Home | Introduction | Download e-book | Conference 2001 | Special thanks | The note of law | Contact
Articles: Poland | Małopolska | Mazowsze | Ziemia Łęczycka | Żuławy | Nizina Sartowicko-Nowska | Ziemia Kwidzyńska | Ziemia Walichnowska | Ziemia Sieradzka | Ziemia Wieluńska
Articles --> Mazowsze

Materials and structures

The homesteads of the Olęder villages were very impressive in comparison to their Polish counterparts. The buildings were generally of considerable size in terms of their volume, had tidy surroundings, and were situated among orchards and gardens. Modern farming technology was quite profitable; as a result, Dutch homesteads looked very attractive. Their uniqueness was also manifested by their structure and the materials used in their erection.


Buildings rested on two types of foundation. The walls of the oldest buildings rested on oak pillars, which were sunk in the waterlogged ground and hillocks (terp). In the later period (beginning in the 19th century), the settlers started using fieldstones, which were often imported across long distances. The fieldstones were also used to reinforce the head of a hillock, which was most exposed to flooding waters from the river. The foundation was built of fieldstones cemented with a lime mortar or simply clay. The length and width of the foundation depended on the building size and reached up to 40 by 10 meters, respectively. It also had to have appropriate strength in order to support 3 m walls covered by an 8m high roof.

Ground sill

The ground sill, usually made of oak, rested on the foundation. It had a large cross-section (up to 30 x 40 cm) and in the lengthwise direction was connected by scarf joints, for example: beveled or oblique scarf joints, which were reinforced with dowels and at quoins connected by complicated timber joints. In older houses, the ground sill was hewn with an axe and in later ones it was cut by saw. At the end of the 19th and especially at the beginning of the 20th centuries, the colonists used pinewood for this element, because of its universal availability and cheapness.


Primarily pine but also poplar and oak woods (posts) were the basic building materials. Some buildings were built of brick (e.g. a house in Świniary no. 29) or (in the interwar period) of self-made cement and lime blocks (farming section). The colonists also used materials that were readily available, for example, clay or stones. The house, which has been preserved to this day in the village of Pomocnia no. 16 (dist. Poniechówek), constitutes a very interesting example of the adaptation of local technology - glinobitka (construction of walls from a mixture of wet clay and straw) to the Dutch concept of construction - thick walls and the previously described layout. The beams were set on top of each other and were connected at quoins by dovetail joints with 4-8cm 'crowns' (log ends). When poplar was used as a building material in the surveyed area, the beams were the widest. The second wall of a building that no longer exists (Wilków nad Wisłą no.2) was 3 m high and was constructed of six beams. The solid beam wall was bound to the tenon-post structure because of the lack of building material of the necessary length. The posts of this structure usually served as door and window posts. Saddle joints were used to connect the four corners of the building and one of the partition walls of the farming section - usually between the cowshed and the barn. A wall that was constructed by this method was additionally reinforced in the farming section because of the lack of any internal walls. A pine summer beam, which tied the ceiling joists, rested on a top plate and one post in the lengthwise direction of the building. The structure was clamped by an "anchoring beam", which was placed across the building below the summer beam. This beam had semicircular endings limited with two dowels, and protruded beyond the wall faces. The dowels, which as a rule were made of oak, were also used to reinforce the wall beams. They were driven into holes that were hand drilled in the beam every 20-30 cm. Carpenters used moss to seal the walls. However, at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the so-called berlliński szpunt (Berlin bung) method became commonly used for this purpose. A carpenter would cut a longitudinal groove where the beams came into contact, and then cover the joint nailing a slat into the groove.

Beginning in the mid-19th century another construction method - the tenon beam / post method -became commonly used, especially for building barns. In this method, the structure was reinforced with angle braces and struts, and planked with vertical boards. Generally at that time the settlers began to build barns separately.

Bricks and hollow bricks were new materials introduced in the 20th century, and were used to complement walls. In some cases, different materials were used in one building, for example: the residential part was wooden while the cowshed was made of bricks.

Beam ends at quoins were the elements that would get damaged in a short period of time. In that case, the tips would be cut off and the joints were planked with decorative small boards. The wall beams were clamped with a top plate, which in turn, supported the ceiling joists.


Ceiling boards, which were connected by a tongue - groove joint, were nailed to the ceiling joists from the top. This type of ceiling was used in the residential section and cowshed; whereas the barn had an open ceiling. The ceiling joists protruded beyond the wall face and were often finished with decorative carvings. Planks - so called zasówki - that covered the eaves area were also attached to these joists. The eaves area was also created by planking the raft endings from outside.

Truss work

In Dutch buildings we can distinguish two types of truss works: rafter - collar beam and rafter - queen post trusses. The rafters were tied by a tenon or bevel joint (the bond was reinforced with a dowel), and were attached to the ceiling joists with a tenon joint or rested directly on top plates connected to them by bevel joints. In such cases the rafter ends, which were often decoratively carved, constituted the eaves of the building. Collar beams (often two in one roof truss) that bonded the rafters were connected by dovetail halving, which was additionally reinforced with a dowel. In some cases, the entire structure was reinforced with king/queen posts, which stiffened the structure and increased the roof height. At the bottom, the vertical posts (vertical studs) were fixed either to the joists or to the lower top plate that rested on the joists lengthwise by mortice and tenon joints. At the top, they supported the upper top plate (mortice and tenon joint), which ran lengthwise. Pointing sills often additionally increased the height of the roof. In this type of structure, the rafter heads rested on the additional longitudinal top plates, which in turn were set on the pointing sills. The roof structure was additionally reinforced with braces and struts, which bound the rafters at different angles and were connected by a cover plate strengthened with a dowel.

The rafters could have been additionally reinforced with ties - diagonal scantlings or battens that ran from the top of the first rafter through the second and third down to the bottom of the fourth or fifth rafter. This reinforcement was applied on an as-needed basis in cases where the roof structure was disturbed by northern or western winds or by snow cover lying on the roof for an extended period of time.

Reed and especially rye straw (głowacze-snopeczki provided smooth roofing) were traditionally used as roofing materials. The material was attached to the battens, which rested transversely on the rafters. It was reinforced with small braided sheaves, the so-called wróble or koźliny, or simply with an additional layer of straw or potato butts. From the beginning of the 20th century, this type of roofing was being replaced with new materials, namely: tiles (especially pantiles), galvanized metal sheeting, asbestous tile, and bituminous roofing membrane. In the vicinity of Płock, in the interwar period, builders adopted a different roofing material. As a result of the shortage of appropriate materials, roofs were covered with fiberboards impregnated with Xylamite - a preparation used for protection of wood from vermin - or simply with used engine oil.

The gables were planked (especially above the residential section) with boards, which were usually decorated with geometric patterns. The planking fields were separated by eave boards and protected from the top by wind ties, which were topped with a decorative pinnacle. The central part of the gable (located above the residential section) was equipped with one or two symmetrical windows, which lit the loft spaces. The second gable of the roof was usually left plain.


The residential section was generally equipped with white pine floors resting on floor joists. The boards were either butt or tongue-groove joined. The floor in the hallway and kitchen was sometimes made of brick or cobblestones and, in the interwar period, of cement. The farming buildings usually had a mud floor; the cowshed was the only space with fieldstone or cement floors.


The Dutch buildings were equipped with two types of windows. The first type was a small, either rhomboidal or rectangular window, which was fixed permanently in the wall beams of the farming section; this part had from 2 to 10 such windows. This window type was only used to light the spaces. Proper windows were located in the residential section of the building. These windows were either single or double and were installed in the wall beams (older houses) or in łątki - usaki (newer houses) - in decorative chamfered frames of the ościeżnicowo-krosnowa structure type. The windows were either single sided (in the hallway, next to the entrance) or, more often, double sided and had four or six windowpanes. The window sections were suspended on smith-made hinges and had either smith or factory-made hasps. Quite frequently, the window was equipped with shutters, which had either a board or frame-panel structure. The paneled shutters were decoratively painted and their panels were beveled. These shutters were closed inside with centrally located bolted smith-made handles.


The doors were set inside reveals on smith-made hinges and their doorframe boards were decoratively beveled. In one case, the door was topped with an arch, but in general they were rectangular. They were equipped with rim or ratchet locks, or were closed directly with a hasp (in the farming section). In the residential part, both the internal and entrance doors had either paneled, planked, or batten structure and were often painted. The batten door type was installed exclusively in the farming section; whereas, planked doors can be found in both sections. This type of door is the most interesting and decorative. From the interior side, the doors are batten, while from the outside they were decoratively boarded and sometimes even spiked with smith-made clout nails. The doors were at least double with independently closed sections that were separated halfway up. During warm weather, residents opened the upper part of the door in order to lighten up the interior. The bottom part remained closed when it was necessary to block access of fowl into or out of the kitchen. The boarded doors in the cowshed could be split in an even more complicated fashion. It is possible to come across doors that are divided into three or even four sections and can be partially opened in different parts of the day or year. The paneled entrance door that led to the hallway was sometimes equipped with a fanlight. A very peculiar type of door can be found in the gable wall of the residential section on the garden side. This door type includes a combination of a six-pane window (the upper part) with a paneled door (the bottom part), which is additionally equipped with a double shutter in the bottom section. Sometimes, the entrance door leading to the hallway and the kitchen were double. Such was the case when the inner door was half-glassed. Then, the outer door would be boarded and frequently very stylishly decorated with rhomboidal designs as, for example, in the house located in Nowy Wiączemin no. 6.

The wood of the outer walls of buildings, for the most part, retained their natural color and bear visible traces of being lime-washed, often with the addition of blue paint. Nowadays, this custom has been abandoned, as has the custom of scrubbing the walls with soft soap in order to protect the wood from "vermin". Window and doorframes are the only painted elements - usually according to the pre-war color patterns. Colorful shutters, windows, and entrance doors add luster to the building.

An unusual element of the building is inscriptions, which were usually cut in the door casing over the entrance. The inscription was in the German language, written in gothic style, and normally contained the house completion date and the names of the builder and the owner of the building. The largest number of inscriptions were preserved in the villages of Leonów and Nowy Wiączemin near Płock. Some inscriptions are illegible; they were purposefully damaged by the post-war owners or covered with a thick layer of oil paint. The now non-existent house in Sady near Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki had an example of a different type of inscription. Initials of, probably, the owner and the date of erection were carved in the gable of the porch.

This last building, among others, is an example of the spread of ornamental designs characteristic for Swiss resorts to Dutch architecture. This style became popular in the second half of the 19th century and spread to the entire Europe reaching even Russia (near-Moscow dachas). Houses were decorated with elaborately carved wind ties, slats, roof gable ornaments, window parts, and other elements. Even components of the structure were often ornamented, for example ceiling joist heads. The spread of this type of decoration, especially in the Warsaw region, was associated with two phenomena: the emergence and development of the świdermajerowski style, which was created by Michał Elwiro Andriolli in Otwock, and the inflow of carpenters and joiners from Russia, who were settled near Modlin and were employed in fortress construction.

The building interiors were very tidy and clean. The floors were scrubbed with soap and for special occasions were sprinkled with yellow river sand. The walls, depending on the owner's wealth, were lime-washed, painted with a glue color, or wallpapered; wealthy households had their representative rooms beautifully decorated with stenciled designs or with pictures painted directly on the beams. In order to provide better insulation, beams were often plastered with a clay and lime mixture, which was spread on the screen made of slats nailed diagonally to the walls.

Home | Introduction | Download e-book | Conference 2001 | Special thanks | The note of law | Contact
Articles: Poland | Małopolska | Mazowsze | Ziemia Łęczycka | Żuławy | Nizina Sartowicko-Nowska | Ziemia Kwidzyńska | Ziemia Walichnowska | Ziemia Sieradzka | Ziemia Wieluńska

Copyright 2005 © jerzyszalygin@wp.pl