Styles of New England Homes
To honor our great American history, on this Memorial Day weekend, and the freedom allotted from the hard-fought battles over hundreds of years, let me take you back in time for just a bit. Not to discover the battles or the reasons behind the Memorial Day; but, to dive into the stories of the architecture that those brave soldiers were fighting for back home, to explore the styles of New England homes. Think back now to circa late 1980’s. You are also now located in Nebraska. If you have traveled with me to that decade, I would be a little girl on our farm with our new ranch style home, a log cabin dated in the early 1900s, and a sod house, dated in the 1860’s, all located on the premises. A study of location in history and not unlike other “homes” in the Midwest.
Yet, let’s leave there and go back to the first time that I came to the Connecticut area in 2016. Much to my sincere amazement cornerstones on nice homes were dated back to the late 1600s, the 1700s, 1800s and the very early 1900s. No, they were not the log cabins nor the sod houses we saw in Nebraska in our little time travel experience but well-built, sturdy homes. And, of course, a trip to Newport, RI mesmerized me. The mansions and the homes were beyond compare to those homes in the middle of our nation.
My curiosity followed the epiphany. Looking closer, I have found a host of varied architectural styles and more styles than in any other parts of the country in which I have traveled. Knowing about the distinguishing details and their history deepened my appreciation of these New England homes and gave me a true interest in the unique personalities of these houses.
Old Stone Construction
We must first begin with the oldest house in CT and the oldest stone house in New England. The house known as the Henry Whitfield House is in Guilford, CT, just a short jaunt from anywhere on the shoreline. This house, with its massive two foot stone walls, also served not only as the family home but as a community fort to protect community members against British attacks. In addition, it was used as a church gathering spot on Sundays and served as a hotel for early settlers. Construction on this multi-use home began in 1639 when Whitfield, a Puritan minister, came from England to flee religious persecution. Accounts of the construction state that the local Menunkatuck Indians aided in the transportation of the large stones to build the walls. The original mortar was made of yellow clay and crushed oyster shells which you can still see today. The house was styled in the tradition of the northern England and Scotland homes and is complete with six fireplaces. This home can be toured and should be on your must-see list. While there, think about your little time travel to Nebraska and note that their first home was made of sod with grass roofs.
Next, a wide range of structures built by the colonial settlers from the 1640’s through the Revolutionary War can be seen in abundance in our area. Made of wood, these houses have a prominent central chimney and are in the form of saltboxes that resembled the salt boxes that they stored salt in to keep it dry. This style actually originates in the New England states and is a prime example of true American architecture. Their distinctive shape was designed by adding one story, full-length extension to the rear of a two story house and having the roof slope down in the rear at a steeply pitched angle. This style was prominent from 1680 through 1830. These houses had tiny panes of leaded glass in the windows and wood shingled roofs with a totally flat front. One more interesting fact about these houses is that their popularity grew because of Queen Anne’s taxation on the colonists’ homes. She implemented and collected high taxes on houses greater than one story. Since the rear of the saltbox house descends to the height of a single story, the saltbox was exempt from taxation.
Cape Cod Homes
The flagship 1750s set a new standard for New England homes. The Cape Cod is still a popular style that traces its origins back to New England for over two hundred years. Characterized by a low broad profile, it is usually a story and a half, with many two stories, and all with steeply pitched roofs to ensure snow would not build up during the harsh winter weather. Everything about the Cape Cod style was adopted for its function rather than its form. Colonial capes did not have front porches; however, porches are common in revival styles. Many of our newer home development areas have this style as the most popular home of 2017.
Technically, a house build after 1700 is not really termed a colonial but these homes were best described as this, even though are several styles that fit into this broad term. The Colonial intermixed many different styles. They started out with the Gambol style which are the barn shaped homes you see along the roadsides. The oldest of these homes is often determined by the windows. A house built with small 6 pane windows are older than a house with large paned windows. Fashionable during the reign of King George the Third, there are a large number of these homes from this Georgian and Federal style era that are still intact from the original designs. You will find this style of home throughout the United States, with just as many variations, but the only real ones are in the original thirteen colonies. These houses were built of brick or wood and most often had large gambrel roofs. They have a symmetrical facade with a central door and sash windows.
Despite the variations in the Colonial style home, there is one other style that became popular after the Civil War and the invention of the streetcar. With the economy booming, the Queen Anne and its variations of elements and styles came into being a popular home style choice. Think the Victorian era architecture of the Mark Twain home in Hartford, CT. The style was grand These homes were built when people were feeling wealthy and the statement was “We have arrived.” Gingerbread woodwork, porches, bold paint colors, and projecting upper floors with bay windows, towers, overhangs, and multiple textures are commonplace in this style.
And, from then until now, a mix of styles, with even building stores where you can buy renovating products to keep many of these styles intact, contractors who specialize in these styles to build from the ground up today, these New England homes are definitely a topic of historical conversation. The Colonial style, for instance, fits beautifully into the New England architecture and is blended into new homes, featuring and retaining classic, historical looks.
Thus, the contrast of Nebraska to New England are beyond comparison. Above all, looking at the styles of New England homes takes you back to a time where history was in the making. What a remarkable area of the country in which we live! Are you ready now to go out and truly relish and study the homes we see and pass by every day? I sure am….join me or let me know what you discover. And, as for our time travel back to Nebraska, let’s just stay here for now. There is so much history to see.