Fences for Old Houses

Beautifying the Home Grounds
Beautifying the Home Grounds 1926 republished by Algrove Publishing

The nice thing about having a blog is that I get to “meet” people on line and talk about things that are near and dear to my heart – yes, old houses, antiques, and at this time of year, gardens. I can’t wait for it to warm up. It’s almost minus 30 degrees Celsius right now (about the same in Fahrenheit). So it is with a glad heart that I answer this question:

Hello Johanne,
I hope to build a fence in my around my backyard this summer.I have a 1900 bungalow that was a farmhouse. The original fence was wooden posts and square wire. I don’t want to create a ‘compound’ or a security wall but rather leave it open to the neighbors yards which are pretty. I wonder if you have any links to more authentic fences from the period that would foster a connection to the neighborhood rather than the modern separation we often see. I appreciate the help you’ve given me in the past.

Dear Patrick – So nice to hear from you – it’s been a while. I can certainly understand not wanting a compound look for your yard. It is so prevalent in cities. I have often felt that these high fences are an analogy for the way we live our lives today. Back to your question… As you mentioned, your original fence was a practical one. It kept live things out or in. Barbed wire was good at doing that but it wasn’t pretty.

I was in Pittsburgh, USA, many years ago and was really impressed by the beautiful neighbourhoods whose yards seem to all blend into each other. You saw portions of fences where the boundaries were delineated but it was done in such a subtle way that you did not feel hemmed in.

My own neighbourhood has many unusual fences. They sure don’t look like the hardware or home improvement store variety, and many of them are quite old. Fences at the early part of the century were meant to be neighbourly. They separated property but fences were low so that people could enjoy each others gardens. This is why low picket fences were so popular.

Old House Fences
Excerpt from Beautifying the Home Grounds by Algrove Publishing

There is a book that I believe you will find inspiring. Although it was published a little bit later than when your home was built it would still give you lots of ideas. It is called “Beautifying the Home Grounds”.It was originally published in 1926 and has been republished by Algrove Publishing. It’s 12 x 18 inches in size. It features all sorts of diagrams for fences, gates, pergolas, arches, and even garden furniture. I bought my copy at Lee Valley Tools here in the city. You will notice that the designs are not exactly rustic – after all they were meant for urban yards but you will get ideas that you can incorporate in your own place.A

By the way, send me pictures when you are done! Happy fence building!

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