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When dealing with architecture, older buildings and historic preservation, there are many terms used for describing, explaining and referencing architectural features and also terms used by the of the city of Cedar Rapids' building, zoning, and HPC.  We have included a glossary of terms which will help you when trying to find a definition for terms used with older architecture and also terms used by our city offices.
i.e.  CONFIGURATION:  The arrangement of elements and details on a building or structure which help to define its character.
i.e.  HIPPED ROOF:  A roof with uniform sloping on all sides.

GLossAry of terms

Glossary of Terms
Unless specifically defined below, words or phrases in this Design Guideline Manual shall be interpreted in accordance with definitions contained in the City of Cedar Rapids Code of Ordinances and Zoning Definitions and Webster’s Dictionary.


Adaptive Use (Adaptive Re-use) -  Rehabilitation of a historic structure for use other than its original use
such as a residence converted into offices. Changing an existing building to accommodate a new function. See also Re-use.


Addition - New construction added to an existing building or structure.

Alteration -  Any act or process that changes one or more of the exterior architectural features of a structure, including, but not limited to, the erection, construction, reconstruction, addition, sandblasting, water blasting, chemical cleaning, chemical stripping, or removal of any structure, but not including changes to the color of exterior paint.

Appropriate - Especially suitable or compatible. Arch Curved construction which spans an opening and supports the weight above it. See flat arch, segmental arch, and semi-circular arch.

Attic - An upper level of a building, not of full ceiling height, directly beneath the roof.

Awning - A roof-like cover, temporary in nature, which projects from the wall of a building.

Balustrade - A railing held up by balusters.

Bargeboard - (Baluster One -  of a series of small, vertical members used to support the upper rail of a railing.
Vergeboard) A board which hangs from the outside rafters of a gable roof, and is often sawn into a decorative pattern.


Base - The lowest of three principal parts of a column; the lowest part of a wall or pier.

Bay - The portion of a facade between columns or piers providing regular divisions.  Bay window A projecting window that

forms an extension to the floor space of the internal rooms. See also Oriel window.

Belt - course A horizontal band of stone or brick on the exterior wall of a building, usually marks the floor levels.

Board and Batten -  Siding fashioned of boards set vertically and covered where their edges join by narrow strips called battens.

Bond - Anything that holds two or more objects together, including the pattern of interlocking units and joints in a masonry structure; the connection between masonry units or the unit and the mortar bed.

Bracket - A projecting segment, often decorative, usually of masonry or wood.

Bulkhead - The vertical panels below display windows on storefronts. Bulkheads can be both supportive and decorative in design.

Capital - The top part of a column or pilaster.  Casement window.  A window with one or two sashes that opens with hinges at the side(s).

Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) - A certificate issued by the building of official or the Cedar Rapids Preservation Commission indicating its approval of plans for alteration, construction, or removal or demolition of a landmark or of a structure within a historic district.

Certified Local Government (CLG) - Any city, county, parish, township, municipality, or borough or any other general purpose subdivision enacted by the National Preservation Act Amendments of 1980 to further delegate responsibilities and funding to the local level.

Character Distinctive - traits or qualities and attributes in any structure, site, street or district.

Clapboards - Narrow wooden boards, thinner at the top edge, which are placed horizontally, overlapping to provide a weather-proof exterior wall surface.

Classical order - The combination of column and entablature components used in a classical style; each has a column with a base, shaft, and capital.  The most common orders are: Doric, Tuscan, City of Aurora - Historic Districts and Landmarks Guidelines
Ionic, Corinthian, or Composite, each order has its own rules of proportion for the various elements.  

Clipped gable - A gable roof where the ends of the ridge are terminated in a small, diagonal roof surface. Column A circular or square free standing vertical structural member.

Compatible - In harmony with location and surroundings. 

Composite order A - classical order with a capital combining scroll-like ionic order, and the decorative leaves of the Corinthian order.

Configuration  - The arrangement of elements and details on a building or structure which help to define its character.

Context -The setting in which a historic element, site, structure, street, or district exists.


Corbeling - Courses of masonry set with each course stepped forward supporting an element.


Corinthian Order  - The most ornate of the classical orders characterized by a column decorated with
acanthus leaves.


Cornice  - The uppermost, projecting part of an entablature, or feature resembling it.  Any projecting ornamental molding along the top of a wall, or portion of a wall or building, on a porch, etc.

Cresting - An ornamental ridge along the top of a wall or roof, often made of metal.

Cross-gable - A secondary gable roof which meets the main roof at right angles.

 Demolition - Any act or process that destroys in part or in whole a landmark or a structure within a historic district.

Dentils - A row of small decorative blocks alternating with blank spaces in a classical cornice.

Design guidelines - The “Standards for Rehabilitation and Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings”
as adopted by the Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior, and other guidelines which
are adopted as necessary by the City to exemplify the standards deemed appropriate for Restoration,
Rehabilitation, and Preservation of historic structures.


Doric order  - The simplest of the classical orders with simple, unadorned capitals fluted (with vertical grooves) columns and no base.

Dormer window - A window set upright in a sloping roof.

Double-hung window - A window with two sashes, one sliding vertically over the other.

Eave  - The lower edge of a roof that projects beyond the face of a wall. Element A material part or detail of a site, structure, street, or district.

Elevation - Any one of the external faces or facades of a building.

Ell - The wing of a house, generally one room wide and running perpendicular to the principal building.

Engaged column - A round column attached to a wall.

Entablature - In classical architecture, the full band of horizontal elements above the column


Fabric - The physical material of a building, structure, or community, connoting an interweaving of
component parts.


Facade - Any one of the external faces or elevations of a building. See also primary façade and
secondary façade.


Fanlight - A semi-circular or fan-shaped window set over a door with radiating muntins.

Fascia - A projecting flat horizontal band; forms the trim of a flat roof or a pitched roof.

Fenestration - The arrangement of windows on a building facade.

Finial -  A projecting decorative element, at the top of an object; such as a fence post, weather vane,
roof turret or gable.


Fishscale shingles - A decorative pattern of wall shingles composed of staggered horizontal rows of
wooden shingles with half-round ends.


Flashing Sheets - usually metal, used to weatherproof
joints or edges especially on a roof.


Flat arch - An arch whose wedge-shaped stones or bricks are set with a straight bottom edge; also called
a jack arch.


Foundation - The base of a building that rests directly on earth and carries the load of the structure above.

Frieze - The middle portion of a classical cornice; also applied decorative elements on an entablature or
parapet wall.


Gable - The triangular section of an exterior wall supporting a pitched roof.

Gable roof - A pitched roof with one downward slope on either side of a central, horizontal ridge, forming a gable at each end.

Gambrel roof -  A pitched roof with two slopes on each side of the ridge.

Half-timbering - Timber frame wall construction with spaces between timbers filled with brick, stone,
stucco, etc.


Harmony - Pleasing or agreeable; a congruent arrangement.

Height - The distance from the bottom to the top of a building or structure.

Hipped roof - A roof with uniform sloping on all sides.

Historic District - An area designated as a “historic district” by ordinance of the city council and which
may contain within definable geographic boundaries one or more landmarks and which may have within its boundaries other proportions or structures that, while not of such historic or architectural significance to be designated as landmarks, never the less contribute to the overall historic or architectural characteristics of the historic district.


Historic imitation (historic replica)  - New construction or rehabilitation where elements, components, or
buildings mimic an architectural style but are not of the same historic period as the original being mimicked.


Hood molding - A projecting molding above an arch, door, or window, also called a drip mold.

Infill - New construction where there had been an opening before, such as a new building between
two older structures; or block Infill between porch piers or in an original window opening.


Ionic order -  One of the classical orders, it has decorative capitals with volutes, scroll-like ornaments, which turn downward.

Jack arch See flat arch.

Keystone - The central topmost element of an arch.

Landmark A property, structure or natural object designated as a “landmark” by ordinance of the
city council, pursuant to procedures prescribed in this title, that is wor thy of rehabilitation, restoration and preservation because of its historic or architectural significance to the city.


Landscape - The whole of the exterior environment of a site, district, or region, including landforms, trees and plants, rivers and lakes, and the built environment.

Lattice - An openwork grill (diagonal or vertical and horizontal) of wood strips used as screening.

Lintel - The horizontal support member above a window, door, or other openings.

Maintain - To keep in an existing state of preservation or repair.

Mansard roof  - A roof with two slopes on all four sides, with the lower slope steeper than the upper.

Masonry - Construction of brick, stone or terra cotta laid up in units.

Massing - The three-dimensional form of a building.

Material Change - A change that will affect either the exterior architectural or environmental features of an
historic property or any structure, site, or work of art within a historic district.
Modillion An ornamental bracket used in a series under a cornice and sometimes supporting the cornice.
Mortar - A mixture of sand, lime, cement, and water used as a binding agent in masonry construction.


Mullion - A vertical divider between individual windows or doors.

Multi-light - A window sash or door light composed of more than one pane of glass.

Muntin - A secondary framing member to divide and hold the individual panes of glass.

Neighborhood Committee - A subcommittee of the Preservation Commission comprised of neighborhood
residents and commission members created to provide recommendations to the full commission and expedite the COA review process.


New construction - Construction which is characterized by the introduction of new elements, sites, buildings, or structures or additions to existing buildings and structures in historic areas and districts.

Normally required - Mandatory actions, summarized in the guidelines, whose compliance is enforced by the Cedar Rapids Preservation Commission.

Obscured Covered - concealed, or hidden from view.

Oriel window - A bay window built out from the wall resting on a bracket or corbel.

Palladian window - A window opening with three parts, the central one arched and wider than the rectangular flanking ones. The tops of the flanking windows align
with the base of the arch.


Paneled door - A door composed of solid panels (either raised or recessed) held within a framework of rails and stiles.

Parapet - A low wall at the edge of a roof.

Pediment - A triangular element formed by the gable of a roof; any similar triangular element used over windows, doors, etc.

Pier  - A square or rectangular column.

Pilaster -  A square pillar attached to a wall.

Pitch - The slope of a roof.

Porch - A roofed space, open or partly enclosed, often at a building entrance, often with columns and a pediment, and generally with support piers but occasionally with a full foundation.

Portico - A porch or ambulatory, supported by columns on at least on the side, especially at the main entrance to a building in the Greek, Roman, or Neoclassical style.

Portland cement  - A strong, inflexible cement used to bind mortar. Mortar or patching materials with a
high Portland cement content should not be used on pre-1920 buildings. (The Portland cement is harder
than the earlier masonry, causing serious damage over time.)


Preservation - Generally, saving from destruction or deterioration old and historic buildings, sites, structures, and objects and providing for their continued use by means of restoration, rehabilitation, or adaptive use.

Pressed tin -  Decorative and functional metalwork made of stamped tin used to sheath roofs, bays, and


Primary façade - The front-facing façade; the façade that faces the street and has the primary entrance.
For buildings with the entry on a side façade or buildings sited on a corner, the side façade with entry
and the street facing side façade and are considered as primary facades. See also Façade and Secondary façade.


Proportion - The harmonious relation of parts to one another or to the whole.

Pyramidal roof  - A roof with four identical sides rising to a central peak.

Quoins - Units of stone or bricks used to accentuate the corners of a building.

Rail - A horizontal member of a railing or fence; may support vertical elements. Also, a main horizontal
member of a door or window.


Recommended - Suggested, but not mandatory actions summarized in the guidelines.

Reconstruction - The act or process of reproducing by new construction the exact form and detail of a vanished building, structure, or object, or a part thereof, as it appeared at a specific period of time.

Rehabilitation - The process of returning a property to a state of utility, through repair or alteration, which
makes possible an efficient contemporary use while preserving those portions and features of the property which are significant to its historic, architectural and cultural values.


Replication - Creating an object that is an exact imitation of a historic architectural style or period.

Restoration - The act or process of accurately taking a building’s appearance back to a specific period of time by removing later work and by replacing missing earlier features to match the original.

Retain - To keep secure and intact. In these guidelines, “retain” and “maintain” describe the act of keeping an element, detail, or str ucture and continuing the same level of repair to aid in preservation of elements, sites and structures.

Re-use - To use again. An element, detail, or structure might be reused in historic districts. See also Adaptive


Rhythm -  Regular occurrence of elements or features such as spacing between buildings.

Ridge -  The top horizontal member of a roof where the sloping surfaces meet.

Room - An enclosure or division of a house separated from other divisions, designed to be habitable four seasons a year and fully heated.

Rustication - Masonry cut in massive blocks separated by deep joints.

Sash - The framework containing the glass in a window.  Scale Proportional elements that demonstrate the size, materials, and style of buildings.

Secondary façade - A facade other than the primary façade. A facade that does not face a street or does not have the primary entrance. See also Façade and Primary façade.

Segmental arch  - An arch whose profile is less than a semicircle. Semi-circular arch An arch whose profile is a half-circle.

Setting - The attributes of a locality, neighborhood, or property that defines its character.

Shake - A split (by hand) rather than sawn wood shingle.

Sheathing - An exterior covering of boards or other surface applied to the frame of the structure. See Siding.

Shed roof  - A low-pitched roof with only one slope.

Shingles - A thin piece of wood, slate, asphalt, etc. laid with others in a series of overlapping rows covering the roof or sides of a house. In early 1800s the shingles were hand split. Today, hand-split shingles are called shakes.

Sidelight - A vertical area of fixed glass on either side of a door or window.

Siding- The exterior wall covering (sheathing) of a structure.

Significant - Having particularly important associations within the contexts of architecture, history,
and culture. The importance of an element, building or a site , owing to its involvement with a significant
event, person, or time period, or as an example of an architectural style. Also historically significant.


Sill - The projecting horizontal base of a window or door, may be of any material, angled to repel water.
Also, the horizontal piece of lumber, or built-up section that rests on the foundation and forms the base
for the wood frame in construction.


Soffit - The horizontal underside of an eave or cornice. Spindles Slender wood dowels or rods turned on a
lathe often used in screens and porch trim. See also baluster.


Stabilization - The act or process of applying measures essential to the maintenance of a deteriorated
building as it exists at present, establishing str uctural stability and a weather-resistant enclosure.


Standing seam roof - A sheet metal roof with vertical folded seams joining adjacent flat panels; the parallel
seams run along the slope.


Stile - One of the main vertical members of a millwork frame to which the others are attached; the ver tical
framing members at the edge of a door or window.


Streetscape - The distinguishing character of a particular street as created by its width, degree of curvature, paving materials, design of the street furniture, and forms of surrounding buildings.

Stucco - An exterior finish usually textured; composed of Por tland cement, lime, and sand mixed with


Style - A type of architecture distinguished by special characteristics of str ucture and or nament and often
related in time; also a general quality of a distinctive character.


Surround - An encircling border or decorative frame, usually at windows or doors.

Swag - Carved ornament in the for m of a cloth draped over supports, or in the for m of a garland of fruits
and flowers.


Ter ricotta - A fine-grained, fired clay material used for decorative masonry, often used in imitation of


Transom  - An opening above a door or window.

Trim - The decorative framing of openings and other


Turret - A small tower projecting from a building usually at a corner.

Tuscan order - The simplest order of the classical styles.

Verge board See Bargeboard.

Vernacular – A regional form or adaptation of a traditional architectural style; a building built withour being designed by an architect or someone with similar formal training.

Wall dormer  -A dormer created by the upward extension of a wall and a breaking of the roofline.

Water table - A projecting horizontal ledge, intended to prevent water from r running down the face of a wall’s lower section.

Weatherboard - Wood siding consisting of overlapping boards usually thicker at one edge than the other, or a board at the top of an exterior wall that covers the joint at an overhanging eave or verge.

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