What is a corbel and why are they important?

A corbel is a decorative support that extends out from a wall. The right angle formed by the vertical and horizontal sides of the corbel helps it support whatever the top is attached to. The vertical side of the corbel is typically attached to a wall, and the horizontal side is attached to a shelf, counter, or in our case here at the Wicoff House Museum, our roof. We also have on display a mid- 19th century Corbel that is from the Benjamin Gray house, which is in the Aqueduct Mills neighborhood.

Corbels are a melding of beauty and function. You can find plain or ornate ones today in your local hardware store. Corbels can be more horizontal or more vertical, it simply depends on the style you’re looking for. The corbels on the Wicoff House seem to be slightly more vertical than horizontal, though you have to look at just the right angle to see it. Corbels are not a new building feature; they were a distinctive architectural feature on many house styles in the U.S during the 19th century. It’s no wonder then why the Wicoff House, built around 1880, has them. Next time you’re at the Wicoff House Museum, or walking past any house that looks like it could have been built in the 1800s, look up at the eaves and see if you can spot any corbels!

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