widow's walk

Mark Odegard markodegard at HOTMAIL.COM
Sun Oct 29 03:12:50 UTC 2000

>Scope note - Use for railed, unroofed platforms surmounting the roofs of
>American houses offering a view, especially of the sea; for rooftop
>outlooks that are enclosed, use "belvederes"; for rooftop structures that
>are usually ornamental, use "cupolas."
>Alternate Forms of Speech {ALT}:
>                  widow's walk
>Synonyms and spelling variants {UF}:
>                  captains' walks
>                  galleries, roof
>                  roof galleries
>                  walks, captains'
>                  walks, widows'
>maberry at u.washington.edu

Aha! 'Surmounting'. A widow's walk usually refers to the mostly
ornamental/useless thing at the very top of an Empire-style Victorian house
(as with the one the Addams Family lives in). The idea is it is incorporated
into the roof, rather than surmounting it.

'Surmounting' would mean 'roof-top deck' in current terminology. This is
above whatever is beneath to keep water out of the building.

'Roof gallery' suggests what I've seen on a few art-deco era apartment
buildings. It's actual space meant for use and has a roof above it, with
provision for proper drainage of water. 'Roof-top gazebo' would be accurate.

'Piazza', as exemplified by the one at the T. Roosevelt house at Oyster Bay,
is a term that gives most readers the willies. It's a first floor outdoor
room, fully walled on two sides, with a full ceiling and flooring (all
weatherproof); it's a subspecies of a verandah (the main body of the roof of
the house encompasses them). Mrs. Longworth spoke about it. She also spoke
about Mr. Longworth's ancestral Victorian awful in Ohio, which indeed had a

As I understand it, a belvedere is a 'tower-room', a full-size 'attic' above
the real attic (at least in Victorian houses).


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