The Journal of San Diego History
July 1955, Volume 1, Number 3

By George W. Nelson

EDITOR’S NOTE — Rurik Kallis’ brief article on bygone styles in doors and hardware, in the April Quarterly, led to a discussion of the age of other building materials-particularly shingles-as a means of dating a building.

Albert Frost, veteran local lumberman — he recalls unloading redwood off the foot of Sixth Avenue, from the Bertha Dolbeer and the Lottie Carson — remembers “novelty” or “fancy” shingles as late as around 1908, and even later than that, the old San Diego Lumber Co. occasionally made them locally, by the use of the band-saw. He suggested that we contact the California Redwood Association, at San Francisco, where Mr. Selwyn J. Sharp was most co-operative. He forwarded the query to Eureka (which may well be called the fancy shingle capital of Victorian California) and the result was the following information from Mr. Nelson, the Association’s Director of Quality Standards, and veteran of the redwood lumber industry.

To arrive at the period when novelty shingles (we called them fancy shingles) came into being, Eureka’s older sections were visited, and several of the old-timers were contacted.

The earlier homes built in Humboldt County, in the ’60s and ’70s, and still usable, have the lap siding called clapboard. Then — I presume during the ’80s — novelty shingles became the rage, continuing until past the turn of the century. Our home — there are many others, of practically the same design, throughout the county — was built between 1900 and 1903; its upper story is shingled with the “cove” and “round butt” (Nos. I and 2 in the sketch) which gives the appearance of a complete circle.

Fancy shingles on the Puterbaugh House The William Carson home, which was completed in 1884, has some novelty shingles, as did the Williams’ home of 1887. Other homes built in Fortuna at the time all had fancy shingles beginning with the second floor. Sometimes these went all the way up to the roof line, while others had only a three- or four-foot section, midships of the structure.

About 1910 the shingled bungalow became popular; all of the exterior walls were covered with random-width shingles. This continued until around 1920, when the use of stucco became widespread.

As late as 1924 we made a few novelty shingles, usually five- or sixinch square butt, and a few octagon and diamond-point, on special order. I presume these were used for repair jobs when remodelling. I would say that the novelty shingles were popular from 1880 to as late as 1905.

Shingles illustrated are Nos. 1 and 2, cove and round butt, which frequently were used in combination; No. 3, half-octagon; No. 4 has a longer bevel on one side; No, 5, square butt; No. 6, pear-shape; No. 7, diamond-point, and No. 8, the modern random shingles.

There is one house here with a really super-duper fancy shingle. The nearest I can describe it is to say that it has the appearance of an oldfashioned light globe, with a tip at the bottom, and curved in and out on the sides.