The Colonial House
circa 1605 – 1850
The standard colonial design, with a symmetrical front- central door, center chimney, two windows on either side and five windows across the second floor- remains the most popular architectural plan in the United States today.
There were many phases and styles to the Colonial home, due to its evolution over the years, the economy and the wide variety of immigrants to North America throughout the colonization periods; the Dutch Colonial was predominantly built throughout the Hudson River Valley, the ‘Southern’ Colonial was typically built in Maryland and the Virginias, the French and Spanish Colonials were built throughout the Southeast and Southwest territories. The Georgian style, identified by its symmetrical composition and formal, classical details, was the most prevalent style in the English colonies throughout the 18th century. All had similar characteristics and identifiable differences. The first residential colonial homes were Medieval in style due to a building vernacular the settlers were familiar with. Houses in England, since at least the 13th century had been timber framed. Colonist brought this method to America: a timber frame with a skin made of local materials; in New England, wood, and in Virginia, brick.
The first basic house, in the 1600s, was a one story two room (hall and parlor) house with a central chimney; characteristic of the Cape style. This evolved into a two story, four room building. By 1700, the Saltbox evolved with a shed-like addition on the back. By 1740, the shed had become a full story, or a four-on-four room house. This, with a central hall and staircase was the basic plan outline.
These early homes were not always symmetrically constructed and would often feature unique widow placement and additions. In early constructions, there was usually one chimney in the house, acting as a heat source and a cooking area. As the age progressed, there were often two or more chimneys, capable of heating individual rooms and a separate kitchen.