coatimundis trying to climb up to the bird feeder.

But the lucky Lazy Gardens folks have wonderfully representative moldings of a Southwestern ranch house.

They are very similar to the moldings I’ve seen in other New Mexico historic homes that continue in this style, virtually unchanged, until the early 1930’s, the height of the North American Craftsman movement.

That means you can classify simple, flat-stock moldings like these as either Southwestern Territorial or Craftsman style.

The Railroad Brings the Moldings

From what I’ve seen, moldings, simple or fancy, do not appear in the Southwest until after the railroad arrived in that area.

New Mexico had plenty of timber mills where a millwork company could get locally available raw material (like in Cloudcroft), so it’s no surprise that Lazy Gardens has moldings.

But even in Tucson, where people still live in adobe homes built during¬†the mid – late 1700’s, molding upgrades were installed in old homes as new materials became available.

For example, the adobe homes you find in Tucson’s historic Barrio Viejo or El Presidio neighborhoods were not originally built with the colorfully painted Greek Revival door and window surrounds¬†(external link) this area is so famous for.

What I’m getting at is this: You are upgrading your moldings just like people everywhere have been doing for as long as there have been moldings to upgrade.

You a sharing a very human desire with them; the desire to live surrounded by things that are beautiful and help contribute to the sense that you are living a meaningful life. In this case, it’s moldings that give the meaning.

I sure hope that the Lazy Gardens folks send us some pictures of their completed project. Good luck to you!

Related Reading

PZ Ranch House Moldings

Craftsman Moldings & Crepes in Tucson’s Cafe Marcel