The Saltbox House
circa 1600s – 1830
A saltbox home (which takes its name from the resemblance to a wooden lidded box in which salt was once kept) is identified by its asymmetrically long, rear roof line. The pitched roof that slopes down to the first floor was first created to cover a lean-to addition at the rear of the original house. This often extended the roof line to sometimes less than six feet from the ground level.
Originally designed to be more convenient and commodious than graceful or picturesque, the arrangement was a popular style throughout the colonial period and into the early Republic, perhaps because of the simplicity of its design. The flat front and central chimney are features of this cleverly constructed home. The earliest saltbox houses, along with many other types of colonial houses, can be considered to be a timber-frame house; metal nails were sparingly used, because of their expense.
The exterior of a saltbox was often finished with clapboard or other wooden siding. Exterior and interior detailing was often understated in the developing years, yet became more elaborate as the decades progressed. Today, its functional and honest construction has become one of the most celebrated styles in New England.