“Quoins: Pronounced “coins,” like the pennies that jangle in your pocket — which is a bit ironic, since these architectural elements are supposed to imply substance, strength, architectural stability, and perhaps even wealth. Usually found at the corners of multi-story buildings, quoins are stone or wood bands of “rectangles” that look like “blocks,” usually in a wide-short-wide-short pattern. (Click Here for Index of 100+ articles here at Historic House Blog!!)
While some quoins are actually structural, most of them are purely decorative, designed to make a house or building look bolder or more substantial. This is accomplished by using thin stone or wood pieces that create an illusion of large blocks on the corners of the building. They were used in America as early as the 18th century in Georgian style buildings. One classic example is “Mount Pleasant” in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia (pictured here).
Mount Pleasant is one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in the country and was built for Captain John MacPherson in 1761. It is open for tours occasionally. (Check out a driveby bus tour video of Mount Pleasant here). Quoins also often appeared on 19th century Victorian houses (left – wooden quoins on a simple folk Victorian), and continue to be used in various eclectic building styles even today.