Sunday, February 11, 2018

Horse Head Height Stable Stall Windows

Almost all DC stables, have small windows on the side, constructed precisely at the level of a horse’s head and referred to as either “horse head height” windows or “stall” windows. However, as the HPO alley survey points out, some stables did not have any windows at all. Why are these windows significant? They helped keep horses healthy so that they lived (and worked) longer.
“Stall windows are most often located along the side wall of the stable, but can also be found on the front or rear, or not at all. Although stall windows were generally recommended in historic treatises on stable construction for the health of the horses, not all of the city’s surveyed stables featured stall windows.” (

 “a horse’s mind is kept keener when he is thus allowed to see passing objects than when tied against a blank wall; and his eyesight is certainly not strained as is that of a horse which is taken from a dark stall into the bright daylight.”

Jorrocks, The Private Stable: Its Establishment, Management, and Appointments. Boston: Little Brown & Company, 1899, p. 54. 

Many early stables did not have windows because the relation between ventilation and horse health had not yet been recognized.

These 1319 Naylor Court stable stall windows are revealed having been hidden for over half a century. This stable was built in 1885 as a private stable (26' x 52'). The wall has been protected and preserved by the much younger adjacent building.

The stable has been appropriately underpinned to protect the stable wall from damage due to the powerful vibrations of adjacent construction. The original foundation was brick on soil without a concrete pad. To not underpin historic structures like this places them at risk of significant (preventable) damage.

It is extremely rare to discover an unmolested original window frame and sash inside a former DC stable today. Most were ripped out and destroyed many years ago. The conventional notion in many peoples' minds is that they are "ugly" and should be completely obliterated. However, in the author's opinion, this precious architectural feature should be preserved because it tells part of the story about the original character and function of the building. A respectful nod to history. With this window, seen from inside the stable, the stiles of the sash slide upwards into a vertical pocket, cut into in the middle of the wall. These windows allowed fresh air and light to circulate throughout the stable.

The infill bricks seen in the photograph were very loosely associated when first constructed and now show severely deteriorated and missing mortar, poor quality brick, and gaps. These bricks were inserted 100 years ago to simply form a thin face of a new structure on the opposite side of the wall. They are nonstructural in that they were never designed to bear weight and do not meet today’s firewall codes. They were essentially cosmetic and simply served to seal the opening. These bricks were inserted in the window space of the 1899 building wall in about 1919.

(1) "The most of (sic) the diseases that horses have, it becomes plainer with every advancement made
in the science of taking proper care of them, are bred rather by their surroundings than, as the
old theories declare, by what they eat. The diary of every day in a healthful horse's life
ought to begin with the statement that his bed was turned up in the morning, and new straw
put in place of the foul. An unclean animal cannot be comfortable. Drainage, of course, is
the first subject to consider, for a stable where the smallest quantity of foul water stands, to
say nothing of pools of it, is offensive to a horse as well as to a man. A hostler who does not
have his stables well drained has no right to complain if his horses grow old early, become
vicious, or get sick. And ventilation is quite as important as drainage. An experienced stable-
man has ventured the opinion that fewer horses are foundered by what they eat or drink than by
exposure to draughts while they rest. His stables are so ventilated that the currents of air never
touch the horses. The stalls are not ventilated from below, but above the horses' heads."
 [The Care of the Horse 1887, 1/8]

 (2) "Poorly ventilated horse barns are perhaps the leading cause of illness in horses. Insufficient barn ventilation can lead to respiratory disorders and affect the overall performance of your horse. This is especially a concern in the winter months. This article explains how ammonia and dust build up affect your horse causing coughing, sneezing, mucus discharge and what you can do to stop this serious issue."

(3) Horse Stable Ventilation