A Closer Look at the Brackets

Happy Tuesday friends!  Things are humming right along at Norris House this week, and it won't be long before we get to the exciting part of adding the detailed exterior trim.  Chief among those pieces of character: the decorative gingerbread pieces that will adorn the top of the porch columns and rest just under the eaves of the new front bays.

We've noticed that different folks call these pieces by different names.  Some say "brackets" while others call them "corbels".  We wondered which was technically correct, and conducted a little informal online research.  As with most things on the internet, we found plenty of contradictory information and more than one corner of the web where people are discussing the matter.  General consensus appears to be that brackets are defined as architectural elements which are either structural support members or decorative accents.  Generally L-shaped, these are the pieces that connect/join perpendicular surfaces, often adding structural support to horizontal surfaces above like a shelf or roof.  Corbels are generally defined as a type of bracket - more specifically structural pieces of stone, wood or metal jutting from a wall for the purpose of carrying a superincumbent (overlying) weight.  If we want to be even more specific, those corbels that are scroll shaped when viewed from the sides are called consoles.  In common usage, it seems that the lines of distinction between the terms bracket and corbel are quite blurred.  Most folks use the two interchangeably.  

We're lacking both architectural and structural engineering expertise, so we'll hedge and call them brackets.  Here's a close-up look at one of the original Norris House brackets on the north porch, as viewed from the side:  


One of these has been gently removed from the exterior, and is taking a rest with the good folks at Fulford's in Wilson, NC.  As soon as we get the go ahead from the National Park Service, the Fulford's team will start working on reproducing brackets for installation on the new front elevation.  You can get an idea of what the front porch brackets will look like by viewing this historic photograph of the original version.  Our heartfelt thanks to the local living descendants of the Norris family for sharing this photo with us in support of our efforts.

With three brackets per porch column, the character will return to the front elevation shortly!  All of this decorative trim will be painted in a clean, crisp white.  A close look will reveal that the two brackets pictured in this post are not identical.  We don't get to choose which to use, because we have applied for historic preservation tax credits from both North Carolina and the US.  We are anxiously awaiting our Federal approvals to learn exactly what the front brackets will look like.  Either way, it's going to be gorgeous!