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Cupolas and Ventilators

Crowning many Vermont barns are the distinctive cupolas and weather vanes.

Although often decorative, the cupola performs an important function on the barn - ventilation. Early ventilators, around the mid-to-late 19th century, were simple, louvered (having slats for ventilation) boxes with gable or hipped roofs, as seen in the images below.

Early Ventilators Early Ventilators Early Ventilators Early Ventilators

Early Ventilators: Images courtesy of Thomas Visser, A Field Guide to New England Barns and Farm Buildings, 1997.

During the late 19th century, decorative cupolas appeared on barn roofs, coinciding with the architectural styles of Victorian Era, such as the Italianate and Queen Anne styles. Brackets, shingles, weather vanes, and moldings are some of the interesting features found on the cupolas of this era. A few examples are shown below.

Decorative Cupolas Decorative Cupolas Decorative Cupolas Decorative Cupolas

Decorative Cupolas: Images courtesy of Thomas Visser.

In the early 20th century, prefabricated, galvanized-steel ventilators began to appear on barn rooftops. The utilitarian design sharply contrasted the ornate Victorian Era cupolas of the earlier century. As seen below, these ventilators were usually square at the base and round towards the top.

Galvanized Steel Cupolas Galvanized Steel Cupolas

Galvanized Steel Cupolas: Images courtesy of Thomas Visser.

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