Posted to Design
Lazy Vermont Coffin-Witch Window
Vermont Window? Coffin Window? Lazy Window? Witch Window?
Of course, you’ve seen these peculiar architectural details when you live in Vermont. And many are found in the Northeast Kingdom!
Perhaps you’ve even lived in a house that had one or two. Or perhaps you’ve NEVER heard of them. Perhaps YOU DON’T believe in witches and their need for windows? Fun fact to drop at your next cocktail party: Vermont has the MOST Witch windows in the world.
“Wow I didn’t know that!” unsuspecting party guest exclaims.
‘Yeah, Gordon’s Window Decor schooled me.’
You’re welcome. *wink*
Ok, so the tall tale behind the ‘Coffin’ window nickname is…well…a LITTLE unnerving. Yes, obviously..the window is laying down. Hence the other moniker, ‘Lazy’ window. But that’s not where the lore ends. There was supposedly a true purpose for them.
1800’s undertakers would hoist coffins outside and slide them down the slate-shingled roofs, instead of lugging the very heavy coffin filled with deceased, down the narrow, ornate, windy staircases. Yeah, I had the same thought. HOW did the coffin get up there anyhow? Was there a workshop in the home? Who puts a woodworking workshop on the second level? What about all that sawdust? Anywhoooo, calling hours were often in the home of the family…so that part makes sense, but for whatever reason…the nickname stuck.
And the creepy nicknames don’t stop there. There is yet another name for these quirky design wonders. “Witch Windows”. Yeah, WITCH windowsI can see why ‘coffin’ was used to describe them, but WITCH? No wonder this design element never caught on and stayed put in our little corner of the world. EEK!
The crazy back-country, tall-tale-believing New Englanders say these architectural whacky marvels are deeply rooted in Vermont’s super cold temps and SpoOoooOoOOOky superstition/folklore! (Witch windows have another name that’s not so Halloween-y, “Vermont Windows”). Now just look at the design. For any broomstick-flying Wiccan, this would be ideal to have in your home! Wonderfully wicked for that super quick getaway when the townspeople come with torches and pitchforks to see if you actually do float in the nearby bog. Or if the progressive townsperson needs a curse on their cheating spouse, ZOOOOOOM-you’re there! And those semi-annual meetings of your coven…when you’re late because you were ALMOST done brewing the local children in your cauldron. A slanted window is ideal for a Witch.
Oh yeah, there’s even a coffee table book all about these Witch-y wonders…
BUT the real reason these “Vermont windows” exist is because of good ol’ Yankee ingenuity and frugality. We were GREEN before it was trendy. Vermonters are natural-innate recyclers. Our blood is GREEN. We re-purpose/reuse and recycle EVERYTHING we can. “Ya know, Wendell? Lives upside the road a piece? Well, jezzum crow! He got an ol’ window left over from his recent build, by gum! Let’s USE IT.”
Vermonters are also known for building addition after addition, after addition. Especially after the 5th or 9th child was born (remember large farm families?). So…with the loss of wall space, it was bound to happen. The only place for an upper-floor window would have to be kinda horizontal. KINDA. GENIUS right? Without it, light and ventilation would be completely limited.
Did I say Vermonters are frugal? My father would use old bread bags in his not-so-water-tight galoshes, before he would dare buy new. And get this…not many of us have those fancy contraptions called an Air Conditioners. Yeah, read that again. NO air conditioning units in many of our homes.
(And I can safely say ALL of us play the ‘game’ every year “How long do we hold out before we turn on the heat/start the first fire?”)
In the Summer, my mother would open the windows across our home to get the cross breeze flowing on those HOT and HUMID August days. And Witch windows are GREAT as a 2nd story vent! Just crack open that weird 45 degree sideways window and feel the coolness. That breeze could be the ghosts awaiting the return of their coffins…or really it’s JUST a breeze. Keep telling yourself that. *wink*
Well, whatever you call these beauts, they are a part of the Vermont fabric, that makes us so wonderful weird. And when our customers say they have tricky windows to shade, we giggle to ourselves. Because here in Vermont, we’ve seen it all.
We have shaded ‘Witch’ windows, ‘Vermont’ windows, ‘Lazy’ windows even ‘Coffin’ windows.
They don’t spook us.