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Building Styles

Prairie (1900 - 1940)

Frank Lloyd Wright is the architect responsible for initiating the Prairie School of Architecture in the United States. Architects such as the Canadian Francis Sullivan (1882-1929) helped to make it popular in Canada. Prairie style is one of the only purely North American styles. The horizontal lines, projecting eaves and geometric patterning of finishes and windows contrast sharply with the more formal, Classical styles taken from

ancient Greece. Vernacular materials, stone, brick, and natural wood were preferred for finishes and often stained glass with patterns taken from nature were added. Prairie buildings are generally domestic and have a geometric patterning that is immediately evident. The complete lack of historicizing detail is deliberate and points to the trends found later in the century.

Click Hotpoints for descriptions of terms in both text and images.


The square cornice, flat roof, and deep eaves are typical of the Ontario Prairie style, but it is unusual to find a white house in this style. The emphasis on geometry and the decoration on the corner piers shows some "Arts and Crafts" influence - the 19th century movement championing craftsmanship in reaction to mass production.

The decorative frieze on the cornice and soffit is unique. The shape of the windows, the grouping, and the arrangement of muntin bars on the windows are distinctly Prairie style.

Found within a survey of lovely but not remarkable Period Revival homes, this beautifully maintained 1910 house is an absolute jewel.

Prairie style in Toronto

Toronto Ontario


The majority of Prairie style houses are low with large, projecting eaves. The landscaping is an important part of the design as can be seen from this example in Greensville built in 1955. The flat roof continues on both the upper and lower sections far beyond the building itself and the soffit is cedar. The exterior finishes are local stone and wood siding.

The most outstanding feature of this façade is the large, solid oak door with the doorknob right in the center. The reveals are downward tapering and also solid oak.

Prairie Style house

Greensville Ontario


Here is a somewhat more compact version of the same genre built in 1953. The exterior finish is wood siding; there are a flat roof and large, overhanging eaves. The windows are metal-framed with no ornament. The various levels are integrated in a series of counter-balanced block forms. The angled sunroom on the left is new. The result is a very modern Prairie style house that looks more part of the landscape than imposed upon it.

Prairie Style Simcoe

Simcoe Ontario

Sault Ste. Marie

Often you find Prairie influences on a building that may not be entirely "Prairie". In Sault Ste. Marie there is a Bungalow with Prairie influences. The large eaves, in this case, are supported by modillions, a Classical element not often found in Prairie Style.

Around the house there is much clerestory lighting, a development of the Prairie Style that allows light into a dwelling but ensures privacy.

The exterior finish here is rough stucco. Holding up the veranda are stylized columns with abacuses but no real capital. The windows are plain and unadorned.

Prairie Style Convent in Sault

Sault Ste. Marie Ontario


This Prairie style building of 1962 is the nunnery for St. Mary's Roman Catholic School. It has the large, unsupported eaves of the above examples. The profile of the roof is echoed by the overhangs on the front porch and the side window. The second floor has a string of clerestory windows within a continuous horizontal band of wood siding. The remainder of the house is yellow brick. Columns supporting the front porch are thin, cylindrical, and without bases or capitals. The majority of the windows on the house are on the south side for passive solar heating. The large eaves are designed to add shade in summer.

Prairie Style Convent in Simcoe

Simcoe Ontario


This is an adaptation of the Prairie style to a rather limited lot. The façade consists of strong brick piers with recessed rough cast stucco and multi-paned windows. Plain concrete cornices top the piers, the windows are free of sills, lintels or window surrounds, and the wall surface is textured.

Like the above example, the windows are grouped in interesting ways, the design is largely geometric, and there is a total absence of Classical or Gothic detailing. The four windows between the piers are new and have replaced a single pane unit. The roof overhang is large. The door to the house is around the side.


Gothic Revival Cottage

Ottawa Ontario


Prairie Style Reading and Films


Birkhans, Martin, The life and work of Francis C. Sullivan, architect, 1882-1929
Dissertation Thesis (M. Arch.)--University of Toronto, 1964. Ottawa Public Library call Number: 720.971 S949b




Frank Lloyd Wright and the Prairie School [videorecording] / Federici Video



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Soffit Frieze Muntin Cornice Overhang Soffit Overhang Column Abacus Clerestory Windows Modillion Overhang