Roofs and roofing play an interesting part in history. Here’s some fun information you might enjoy knowing:
Back around 600 BC, one of the Seven Wonders of the World – the Hanging Gardens of Babylon – become some of history’s first recorded rooftop gardens. This is a far cry from our modern “green roofs” however – water had to be pumped from the nearby Euphrates river to sustain the gardens, which were supposed to “hang” by being planted on rooftops, balconies, and terraces and hanging over the sides.
While these gardens are a wonder of the world, historians also argue about whether or not they actually ever existed.
But even before the mythical gardens of Babylon were created, roofing was developing from packed sod and straw to clay tiles. This was back in about 2800 BC, around the same time construction on the Pyramids began. China and Greece are some of those to utilize this fancy new building material. This doesn’t mean leaky sod roofs went out of style, but the richer citizens stayed warm and dry during typhoon season.
Later on, around 735 AD, thatch roofs were developed, and wood shingles were developed only about 300 years later! The problem with this cheap, effective roofing is that it easily caught fire. This was back in the day that candles and fires were all that was between you and the dark, cold night. So, in the 12th century, King John issued a law in London that thatch and reed roofs were to be replaced with clay tiles.
This decree did not stop the Great London Fire in 1666, however. While many roofs were sorted out, the houses themselves were made of wood and pitch. This flammable construction, mixed with wind and sparks had disastrous consequences. Quite a bit of London was redesigned after this and many homes were constructed of brick – not wood – to prevent such a situation from recurring.
In the late 1800s, Victorian style homes were developed – a style we use quite frequently here in the Pacific Northwest. This style originated in Victorian England and is generally a brick home with a slate roof. Modern homes have been adapted from this style, and it is the derivative of Queen Anne Style architecture, as well as the very prevalent Arts and Crafts style homes we see around Portland.
Also developed in the 1800s was asphalt roofing material – which we use today in modern-day shingles.
While roofs around the world have changed through the centuries, it seems that in modern times we are channelling an eclectic mix of them all. From the rooftop gardens of Babylon, to the thatch roofs of old England, from ancient clay tile roofing to modern-day asphalt shingle, you can drive down a block in Portland and see them all. We think this makes for a beautiful and rich city. What about you?