Lots of windows means lots of shutters at 2279 Riverwood Place. There are 24 if you are scoring along.

Shutter Spotting Around the City

This post focuses on a familiar but mostly overlooked decorative accoutrement – window shutters. Before I get to the multiplicity of shutters I’ve laid eyes on while riding around Saint Paul, here’s a bit of historical context.

A Brief History of Shutters

According to several websites, shutters first appeared in ancient Greece; constructed of marble with unmovable louvers. The louvers allowed air to flow into homes while offering some relief from insects and the hot Mediterranean sun.

Over time wood replaced marble as the favored material for exterior shutters. Then moveable louvers became commonplace. In Medieval Europe – before windows had glass – wood shutters provided security, privacy and insulation, especially in colder climates. Glass windows were introduced in the late 1400s but the expense limited its use for a couple hundred years.

Cutouts add depth and interest to shutters. Trees and leaves, including oak leaves are popularly used. (Location not recorded but likely Macalester-Groveland.)
Cutouts add depth and interest to shutters. Trees and leaves, including oak leaves are popularly used. (Location not recorded but likely Macalester-Groveland.)

The Spanish imported shutters to what we know as the Americas in the 1800s. By the middle of the 19th century, period homes (Gothic Revival and Italianate-style) in the U.S. were frequently clad in dark colored – forest green, brown, and black – shutters. The color choices were primarily aesthetic. When open, shutters and matching sashes presented a consistent look. When closed over windows, it created for passersby the impression of darkened windows. In the late 1800s, the variety of shutter colors expanded to include several earth tones.

Shutters remained popular for much of the first half of the 1900s, although in most cases, at least in the Midwest, their purpose morphed from functional to decorative. In the later couple of decades of the 20th century, other materials – vinyl, aluminum, fiberglass and most recently, wood-plastic composites – began to supplant wood for shutter construction.

Notes About Saint Paul Shutters

More houses have shutters than I expected. Shutters more frequently adorn homes of certain architectural styles, such as Cape Cod, Dutch Colonial and ramblers (a.k.a. ranch.) Of course, that statement is based on my random, unscientific observations. Starting and finishing every ride in Saint Paul’s southwest corner means I most frequently ride through Highland Park and Macalester-Groveland while visits to Highwood and the East Side are significantly less frequent. I’ve organized the photos of shutters by neighborhood. So, with the history lesson and background complete, let’s sample the shutters in Saint Paul.

Click on any picture to enlarge it.

Battle Creek

Just west at 2205 Delllridge Avenue are these delightfully stained shutters. Note the coordinating window boxes.
Just west at 2205 Delllridge Avenue are these delightfully stained shutters. Note the coordinating window boxes.
The extremely rare garage shutters! 2225 Dellridge Avenue.
The extremely rare garage door shutters! 2225 Dellridge Avenue.

Como

A Queen Anne with an unusual pair of shutters at 1265 West Como Boulevard.
The ornate decoration on Queen Anne style homes often left little room for shutters but 1265 West Como Boulevard is an exception.

Dayton’s Bluff

The ornate decoration on Queen Anne style homes often left little room for shutters. 226 Bates   is an exception which were almost surely added long after the home was completed.
This pair was almost surely added long after the home was completed. 226 Bates Avenue.
A deciduous tree jazzes up the shutters on 1063 Wilson.
A deciduous tree cutout jazzes up the raised panel shutters on 1063 Wilson Avenue.
The shutters on the house a few doors east, at 1080 Wilson, are decorated with metal appliqués of horse-drawn carriages.
The board and batten shutters on the house a few doors east, at 1080 Wilson, are decorated with metal appliqués of horse-drawn carriages.

Greater East Side

Someone liked threes at 1498 Margaret. Each shutter has three vertical slats, with two pairs of three thin diagonal accents.
Someone liked threes at 1498 Margaret. Each shutter has three vertical slats, with two pairs of three thin diagonal accents.
Meanwhile, lots of good stuff is going on with the shutters at 2132 Case, located in the Beaver Heights neighborhood on the East Side.
Meanwhile, lots of good stuff is going on with the shutters at 2132 Case, located in the Beaver Heights neighborhood on the East Side. I believe these are also board and batten shutters.
A stately pine tree graces each shutter at 1295 Etna Street.
A stately pine tree graces each shutter at 1295 Etna Street.
Shutters with chevrons at 1317 Etna Street.
Four doors north, shutters with chevrons. 1317 Etna Street.

Hamline-Midway

Those are slim shutters. 1430 Minnehaha Avenue West.
Those are some slim shutters. 1430 Minnehaha Avenue West.

Highwood

The house at 554 Point Douglas Road appears to have recently lost its shutters. Are they being replace or undergoing renovation? Time will tell.
The house at 554 Point Douglas Road appears to have recently lost its shutters. Are they being replace or undergoing renovation? Time will tell.
The house at 489 Mystic Street, built in 189, has a shutter-shattering record of at least 18!
There are many windows and many more shutters at 489 Mystic Street, built in 1890, I counted 18 on the two sides of the house I could see.

Highland Park

The shutters on 1209 Hartford Avenue consist of five vertical wood slats. The decorative holes in a diamond pattern at the top are a SPBB-approved touch.
The shutters on 1209 Hartford Avenue consist of five vertical wood slats. The decorative holes in a diamond pattern at the top are a SPBB-approved touch.
1651 Bayard also has the vertical slat shutters but with double diamond cutouts.
1651 Bayard also has the vertical slat shutters but with double diamond cutouts.
The white shutters on 1992 Norfolk stand out against the gray siding and the pine tree within a circle on each shutter add flair.
The white fixed louvered shutters on 1992 Norfolk stand out nicely against the gray siding and the pine tree within a circle on each shutter add flair.
Trees are a common enhancement to shutters. These wood shutters adorn every window, even the two narrow ones, on the front of 2005 Bayard.
As you can see, trees are a common cutout enhancement to shutters. These adorn every window, even the two narrow ones, on the front of 2005 Bayard.
2141 Watson features a contrasting color and raised squares to the shutters.
2141 Watson features a contrasting color and raised squares on the shutters.
An unusual shutter style at 2168 Highland Parkway.
An unusual shutter style at 2168 Highland Parkway.
A different diamond design. 1338 Colby Avenue.
A different diamond design. 1338 Colby Avenue.
The 1700 block of Field features a pair of nearby homes with non-wood shutters. At 1715, the shutters are tall and narrow with an unusual curve to match the second story windows.
At 1715 Field, the shutters are tall and narrow with an arch to match the second story windows.
Pink shutters with hearts at 1728 Field.
Meantime, pink shutters with hearts at 1728 Field.
Another Field Avenue home - 1982 Field. A stylized bolt of lightning??
Another Field Avenue home – 1982 Field. The mark of Zorro?
The slim, two-tone shutters of 1614 Highland Parkway are a contrast to more traditional shutter styles.
The slim, two-tone shutters of 1614 Highland Parkway are a contrast to more traditional shutter styles.
The last stop in Highland Park is the old Mattocks School, which sits in front of Highland Park High School on South Snelling. The shutters on Mattocks are a relic of a time when they were used on many structures to control light and ventilation.
The last stop in Highland Park is the old Mattocks School, which sits in front of Highland Park High School on South Snelling. The shutters on Mattocks are a relic of a time when they were used on many structures to control light and ventilation.

Macalester-Groveland

The brown shutters contrast nicely with the light siding of 99 Cambridge, and the horseshoes look good. Or, perhaps they are omegas, not horseshoes, which would explain why they’re upside down.
The brown shutters contrast nicely with the light siding of 99 Cambridge and the horseshoe cutouts look good. Or, perhaps they are omegas, not horseshoes, which would explain why they’re upside down.
These diamond-studded shutters are gems! 288 Brimhall.
These diamond-studded shutters are gems! 288 Brimhall.
Flowers bloom year-round on the shutters, upstairs, and above the door, of 895 James Avenue.
Flowers bloom year-round on the shutters upstairs, and above the door, of 895 James Avenue.
More functional shutters at 1714 Princeton.
Two colors AND crescent moons at 1714 Princeton Avenue.
I’m not sure what to make of the design on these shutters at 1780 Sargent. Plungers? Vintage smoking stand ashtray? Something else?
I’m not sure what to make of the design on these shutters at 1780 Sargent. Plungers? Vintage stand ashtrays? Something else?

Merriam Park

Lots of windows means lots of shutters at 2279 Riverwood Place.
Lots of windows means a shutter-shattering record of 24 at 2279 Riverwood Place.
The shutters at 128 Montrose Avenue are decorated with an abstract object, near as I can tell.
The shutters at 128 Montrose Avenue are decorated with an abstract object, near as I can tell.
Going with the luck o' the Irish with the three leaf clover shutters. 154 Montrose Avenue.
Just a few doors north, they’ve gone for the luck o’ the Irish with the three leaf clover shutters. 154 Montrose Avenue.
There's all kinds of stuff going on at 2157 Fairmount Avenue with the gray wood shutters.
There’s all kinds of stuff going on at 2157 Fairmount Avenue with the gray wood shutters.
A closer look reveals the unconventional louvers near the top of the shutters. And check out the spider web toward the bottom of the window! Perhaps an early Halloween decoration?
A closer look reveals the unconventional louvers near the top of the shutters. And check out the spider web toward the bottom of the window! Perhaps an early Halloween decoration?

Snelling-Hamline

Rarely are commercial buildings decorated with shutters. All American Storage at 1500 Marshall Avenue is an exception.
Rarely are commercial buildings decorated with shutters. All American Storage at 1500 Marshall Avenue is the exception.

St. Anthony Park

Ginkgo trees are common along boulevards in parts of Saint Paul. Shutters with ginkgo leaves are rare, and perhaps exclusive to 2174 Doswell Avenue.
Ginkgo trees are common along boulevards in parts of Saint Paul. Shutters with ginkgo leaves are rare, and perhaps exclusive to 2174 Doswell Avenue.
The most whimsical of all the shutters I've seen are at 965 Cromwell Avenue.
The most whimsical of all the shutters I’ve seen are at 965 Cromwell Avenue.

Summit Hill

Dragonflies are on display at 819 St. Clair.
Dragonflies are on display at 819 St. Clair.

Summit-University

The traditional shutters on 260 Summit Avenue.
Traditional shutters on 260 Summit Avenue.
At 370 Summit Avenue big windows call for big shutters.
At 370 Summit Avenue the big windows call for big shutters.

West End a.k.a. West 7th

The shutters are not the first thing I noticed at 360 Victoria Street.
The shutters are not the first thing I noticed at 360 Clifton Street.
While almost certainly replacements for the originals, the shutters on 495 St Clair Avenue look authentic. The home was built in 1892. according to Ramsey County records.
While almost certainly replacements for the originals, the shutters on 495 St Clair Avenue look authentic. The home was built in 1892 according to Ramsey County records.
Your standard louvered shutters at 552 Michigan Street.
Your standard louvered shutters at 552 Michigan Street.
I've dubbed these 'trellis shutters.' 342 Bay Street.
I’ve dubbed these ‘trellis shutters.’ 342 Bay Street.

West Side

Scalloped shutters dress up the second floor window at 515 Curtice Street.
Scalloped shutters dress up the second floor window at 515 Curtice Street.
The board and batten shutters at 847 Ottawa Avenue showcase delightful potted flowers.
The board and batten shutters at 847 Ottawa Avenue showcase delightful potted flowers.

As you’ve seen, there’s a fascinating variety of style and flourishes on shutters around town, even in the small sample here. I’ll keep looking for others as I ride on. So concludes the first, but likely not the last, shutter sampler.

6 comments

  1. Nice! As to the design you weren’t sure what to make of (at 1780 Sargent), I will nominate “mace” as one contender.

Leave a Reply