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I'm not sure if you're the guy to ask about this, but I thought I'd give it a try. Do you have any idea where I could get plans or info on building a garage/shed with a western style/saloon facade front on it? Or can you tell me what these style of buildings are called?


- B. W.


Howdy, B. W.!

The classic "Western" building was a simple rectangular structure with a straight gabled roof, plus the addition of at least one, and commonly all three, of these features:

1. A false front extending to, or above, the ridge line. In the early stages of construction a building may have just been a canvas tent or a log structure, but the addition of a false front with clapboard, brick, or stone siding made the place look larger and gave it an air of respectability. Hence the expression, "He's putting up a good front." It also provided a larger area for a sign describing the business within.

2. A sidewalk. In the beginning this would be an elevated walk of wood boards, so passers-by could stay out of the mud. Later, a concrete walk with curb and gutter would be built.

3. A porch or awning to cover the sidewalk in wet weather and keep the sunlight from heating up the establishment during the summer. Remember, those were the days before air conditioning!

The almost universal feature of western commercial establishments was the false front. I would expect that almost any lumber yard or building supply house could provide you with instructions for adding a false front to a garage or shed.

To give you a better idea of how early Western stores were built, look at the photos below from the collections of the Library of Congress. Take a close look at the sides of some of the buildings and you'll quickly see how much the false front dressed the place up. (Click on the thumbnail for a larger view.)

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