Look Out for a Widow's Walk Revival

I had the great fortune of spending a few glorious days on Massachusetts’ Cape Cod with my family this July. As we toured the city of Chatham I couldn’t help but longingly stare in the prosperity of beautiful homes — houses with widow’s walks.

Often found on homes in famous Northwest port cities, a widow’s walk is a railed rooftop platform. Legend has it that the observation decks got their name from the wives of mariners, who would heartrendingly watch for the return of the husbands’ fishing ships, many of whom never returned.

Most commonly associated with the Greek revival and Italianate architectural fashions, widow’s walks were widely popular from the 1800s. However, because maritime technology improved, the whaling industry collapsed, along with the maintenance required for the heavily exposed decks never ceased, most widow’s walks vanished.

Luckily, there’s been a comeback, and lots of in Chatham and villages such as it’s been restored or replicated, and have become quite popular. While the decks are no more used as a stage for awaiting news, people are certainly still occupying them staring out to sea.

Also, nowadays many houses trying to get a Greek revival or Italianate look add widow’s walks strictly for decorative purposes, rather than functional. In these situations roof embellishment is your goal. Many designers will define decorative metal enclosures or Chippendale balustrades in these cases. And boy, do they pack a decorative punch!

Marcus Gleysteen Architects

New England designer Marcus Gleysteen placed a widow’s walk front and center with this coastal coastal residence. It works exceptionally well with the wooden shingle roof.

Huestis Tucker Architects, LLC

Jennifer Huestis added Chippendale balustrades to the widow’s walk with this waterfront Greenwich, Connecticut, home. The whole residence obtained an extensive renovation — the stucco, the slate roof, the windows and the porch columns are also all new.

Siemasko + Verbridge

Oftentimes you’ll discover a widow’s walk and a chimney beside each other. This was initially designed to allow simple access to the chimney for upkeep.

Helios Design Group

Widow’s walks require a particular degree of upkeep due to the fact that they’re always exposed to the elements. When this Greek revival house was renovated, the aim was to revive the original bones and components, with a focus on the widow’s walk.

Carr Warner, Architects

Located in Bradley Beach, New Jersey, on the Atlantic Ocean, this home has Chippendale balustrades replicated on the deck along with the widow’s walk, developing a cohesive design.

Harrison Design

This shingle-style home is lucky enough to get a widow’s walk. Some of its shingle characteristics contain a turret, prominent chimneys, irregular roof lines and a rock foundation.

Siemasko + Verbridge

Sitting atop a bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, this new-construction home in Manchester, Massachusetts, proves that widow’s walks return.

Boardwalk Builders

Natural cedar shingle siding and roofing work together with the ipe wood widow’s walk decking to maintain the exterior low upkeep at this beachfront Delaware estate.

HC Design

Located in the seacoast town of Scituate, Massachusetts, this widow’s walk provides a place for soaking in the ocean views.

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