Things you’ll see in Vermont, but might not notice.

Visitor: (pointing) Hey buddy, what do they call that funny window over there?

Vermonter: Which window?

Visitor: Thanks ! (drives off.)

This may not be the way it came to pass, but angled windows placed under eaves on second story gables, which are peculiar enough to Vermont to be called “Vermont windows,” are alternatively known as witch windows, because–as is well known–witches cannot fly through an angled window.

These oddly placed windows are also known as a, creepily, coffin windows, because, to justify this name, it is easier to get bodies down from a second story through a slanted window than down what is usually a narrow staircase.

Typical installation of a Vermont window (witch window) on a gable end.

To someone visiting Vermont, what might seem at first to be the humorous product of an eccentric builder is really a bit of practical problem solving on the part of generations of resourceful Vermonters.  This oddity occurred on homes starting from around the 1830s onwards and can still be seen on new homes today, although to a much lesser extent.  Smaller side wings added to the main block of a “cape” style of house obscured much of the gable wall.  A standard vertically oriented double-hung window simply wouldn’t fit.  Constructing a dormer is costly, uses precious materials, accumulates snow and ice, and contributes greatly to heat loss in the cold winters.  The solution: turn the window at an angle to match that of the roof pitch between the eave of the main house and the roof of the addition.  This eliminated the need for additional construction or having to find (or make) a custom window to fit the space.