Thursday, May 30, 2013

Little Windows

A typical turn-of-the-2oth-century island home was the "story and a jump." This small cottage, often about 1000 square feet, had two rooms downstairs (a living room & a tiny bedroom), and two bedrooms upstairs. The kitchen was separate from the house. That helped keep the house from getting unbearably hot in the summer, and it helped protect the main house from accidental fire. A privy also stood outside, some distance from the house.

The "story and a jump" was more than one story, but not quite two stories. A knee wall (usually about 4 feet high) extended above the first floor front and back walls. With a gable roof, the attic now became livable space.

An interesting feature of this type of cottage is the small windows at the upper floor level that open into the ceiling above the front porch. With the back door and other windows open, these little windows provide extra ventilation (as well as a convenient place for small fry to gather to eavesdrop on adult conversations on the porch).

A number of these houses still stand in Ocracoke village, many with shed or "L" additions on the back, some with extensions on the front. With the advent of air conditioning, many of the little windows were covered over when the porch ceilings were replaced. But a few, like in the photo above, survive.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a tribute to a wonderful man who did much for Ocracoke Island, Marvin Wyche Howard (1897-1969). You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous9:05 AM

    Now were the windows in the house able to catch the prevailing island breezes thus allowing the house design to work optimally? House designers forget the transom ==such a quaint but useful element of design. P.H. is there another island on the OBX that was settled simultaneously to some degree as OI and would such place to your knowledge have similar windows or houses intact with local unique qualities?

  2. "Story and a jump" is simply an eastern North Carolina term for "story and a half." I don't know if these houses in other areas had the little windows.

  3. Anonymous4:31 PM

    Mr. Howard, Is this your home featured in the picture?

  4. Julie S.9:43 AM

    Seems I remember seeing this, or a similar window, depicted in a book several years ago. Yours perhaps? When I was a "small fry" we used the furnace vents to eaves drop.