American House Styles - FacultyWeb Support Center

American house styles come in many shapes, some with
architectural details borrowed from classical profiles, some
unique to the New World. The story of these styles' evolution
parallels the timeline of American history—a colony dependent
on the Mother Country turns into an industrial nation with a
unique design language.
Log Cabin
Dates: up to 1850s.
Features: Log walls; one- to three-room layout, sometimes with a center
passage (called a dogtrot).
The earliest settler houses went up quickly, using the most abundant
material around—wood—to protect against the harsh weather. Log cabins
were common in the middle Atlantic colonies, like this Appalachian
Dates: 1607 to early 1700s
Features: Steeply-pitched (catslide) roof that reaches to first story in the back;
massive central chimney; small windows of diamond paned casements or doublehung sash with nine or 12 lights.
Most saltboxes existed in and around New England. Their steep roof pitch is a
holdover from the days of thatching, but early settlers learned that wood shingles
were better at sloughing off snow and rain. Few original saltboxes survive, and
many are museums, like this house in East Hampton, New York.
Dates: 1700 to 1780
Features: Symmetrical facade; double-hung windows with nine or 12 lights in each
sash; paneled door with pilasters, transom lights, and sometimes a pedimented
crown; brick in the South, clapboards in the North; dentil molding at the cornice.
American Georgian architecture is based on earlier European styles (not the British
Georgian style of the same period), which emphasized classical Greek and Roman
shapes. Georgian houses could be found in every part of the colonies in the 18th
Dates: 1780 to 1820
Features: Symmetrical facade; 6-over-6 double-hung windows with shutters; paneled
door with elaborate surround (pediment, pilasters, sidelights, and fanlight); dentil
molding or other decoration at cornice.
Based almost entirely on the English Adamesque style, the American Federal (or
Adam) style took its cues from ancient Roman architecture. This was the first style of
the newly formed United States, and it had a place in nearly every part of the country—
particularly in bustling urban areas like Salem, Massachusetts
Greek Revival
Dates: 1825 to 1860
Features: Pedimented gable ends, portico or full-width porch with classical columns,
6-over-6 windows with pediments.
Americans, newly enamored with Greek democracy, built civic buildings that looked
like Greek temples. The fashion for columns and pediments seeped into residential
architecture as far as the most rural farmland, popularized through pattern books by
Asher Benjamin and Minard Lafever.
Greek Revival Overview
The final years of the 18th century brought an increasing interest in
classical buildings to both the United States and Europe. This was first
based on Roman models (Federal style), but archaeological
investigation in the early 19th century emphasized Greece as the
Mother of Rome which, in turn, shifted interest to Grecian models.
The style is an adaptation of the classic Greek temple front employing
details of Doric, Ionic or Corinthian order
To the popular mind the Greek temple was associated with the origins
of American democracy in ancient Greece.
The popularity of Greek Revival led it to be called the National Style.
Newly established towns throughout the country even took names such
as Athens, Sparta, and Ithaca.
Identifying features of Greek Revival:
• Most have Porticos (either entry or full-width) supported by prominent
square or rounded columns, typically of Doric style, but also Ionic and
• Gabled or hipped roof of low pitch
• Cornice line of main roof and porch roofs emphasized with wide band
of trim
• Enormous windows and doors
• Window sashes most commonly with six-pane glazing
• Small frieze-band windows, set into the wide trim beneath the cornice
(attic), are frequent. These are often covered with an iron or wooden
grate fashioned into a decorative Greek pattern.
A Nice Example of a Greek Revival House
Another Nice Example of a Greek Revival House
Gothic Revival
Dates: 1840 to 1880
Features: Steeply pitched roof with decorated bargeboard and cross gables, arched
gothic windows and doors with arched panels, first-floor porch.
The Gothic Revival is another trend that started in England and made its way to the
U.S. The style mimics the shapes found on Medieval churches and houses, and is
almost always found in rural areas.
Dates: 1840 to 1885
Features: Hip roof with deep, bracketed eaves; arched 1-over-1 or 2-over-2 windows
with elaborate crowns; paired-door entryway with glass in the doors.
Again modeled after a fashion started in England, the Italianate style rejected the rigid
rules of classical architecture and instead looked to the more informal look of Italian
rural houses. Ironically, the style became very popular as an urban townhouse.
A Great Italianate House:
The Eutermarks-Harrar House in Williamsburg, PA
Second Empire
Dates: 1855 to 1885
Features: Mansard roof (hipped with two pitches) with dormers set into it and
patterned shingles, deep eaves with decorative brackets, 2-over-2 or 1-over-1
windows with elaborate hoods or pediments.
The style is closely related to Italianate, but is always characterized by its mansard
roof, named for the 17th-century French architect, François Mansart. The style
name refers to France's second empire—the reign of Napoleon III from 18521870—during which the mansard roof was in vogue.
Queen Anne
Dates: 1880 to 1910
Features: Asymmetrical house shape with intersecting roof lines, turrets and bay
windows; first floor porch; patterned shingles and decorative trim.
The Queen Anne style—what most people would call "Victorian"—is the first product of
the American Industrial Age. After the Civil War, munitions factories converted to make
metal house parts and the machinery to cut mass-produced wood trim. The railroads
brought these products to all regions at an affordable price. And the advent of forced
air heating removed the need for rooms structured around stoves and fireplaces,
meaning new shapes abounded. Advances in paint technology introduced vibrant new
Dates: 1880 to 1900
Features: Exterior walls and roofs of wood shingles; asymmetrical house shape, often
organic to the landscape around it; large porches; intersecting roofs of different
shapes, including gambrel.
A style mostly popular along the coast in the Northeast, Shingle houses were usually
large architects' masterpieces, free-form mansions built into the rocks and hills of the
Richardsonian Romanesque
Dates: 1880 to 1900
Features: Masonry exterior (stone or brick), asymmetrical house shape with Roman or
Syrian arches and towers, arched windows.
Closely related to the Queen Anne and Shingle styles, Romanesque houses are always
stone or brick. Though civic buildings were built earlier in the Romanesque Revival
style, the form didn't show up on residences until the popular architect Henry Hobson
Richardson started his practice in New York and Boston in the 1870s.
Folk Victorian
Dates: ca. 1870 to 1910
Features: Simple house forms decorated with elaborate spindlework, jigsaw-cut
bargeboards, and other decorative trim.
As the industrial age made machine-cut wood details affordable and available to the
average American, homeowners added mass-produced decorative trim (called
gingerbread) to their small, simple folk cottages to dress them up in the style of the day.
For more Victorian Styles, see:
Dates: ca. 1850 to 1910
Features: A shotgun house is a nickname for a long narrow house with sequential
rooms and no hallway. The nickname comes from the idea that if you stood at the
front door and fired a shotgun the buck would fly out the back door without hitting the
house. These houses were commonly built in cities before cars made suburbia
popular. They also took advantage of lower property taxes because many cities based
the tax rate on the lot width so when your house is only 12 feet wide money is saved.
Another advantage was that as families grew more rooms could be easily added.
These tiny houses emerged in the south, specifically New Orleans, but you still see
them today all over America from Key West to Chicago to California.
Typical plan of a Shotgun House:
Colonial Revival
Dates: 1880 to 1955
Features: Large entryway and surround, colums or pilasters, symmetrical facade, 6over-6 windows (often paired), side gable or gambrel roof.
The American Centennial celebrations of 1876 brought about a nostalgia for the
country's past, including its early house styles. But rather than copy those houses
directly, architects like McKim, Mead, and White mixed and matched details from
several early styles, including Dutch Colonial, Georgian, and Federal. This is one of
the country's most enduring styles, as millions of examples survive, and a renewal of
interest in it led to a Neo-Colonial Revival on the "McMansions" of the late 20th and
early 21st centuries.
Tudor Revival
Dates: 1890 to 1940
Features: Steep-pitch side gable roof with cross gable and half timbering; double-hung
or narrow, multi-light casement windows, some with diamond panes; semi-hexagonal
bay windows; walls of stucco or stone (later examples).
More Medieval than Tudor, the style's details loosely harken back to an early English
form. Though the style began in the late 19th century, it was immensely popular in the
growing suburbs of the 1920s. A version of Tudor came back into vogue in the late
20th century.
Dates: 1895 to 1950
Features: Full-height porch with massive columns, Corinthian or Composite capitals,
and large pediment; symmetrical facade.
The World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 featured a classical theme,
sparking a renewed interest in Greek and Roman architecture. The style is closely
related to Colonial Revival, as both look back on a time in American architecture when
classical forms dominated.
Dates: 1900 to 1920
Features: Prairie houses were characterized by low, horizontal lines that were
meant to blend with the flat landscape around them. Typically, these structures
were built around a central chimney, consisted of broad open spaces instead of
strictly defined rooms, and deliberately blurred the distinction between interior
space and the surrounding terrain. The acclaimed American architect Frank Lloyd
Wright developed this design school.
Wright did not aspire simply to design a house, but to create a complete
environment, and he often dictated the details of the interior. He designed stained
glass, fabrics, furniture, carpet and the accessories of the house.
Wright's belief that buildings stongly influence the people who inhabit them. He
believed that "the architect is a molder of men, whether or not he consciously
assumes the responsibility." He believed that form and function were one and the
same thing… His masterpiece of the prairie style is the Robie House, built in
Chicago in 1909.
A Typical Prairie-style house—also by Frank Lloyd Wright
Stockman House (1908) Mason City, IA– Price to build: $5,000
For the most extensive collection of Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs, go to:
More to come on FLW… get ready for Fallingwater… in a bit…
Dates: 1900 to 1930
Features: Seen everywhere in older neighborhoods. They are small by today's
standards, event the largest bungalows are modest compared with today's
McMansions. Often unless they have been remodeled they have two or three
bedrooms, one bathroom, a nice size living room that flows into the dining room,
kitchen, and often a full basement. Many times they have a second floor with
additional space. What they lack in size, they more than make up for in charm and
Craftsman (Arts and Crafts Bungalows)
Dates: 1905 to 1930
Features: Low-pitched gable roof with deep, bracketed overhangs and exposed
rafters; porches supported by massive piers and unadorned square posts; windows
and doors with long vertical panes.
Followers of the Arts and Crafts movement (started in England in the late 19th
century), particularly California architects Greene and Greene, spurned machinemade products and emphasized the beauty of hand-crafted natural materials (the
grain of oak, for example) over Victorian-era excesses. A more vernacular version of
the style, also known as Bungalow or Craftsman Bungalow, was popularized
through the patterns of Gustav Stickley's Craftsman magazine. The style also grew
out of Frank Lloyd Wright's work in the Prairie style at the turn of the 20th century.
For another excellent example of a Craftsman house, go to:
Pueblo Revival
Dates: 1910 to present
Features: Flat roof, adobe or earth-colored stucco walls with rounded edges,
projecting wood beams (vigas).
Pueblo Revival houses have their roots in adobe houses built by Native Americans
and Spanish colonial settlers in the Southwest. The style prevails in that part of the
country, particularly in Arizona and New Mexico where originals survive.
Spanish Colonial Revival
Dates: 1915 to 1940
Features: Low-pitched red-tile roof, arched windows and doors, shaped parapet,
asymmetrical facade, stucco exterior.
The Panama-California Exposition in San Diego in 1915 featued the California
pavilion, a building with details borrowed from Spanish, Mission, and Italian
architecture. The style was to the Southwest and Florida what the Colonial Revival
and Tudor were to the Northeast and Midwest: an incredibly popular style that filled
out the suburbs in the years after World War I.
French Revival
Dates: 1915 to 1945
Features: Steeply-pitched hip roof (without front-facing gable); flared eaves; exterior
brick, stucco, or stone.
American soldiers serving in France during World War I would have seen many
houses with these characteristics in the French countryside. Like the Tudor Revival,
which it resembles, the style was most popular in the growing suburbs of the 1920s.
Dates: 1915 to 1950 (but still popular to the present day)
Features: Exterior walls are usually stucco or brick, often painted white or cream
to contrast the roof of the home. The roof itself is generally covered with terra cotta
or brightly colored roof tiles and normally have a low-pitched gable or hipped roof.
Another distinguishing characteristic is the extension of the side or front wall to
form a courtyard entrance or porch. Windows are sometimes casements, framed
by wooden or wrought iron grills or second story balconies.
A nice example of a Spanish Mediterranean style house:
Cape Cod
Dates: 1920s to 1940s
Features: One story cottage with loft attic space, symmetical window placement on
either side of paneled front door, simple door surround, dormers.
The Cape Cod cottage is a subset of the Colonial Revival style, most popular from
the 1920s to the 1940s. It's modeled after the simple houses of colonial New
England, though early examples were almost always shingled, while 20th century
Capes can be clapboard, stucco, or brick. Many houses of the post World War II
building boom were Capes, including many of the 17,400 cottages in Levittown,
New York, the country's first housing development.
For more images of Cape Cod Houses see:
Modernistic/Art Deco
Dates: 1920 to 1940
Features: Flat roof, smooth stucco exterior with curved walls, horizontal lines either
as grooves or balustrades, zigzag or geometric Art Deco details, plate-glass or glassblock windows.
Earlier Modernistic houses of the 1920s were in the Art Deco style, while later
examples were in the more streamlined Art Moderne style. Both were adaptations
of the popular forms used on commercial buildings of the time (like New York City's
Chrysler Building).
International (e.g. Bauhaus)
Dates: 1925 to present
Features: Flat roofs, clean lines, no decoration, cantilevered rooms, asymmetrical
façade, glass/glass block, metal incorporated into style, and function over form.
No corner moldings, minimal baseboards, extensive use of metal and glass (even
in furnishings), clean lines and style.
The style took its name from a 1932 exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art that
showed the groundbreaking work of European Bauhaus architects like Walter
Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Before World War II, it was most popular
in California and affluent Northeast suburbs.
Bauhaus Architecture
Bauhaus, Contd.
Bauhaus, Contd.
Bauhaus, Contd.
Bauhaus, Contd.
Ranch (American Ranch, California Ranch)
Dates: 1930s to 1960s (but still built everywhere in the United States at present)
Features: Sprawling single story, wide facade, front-facing garage, low-pitched roof,
asymmetrical facade.
Loosely based on Spanish colonial houses in the Southwest, the Ranch house is a
creation of car culture: When homeowners began using their cars for transportation,
they could put their houses farther apart on larger plots of land. Along with the splitlevel of the 1950s and 60s and the builder's shed of 1970s and 1980s, the Ranch
was one of the dominant house forms of the second half of the 20th century.
More Ranch Designs:
Dates: 1950 to 1980
Features: An A-frame is an interior style of house with steeply-angled sides (roofline)
that usually begin at or near the foundation line, and meet at the top in the shape of
the letter A and a ceiling that is open to the top rafters.
Although the triangle shape of the A-frame has been present throughout history, it
saw a surge in its popularity around the world in the post-World War II era, roughly
from the mid-1950s through the 1970s. It was during this time that the A-frame
acquired its most defining characteristics.
Is this the greatest house ever designed in America?
(Bear Run, PA)
by Frank Lloyd Wright
Fallingwater Plan
Fallingwater is labeled an “Expressionist Internationalist” design
...[Wright] sends out free-floating platforms audaciously over a small
waterfall and anchors them in the natural rock. Something of the prairie
house is here still; and we might also detect a grudging recognition of
the International Style in the interlocking geometry of the planes and
the flat, textureless surface of the main shelves. But the house is
thoroughly fused with its site and, inside, the rough stone walls and the
flagged floors are of an elemental ruggedness."
--Spiro Kostof, A History of Architecture
Go to the tour of Fallingwater here:

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