Giraffe houses are a distinctive feature of Ozarks architecture. Builders used flat stones set on edge for siding. With the mortar painted or stained a uniform and contrasting color to the stone, the effect is something like the pattern on a giraffe. As you can see from the Rock House in Reeds Spring, which is Jeanette and Bruce’s home and performing arts center, the resemblance is striking:
The above example is typical. The house is a simple rectangle, with the ridgeline of its roof running longwise, making a single gable at each end. The walls above the stone veneer are stucco. While I don’t remember seeing a house built this way, from seeing demolition, it appears that building paper (thick paper impregnated with asphalt) would have been attached to the exterior stud walls with laths (furring strips). A wire mesh (such as chickenwire) would have been stapled to the laths. The stucco (a mix of cement and sand) would have been troweled on to the wire mesh. The stone slabs would have been laid onto the stucco.
Placing the stone only part way up requires less stone and labor than covering the entire wall surfaces. Generally these are modest houses, and the stone veneer on the lower part of the walls gives protection against moisture where it is needed most.
But sometimes, the partial stone veneer (with random stones well above the lower portion) is artistic in effect, as seen in this rambling house in my neighborhood in the old part of downtown Branson, Missouri:
The partial stone veneer, integrating the chimney, gives great charm to this Branson cottage:
For more info about the giraffe buildings of the Ozarks, check out these sites:
- Recent Past Revealed (you may need to type “Ozark Giraffe”) into the search box.
- James Radke, a Springfield photographer, has many fine photographs on his blog, including this fine house.
- “Stone Craft Architecture in the Southern Missouri Ozarks,” in the Fall 1991 issue of OzarksWatch.