Architectural Term Challenge

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After almost 20 years in the historic preservation field, I like to think I have a pretty good architectural vocabulary, but every once in awhile, I get stumped. This terra cotta ornamentation is on the Blennerhassett Hotel in Parkersburg, West Virginia. I worked on this project in 2012 yet the term for these continues to elude/haunt me! “Bumps” doesn’t seem right. “Hemispheres”? Too globe-ish. “Dimples” go in, not out. My husband is a freshwater mussel biologist and from working with him, I know that bumps on mussel shells are called “pustules” but that’s not a road I really want to go down. Balls, half-balls, half-spheres, nodules, knobs, etc., describe them but is there something more?!

Cyril Harris and Francis D. K. Ching didn’t appear to have the answers. I looked at terra cotta manufacturers’ websites to no avail. I hoped to find an historic catalog of terra cotta ornamentation, similar to those produced in the late 19th/early 20th centuries for storefronts and even wrought iron bridges, but that was also fruitless. As you can see, they are a significant element of the Blennerhassett’s facade, adding texture and interest to the brick walls. Have you seen a specific term for these “Blenny bumps”? Please share if so!


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Courtney is the owner and principal of Aurora Research Associates, LLC, an historic preservation consulting firm.

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