A Guide to Old American Houses, 1700-1900

A Guide to Old American Houses, 1700-1900

A Guide to Old American Houses, 1700-1900

A Guide to Old American Houses, 1700-1900

Excerpt

Since American colonists started building their first permanent homes in the 17th Century, fashions in houses have changed many times. Most of the surviving old dwellings-- even those erected no more than sixty years ago--are likely to have been remodeled or to have had their faces lifted time and again as changing fashions and ideas of convenience demanded. This means that today, unless we have made a study of such things, we may often find it difficult to tell from casual observation just what period or style a house originally belonged to, much less approximate the age of the original structure. The situation can be tantalizing to anyone interested in old houses, professionally or otherwise. On the other hand, the ability to recognize the original architectural style, either of a house or of a public building, and to determine what, if anything, has been done to it since it was first erected, normally is not too difficult once a few basic facts are mastered. And this can be a gratifying as well as a useful accomplishment.

Even in instances where it may not be possible to name the style offhand, the reader will be able to understand what he is looking at because he will know where and how the architectural details originated and what they represent.

In studying the basic styles, however, it must be realized that very few houses exist today that can be presented as "pure" examples of any one architectural design. There may be several variations of each, all equally good from an architectural standpoint, but representing modifications due to differing interior arrangements, building proportions, window placement (fenestration), or merely to decorative treatment. It is such things that give each house its individuality, and enable us to recognize the work of some particular artisan or architect. These variations, which in some instances may go as far as the number and arrangement of chimneys or the kind of roof, may seem to make positive identification of the basic style more difficult, but if we are familiar with the determining features we cannot go far wrong.

On the other hand, we do have to remember that even the type of construction used may be deceptive. Log-walled or half-timbered houses (as distinct from those having a braced frame), which we should expect to find in . . .

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