Friday, February 20, 2015

Architecture in 18th Century New France

Have you ever wondered what type of buildings were constructed in New France? What about the possible structures built at and around Fort St. Joseph? What construction techniques were used? How big were the buildings? What kinds of materials were used and where did they come from? And what types of artifacts are associated with architecture? Each of these questions are being explored right now by me and my classmates in Western Michigan University’s Anthropology in the Community class under the supervision of Dr. Michael Nassaney. My name is Erika Loveland. I am a first year graduate student in the Department of Anthropology at Western Michigan University. I first became interested in Fort St. Joseph when I attended its Archaeology Open House a few years ago and am excited that I have the opportunity to further my curiosity in Fort St. Joseph and New France.

Throughout this semester, our class will research different architectural topics related to the structures found in New France. These topics include fortifications and military architecture, Native American and French-styles of domestic structures, storage facilities, architectural artifacts, temporary structures, and special purpose buildings. My partner, Kaitlin Burton, and I will be focusing on Native American and French styles of domestic structures during the 18th century. Our research will aim to answer many of the questions that I posed above. Recently, I have been examining two common construction techniques that the French used to build domestic houses. In the poteaux en terre (posts in the ground) technique, posts are placed in the ground to anchor the structure. The poteaux sur sole (posts on sill) technique employs posts resting on a heavy squared piece of wood acting as the sill which is placed on a stone foundation. These two styles of construction are important because they represent elements of an older, traditional style of house originating in France.

Examples of the poteaux sur sole and poteaux en terre construction techniques, respectively. This figure is from Thurman, Melburn D. (1984). Building a House in 18th Century Ste. Genevieve. Ste. Genevieve, MO: Pendragon’s Press.

While our class has just began investigating, please stay tuned for more updates on the architecture of New France!


Erika Loveland