Moulded Concrete Block Construction for Houses and Garden Walls 1905 – 1920

Concrete-block machines were also sold in England, (on the left of this ad) where their popularity appears to have continued longer – through the 1920’s’ – than in North America.

Moulded concrete blocks were also used for ancillary buildings such as this garage sheltering a Model-T Ford, as seen in this American ad from 1915.

Sometimes, moulded concrete block was used for only part of a building, like a foundation for a brick house, or for a weather-proof front porch that would not rot as a wooden porch would.

Stone would be a traditional foundation material for a brick house. Here, a cheaper alternative for this two-storey home was pressed concrete block. Built c1912.

Garden walls were a popular use for moulded concrete blocks. Adding a substantial, stone-like appearance to any property, the blocks provided a rot-proof substitute to wooden fences, as well as a suitable frame for wrought-iron gates.

A gate and wall built in 1910 using rustic blocks and smoothly-finished capping stones

A gate and wall built c 1912, with curved walls leading to gate pillars with slightly domed cap blocks.

A curved concrete block wall defines a corner in this neighbourhood. Ball finials were popular decorative touches for both walls and porches. Built c1912

Houses and other structures built of moulded concrete block provide a variety of construction to our historic neighbourhoods. When built solidly, on good foundations, these houses are durable, with the concrete blocks in as good condition as the day they were built.

Foundation settlement can be a problem, as can vandalism of garden walls, with the massive ball finials being a favourite target for pushing off into a flower bed. Avoid painting the concrete blocks and embrace the stone-like grey appearance as being the desirable feature that it is. If more colour is desired to offset the ‘stone’ grey colour, then add colour to your house by painting wood trim and perhaps adding awnings and well-chosen plantings.

The remaining structures that were built of this fascinating building material are very much products of their time. Concrete block houses were only built between the years 1905 to around 1920, and are examples of the inventiveness and willingness of the building industry to try new materials and methods of construction during the building boom of the early twentieth century.

In most cities, they qualify for heritage status as rare survivors of an unusual construction method.

A garden wall with a corner pillar topped with a wrought-iron framework of the original lighting fixture c1912. Unfortunately, the original glass globe is missing, as is the working wiring.

Pages: < Prev | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4