Weathervanes, or wind vanes, have been an important part of American architecture almost since the beginning of the country’s history. Both functional and decorative, weathervanes can be found in the largest cities as well as the smallest towns. Despite many advances in meteorology that could have rendered the weathervane obsolete, it is still going strong today.
Weathervanes are used to show wind direction. They are made with a pointer, which can be a simple arrow or a more elaborate figure, and four points below that are aligned to the four directions: north, south, east, and west. Often the directions are shown by the letters N, S, E, and W affixed to the appropriate point. The pointer will point towards the direction the wind is coming from, so if it points north, the wind is coming from the north. Weathervanes must be placed high atop a structure such as a barn or house in order to properly catch the wind for an accurate reading. The entire weathervane, from pointer to directional indicators, must also be exactly balanced, or it will not work properly. For these reasons, weathervanes are often used for decorative purposes only.
Weathervanes are a part of Americana. Even if you haven’t seen a weathervane in person, you have likely seen one in the movies, perched atop a big red barn, or perhaps on the top of a farmhouse, mounted to a cupola. Weathervanes are particularly common in the original thirteen states, where many colonial weathervanes may still be seen today. There are a lot of states in New England where shops offer reproduction and new designs of weathervanes for sale, Maine being one such state.
If you want a weathervane for decorative purposes only, the design options are nearly limitless. Many weathervanes on farms take the shape of animals. You have likely seen a rooster or chicken weathervane, but there are also horse weathervanes. Mermaid weathervanes, among others, are also available for those who prefer mythological creatures to real ones. You can choose to have a bright metal finish, or a more antique weathervane. There are many pictures of weathervanes online for you to browse and get ideas of what exactly you want your weathervane to look like.
For the true “do it yourselfer”, you can also make a weathervane. You can use any material you feel comfortable working with, and instructions may be found online. By making your weathervane yourself, you will truly be putting a little of yourself into the project, and the satisfaction you will feel makes this a project worthy of your time. But whether you build your own weathervane, or buy one, they are wonderful additions to your home.