Colonial Architectural Style
Trademark features of Colonial style homes have been repeated time and again and have never completely gone out of style.
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As is only fitting, the styles developed by our forefathers were some of the most enduring and popular home designs in this country, and have never completely gone out of fashion. Colonial style homes can be seen in neighborhoods from the Eastern seaboard to the West Coast, and their trademark features have been repeated time and again on buildings built long after the United States came into being.
The architectural term "Colonial" refers not to common design characteristics but to the period of time between the early 1600s, when the first colonists began to build settlements, and 1776, the year the colonies declared their independence from England.
So there are actually many styles of colonial architecture, created when people came from different parts of Europe with different memories of houses they had lived in and wanted to reproduce for themselves in America.
Named not for the state but in honor of England's first three monarchs named George, Georgian homes are formal, even majestic. Envision a governor's mansion, or the family home of one of England's expatriates before the American Revolution — these homes were the fancy of 18th-century colonials in the original 13 states.
The key to Georgian architecture is symmetry, with rich classical detail such as large Greek- or Roman-style columns and pilasters. Elaborate entryways and elegant ornamentation are part of the plan, and beautiful arched windows, called palladium, rest regally above the entryways.
The Southern Colonial house is the type you'll see in historic Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia: a brick or timber frame house that's narrow and just one room deep, covered with a steeply pitched roof, and usually painted white or gray. Narrow windows are spaced regularly around both stories, and flanked with narrow, dark shutters. They're not as simple as their Cape Cod peers, however: medieval characteristics like stepped gables, massive chimneys and diagonal stacks, often made an appearance in Southern Colonial homes, side by side with classical elements such as modillion cornices.
A no-frills home for a no-frills period of American history, saltbox houses had their heyday starting in the early 1600s, and were built virtually unchanged for the next 100 years. They are the oldest of the Colonial New England houses — the first structures meant to be permanent, once the colonists knew they were staying. Neighbors would get together to "raise" the sturdy frame of oak or hard pine, sometimes as large as a foot square.
The name "saltbox" comes from the home's distinctive shape. The main body of the house was two floors and an attic, with a steeply pitched roof and a massive central chimney. In the front, the door was centered and the pitch of the roof ended above the small, second story windows. In the back, however, the roof sloped almost to the ground to cover a shed or lean-to on the back, usually intended as a kitchen. Apparently this created the shape of a saltbox of the day (which was obviously not a blue cylinder). The long roof in back served double duty as protection from the weather.
Turns out our fearless leaders -- George Washington, in particular -- liked to dabble in interior design when they weren't...