One of the tributaries of the mainstream of medieval craftsmanship flowed through the hands of peasants, who, with no formal training, graced the European countryside with their unpretentious cottages. It's an appearance of spontaneous and natural craft. A look the drawing board and tee square rarely achieves. The unselfconscious, delightful simplicity that radiates from these pastoral, vernacular dwellings has captured people for centuries. The peasants intuitive skill at beautifying the utilitarian is no where more evident than in the cottages' thatch roofs, with their undulating roof lines which roll gently over the irregular contours. It seems to have a way of making a building an integral part of the landscape. In the 1920's, when English Tudor, French Norman and Costwold design first came into prominence in this country, the European cottage style was also transplanted and took root. Since water reed thatch is a native plant to many parts of Europe, but rare in the United States, a building product indigenous to North America ~ Western Red Cedar ~ was used as a roof covering to create a "thatch effect" roof. A company headquartered in the Buffalo, New York area, called Creo-Dipt, pioneered the concept. They designed a framing system that produced all the rounded configurations of a thatch roof, and appeared in various architectural catalogues of their day.
We were awarded a U.S. patent for our steam-bending equipment. We had revived a lost art."
They also manufactured a bent shingle made from western red cedar, which was used on the rounded area of the roof. The courses of shingles, rather than being laid in straight lines, were run in long, irregular waves to simulate the texture of thatch. Creo-Dipt's detailing was excellent and their attempt to reproduce the flowing roof lines of the thatched European cottage was very successful. Before long, their "thatch effect" roofs were being constructed all over the United States. They soon had manufacturing plants in different parts of the country, as well as distributorships through regional lumberyards. But alas, the Great Depression did the company in, but not America's love for the European cottage. In the early 1980's these original cottage roofs were worn out and many homeowners, desperate to stop leaks, re-roofed with composition shingles - a gross imitation of the natural beauty of the original wood roofs, not to mention the drastic deviation from the European thatched cottage they were designed to emulate. Many homeowners, realizing the architectural significance of their homes, patched and plugged leaks waiting for a roofer to come along who would accept the challenge of restoring their roofs.
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