Friday, April 08, 2005

Architectural Highlight: The Cape Cod

Do you live in a modest, one-story dwelling like the one shown here? Be proud! Your home represents one of New England's most significant contributions to American architecture: the "Cape Cod" house.

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

  • Steep roof (8"-12" pitch) with side gables
    - Keeps weather out
    - Allows attic as living space
  • Small roof overhang
    1 or 1½ stories
  • Made of wood and covered in wide clapboard or shingles
    - Winter: Wood swells against wind
    - Summer: Wood shrinks, allowing air to circulate
  • 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

    The Cape Cod style is an example of Colonial Revival architecture, which expresses a renewed interest in America's colonial past. The Cape style's history goes back to English colonists who came to the United States in the late 17th century. They used half-timbered English houses with a hall and parlor as a model, and adapted it to New England's stormy weather and natural resources. 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."

    In the 1930s, when the trend was for small, economical, and mass-produced houses, Cape style homes became popular throughout the United States. In the twentieth century version of the style, the chimneys were often placed at the side rather than the center and the shutters were strictly decorative.

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