Pierson left his mark on Humboldt County in a big way. Aside from being one
of the primary builder/developers of the post-war era and founder of the
popular and successful building supply, his name is famous—or maybe infamous
– for the windows he developed and used in the homes he built.
The design is
amazingly simple. The windows consist of sliding frameless glass that rides
in a channel milled into a wooden frame, just like the sliding glass doors
on display cases or glass–fronted furniture of the period. When closed, the
two panes of glass overlap by a few inches, but of course have a small gap
between them to allow them to bypass to open. Clever brass hardware attached
directly to the glass latches the window in place for security. The result
is an inexpensive window with a strikingly clean and neat appearance.
All well and
good as far as that goes, but as far as keeping out the elements-- or for
that matter small and medium size insects-- perhaps not so effective. There
are no seals or gaskets whatsoever, and forget about the insulating effects
of dual pane glass.
fairness, I have seen the original demonstration windows that are in a back
room at Piersons Home Center, and got to observe how tight the fit was in
the windows when new. In fact, the gap between the panes is so tight that
a piece of paper can’t be slipped between the panes. Unfortunately, the
relatively soft redwood frames tend to wear over time, degrading the
original tight fit.. And as with any wood framed window, a sloppy paint job
can seriously affect operation. As a result, the reputation of these
windows 40+ years hence is less than sterling.
where these windows fit in the timeline of window evolution. They were
developed in the era of wooden framed double-hung or casement windows, when
the post war building boom and changing architectural styles demanded
something different. Aluminum frame sliding windows were either uncommon or
perhaps not yet on the scene and vinyl frame windows still in the distant
future. They were in a sense the pioneering link between traditional style
windows and the variety of alternatives that became the new norm. Who
knows—perhaps Pierson windows were the inspiration for sliding aluminum
frame windows, which even Ernest Pierson later switched to in his home
there were most likely economic reasons for their development With windows
being an expensive element of home construction, it would make sense for the
builder to find a low cost option; even better if he could contain costs by
manufacturing the windows himself. But the window story went beyond
Pierson windows for use in Pierson homes. The design was licensed to a
number of manufacturers across the country and perhaps outside the US.
Certainly the windows found application beyond the
as proven in the pictures below, which were supplied to me by a site visitor
from the UK.
is true, Pierson windows provided a distinctive and neat appearance to
modern homes. People who own these homes today and care about the design
integrity are faced with the classic dilemma of maintaining the original
character and poor performing features, or updating to better functionality
at considerable cost and loss of the character of the era.
If you are
in need of replacement parts, you will be interested to know that there is
still a secret stash of parts at Piersons Building Center. These items are
definitely not out on a peg, but if you ask Maurice, manager of the Window
and Door Department, he will cheerfully dust some off for you. Interesting
story he told me… a few years ago he sent about 50 pounds of vintage Pierson
window hardware off to metal recycling because the demand had gone extinct
and the 17cents/lb for scrap brass was looking like the last best deal!
A, C Typical
Pierson windows. Note overlap of panes at center of each window. Look
closely for latch located at center bottom of each window.
of the window latch.
These pictures came from a homeowner in the
UK. and show a Pierson window style unlike any that I have seen in Humboldt
Country. Note the combination of operable windows over fixed glass. The
frames are made of hardwood instead of redwood and are reported to show no
signs of track wear.
These are double glazed as seen in the original Pierson demo window, but
not generally observed in local applications.
The latches are chrome plated cast brass, not the stamped brass parts that
seem to be more common locally. The design is authentic Pierson, as the
same hardware is used on one of the original demo windows. The window locks
are a recent addition which the owner explains were added to satisfy
security concerns of the home insurance company which had doubts about these
unusual window latches.
Do you have a home
in nice condition with Pierson windows? I want to take detail photos of
your windows to show better pictures on this page.
Do you have any
insider knowledge about the history of how and why Pierson windows were
developed? Tell me about it and I’ll add that information to this page.