I'll grant that the misuse might be based in some sort of homage to early building, or at least the bit that sells.
Shannon insists that it's because most students are not taught to see or to draw, nor of course, are most of them taught any architectural history. It's unlikely they come to love old structures, or they wouldn't hurt them so.
What's not to love about eaves returns? I must say, of all the alluring bits of an early building, the part that catches my eye first is that subtle fold just below the roof. An architectural feminine principle at work ...sinuous, secretive, protective, strong, elegant, multi-layered and complex, and in the case of the 'Aultsville cornice' honoured by PJS, curvy. Eve returns?
|'Village store', Upper Canada Village|
Quite simply, they are how builders transition from a wall to a roof, providing weather protection and decorative possibilities in the process. It seems those decorative aspects appeared endless to the builders of the Greek Revival (heyday in the 1840's ) whose bold detail of layered mouldings is so appealing.
|Cabinet-maker's shop (c.1850, Williamsburg twp), UCV|
I resort to quoting a definition by PJ Stokes, avoiding the foolish urge to say it better than he. "Eaves return: the extension of the eaves around the corner at the gable ends forming a return of the cornice". With his delightful twinkle he continues "..and with a flat top sometimes used by birds for a nesting place; hence the carpenter's term of 'birdhouses' for such features."
|Lutheran Pastor's home (1842-44, Riverside), UCV|
(that definition from the glossary of Rogues' Hollow, his fine collaboration with Tom Cruikshank on the village of Newburgh)
|Physician's home (1840's, Aultsville), UCV|
|the significant Peter Demill house c.1835, Northport|