The House with Sixteen Doors: A Tale of Architectural Choice and Craftsmanship

Henry Petroski, with photographs by Catherine Petroski. Norton, $27.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-393-24204-1
In 1997, Duke University engineering and history professor Petroski (The Pencil) and his wife bought a summer house in coastal Maine. Although it was the riverside location that initially enchanted them, Petroski soon became intrigued by the house itself, which was built by its original owner, Robert Phinney, also an engineer, in the 1950s. This leisurely narrative of a house and its environs and community, with photographs by the author’s wife, Catherine, is an architectural detective story that meanders like the river the house overlooks, and which Petroski likens to a game of Clue. He admires impeccable “fits,” speculates about empty beam recesses in the basement walls, and slowly peels away the mysteries of an oddly configured closet. But this investigation of a painstakingly crafted, idiosyncratic cabin does not end at its walls; Petroski nests his discoveries in the local historical, geographical, natural, and human events he encounters, chatting with neighbors, making repairs, sitting with Catherine on matching glider chairs, and watching river activity flow by. Petroski’s prose, as carefully crafted as Phinney’s workmanship, will make satisfying reading for architects and carpenters of the professional, amateur, and armchair varieties, as well as local history buffs and Maine lovers. 80 photos. (May)
Reviewed on: 02/10/2014
Release date: 05/01/2014
Open Ebook - 384 pages - 978-0-393-24205-8
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