cape architecture

August 24, 2011

The New England Colonial style was re-invented in the 20th century.
The Cape Cod style originated in colonial New England. Today, the term refers to Cape Cod-shaped houses popular during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.  In colonial days, a Cape Cod house was a simple, one-story structure with a single chimney in the center. The 
first Cape Cod style homes were built by English colonists who came to America in the late 17th century. They modeled their homes after the half-timbered houses of England, but adapted the style to the stormy New England weather. Over the course of a few generations, a modest, one to one-and-a-half-story house with wooden shutters emerged. Reverend Timothy Dwight, a president of Yale University, is credited with recognizing these houses as a class and coining the term “Cape Cod.”

Much later, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, a renewed interest in America’s past inspired a variety of Colonial Revival styles. Colonial Revival Cape Cod houses became especially popular during the 1930s. These small, economical houses were mass-produced in suburban developments across the United States.

Twentieth century Cape Cod houses often have dormers. The chimney is usually placed at one end instead of at the center. The shutters on modern Cape Cod houses are strictly decorative; they can’t be closed during a storm.

Traditional, Colonial-era Cape Cod houses had many of these features:

  • Steep roof with side gables
  • Small roof overhang
  • 1 or 1½ stories
  • Made of wood and covered in wide clapboard or shingles
  • Large central chimney linked to fireplace in each room
  • Symmetrical appearance with door in center
  • Dormers for space, light, and ventilation
  • Multi-paned, double-hung windows
  • Shutters
  • Formal, center-hall floor plan
  • Hardwood floors
  • Little exterior ornamentation
Or, as you see more and more the expanded cape.  Charming still, and easier to live in with dormered rooms on the second floor, and more square footage thanks to the expanded foot print.  I love the charm of New England architecture, even better when it’s on the water!
Like the original saltbox homes from colonial times, a Saltbox Style Colonial Revival has two stories at the front and one story at the rear. The gable roof covers both levels, sloping sharply down in the rear.
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