February 2014 Article

History of the American Home

One professional trait that most real estate top producers share in common is an emphasis on in-depth product knowledge. Understanding how to present square footage, number of baths, interior design schemes, or other specific information germane to a particular house or style is essential to the work of a residential real estate licensee. But as a professional, it is also important to think about how a particular house’s design has been influenced by its geographic location, and the era in which it was designed.
The study of architecture is closely related to the study of history because historical events and trends have influenced architectural development. People in New Orleans, for example, had to rethink their construction practices after the great fire of 1788 destroyed 75% of the city’s dwellings and businesses. During rebuilding efforts after the fire, architects began using slate, cement, and bricks to replace cypress shingles and the wood dividing walls which separated the closely built Creole townhouses and similar buildings that dominated architectural style in New Orleans.
In contrast, architectural designs can influence history. When mass produced building materials and balloon framing came on the scene in the middle 1800’s, it encouraged greater numbers of people to migrate west. These new developments allowed a fast and inexpensive way for farmers on the Great Plains to move out of sod houses, and for whole western towns to spring up seemingly overnight.
Many of the different architectural styles are basically the same design with minor exceptions. For example, the big difference between a Colonial American and New England Colonial style is that the Colonial American typically has a main entryway which extends out to form a small wing onto the front of the house. The Cape Cod and Cape Ann colonials present another example. The major difference between these two classic one-and-one-half story American houses is that the Cape Cod has a gable roof, and the Cape Ann has a gambrel roof. 

If you’d like to learn more about how American homes have evolved from factors such as geography, climate, natural resources, and how historical events have shaped the face of housing in this country, take our online course, History of the American Home – Part I.

By Hollis Willeford
Subject Matter Expert
Continuing Ed Express

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