Eastern Atlantic Carpentry consists of three styles of woodworking: Georgian, Colonial, and Queen Anne. There are no clear dividing line between these styles. One style is colonial, the other colonial and Queen Anne are interchangeable. Eastern Carolina has been known as the “Germantia” of the South due to its high quality produce and because it was located at the confluence of three rivers. Its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean made for excellent growing conditions and the abundance of wildlife, which became a signature of the area.
The colonial style was brought by the French, but was taken up by the native Indians. In fact, many of the North Carolina Indians were apprentices to this master craftsman. This was a period when each tribe had several carpenters or makers who could be found in the different regions of the state. This craft became very popular and each tribe’s skills were passed down from one generation to another. This style was used in the construction of houses, barns, bridges, and all sorts of other buildings.
These buildings were used to live in, store their possessions, make fire, and for hunting and fishing. The structures were also sturdy enough to be used as an Indian fort or a base for an early colony. By the late 1700’s most of the Eastern Carolina Indians were skilled carpenters and this craft became their main way of making a living.
During the early years, this style was not generally used as a profession. The primary use was to construct homes. A structure such as this would usually consist of one story, with either two or four rooms. This style of dwelling was relatively free form design. It included natural materials such as the red clay of the hills, and the soft brush of the swamps.
As the years progressed, more complex building methods were developed. In colonial times, the carpenter’s square became the norm. This method involved drawing the plans first, and then putting them together piece by piece. After construction, the house would be inspected for strength and completeness. If any part of the frame was defective, it could be replaced. This method was much more efficient, because the work needed to be finished before the frame could be put up.
Building codes during this time period required that houses have solid masonry walls. Roofs were usually made of logs, which were placed on top of the floor joists. Most Eastern Carolina homes of this time period were constructed without doors. For those who could afford it, the addition of a porch, usually made of wood, was an important way to increase the comfort of the home.