Celebrating The History of American Architecture
Wherever you live, you’ll probably notice many different architectural styles. But did you know that there’s a rich history of purely American architecture? You might not know the names of the different styles of homes around you, but we’re here to give you some expert insight, and some facts you probably never knew!
Federal Design Style
Not to be confused with the U.S. Government, “Federal” is the style that refers to the time period (1780–1820) that this particular design was prominent throughout the then young United States.
It was a style rooted heavily in contemporary European influence, led by the Adams brothers from England. They were influenced more by the architectural styles of original Greek and Roman buildings than the Renaissance styles.
Federal homes feature simple shapes, are typically two or three rooms deep, and have well-proportioned doors and windows. Federal homes are most common along the Eastern Seaboard – from Provincetown, Massachusetts to Savannah, Georgia.
Like Federal Homes, Craftsman homes took their inspiration from two brothers as well — Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene. Their distinctly American designs borrowed from the English Arts and Crafts scene at the beginning of the 20th century.
Craftsman Homes were a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, striving to make the work of individual craftsmen and man-made materials more attractive to the increasingly mechanized society. Authentically American, their simple, open floor plans maximize usually limited square footage.
Early archetypes of these homes can be found in Southern California, but with the increased availability of homes in kits and patterns for their construction, Craftsman homes can be found across the country, and were most popular from around 1905 through the 1920’s.
Cape Cod Style
Colonial New England was the origin of this popular cottage style home. Made distinctive in appearance by its low, broad profile and steeply pitched roof, Cape Cod houses were variations on the English hall and parlor house, and were sturdy protection against New England’s stormy coastal weather.
The oldest Cape Cod houses can be found along the New England coast, especially in Cape Cod — the home’s namesake — but plenty of revivals exist in places like the Midwest and on the West Coast.
The American Foursquare Home
At the turn of the 20th century, America was making a transition to modern architecture from the prevalent Victorian-era style of architecture. More economical, the Foursquare was a compact single-family house, and could be built on smaller plots of land. With two floors and an attic plus a basement in many plans, it was the premiere choice for homebuyers between 1890 and 1930.
American Foursquare homes spread in popularity and construction across the U.S. and Canada. Beginning with simple decoration and details, American Foursquare homes soon began incorporating more elaborate and decorative architectural details and designs.
You’ll find American Foursquare designs in numerous neighborhoods in Chicago, with a mixture of both older and newer homes sometimes sitting side by side. In fact, Chicago-based Sears once sold kits that contained an entire house.
Learning about some of the unique home design and architectural styles that make up a small fraction of America’s housing history is both informative and inspiring. If you’re looking to buy a home, build a home, or remodel, you’ll find there’s a lot to celebrate when it comes to American architecture.