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The term ‘‘Jenny Lind,’’ often applied generically in West Virginia to any building of simple construction, refers to a type of construction, not a building style.

A Jenny Lind house was built on a foundation of piers made from stone, block, brick, or wooden posts. The piers were aligned around the perimeter of the building, and across the center if the floor plan was large enough to require a central girder. Framing for the floor was formed by nailing together four planks set at right angles to each other, as if the builder were constructing the sides of a shallow box. This box sill sat on top of the piers and was supported by them. Floor joists spanned the inner space of the box, and plank flooring was nailed on top of the sill and joists.

The construction of the walls is a defining feature of the Jenny Lind style. The walls had no studs or internal framing. The vertical planks were attached directly to the outside of the box sill at the bottom and nailed at the top to a horizontal two-by-four ribbon board running around the entire perimeter of the house. These vertical plank walls were structural elements, supporting the roof. Some Jenny Lind houses had double-thick walls with vertical planks nailed on the inside as well as the outside. This was especially important if the house had two stories. Cracks opened between these planks as the wood cured, so three- or four-inch battens, also called weather stripping, were nailed over the cracks, resulting in another uniquely Jenny Lind characteristic, the board-and-batten pattern.

Roof construction was usually of conventional design, with joists and rafters. Once a popular technique for building inexpensive but durable houses, Jenny Lind construction is rarely seen today.

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Sources

Sullivan, Ken. Cheap, Quick and Drafty: The Jenny Lind House. Goldenseal, (Spring 1990).

Cite This Article

e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia "Jenny Lind House." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 29 May 2012. Web. 21 August 2014.

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