Over the past few centuries, several architectural styles have evolved from various influences. Some of these styles include Gothic, Roman, Victorian, classic, contemporary, and modern, among others. Sometimes, certain architectural styles go out of fashion only to be revived several decades (or centuries) later. One such style is the colonial style house.
Colonial style originated in the mother country and has been assimilated and employed in the buildings and settlements in the countries that were colonies of the mother country. A colonial style house is typically impressive and awe-inspiring, and today this style is being revived in many parts of America. In this article, you'll learn about the history of colonial style houses and why they're so popular.
What Are Colonial Style Houses?
Colonial style houses are buildings that feature architectural features that evolved from European influences. As is evident from their name, these houses were popular during the colonial period in the United States and flaunt a bit of French colonial, Dutch colonial, and Spanish colonial styles. Some colonial style houses also display influences of Georgian architecture. These homes first became popular in the seventeenth century, and they remained in style until the nineteenth century.
What Are the Features of Colonial Houses?
Colonial style houses generally have certain definite characteristics that set them apart from most other architectural styles and make them instantly recognizable. Some of these distinct features include:
- A structure that's strictly symmetrical
- Noticeable geometric lines that lend an air of elegance to these homes
- Pitched roofs that provide greater attic space and encourage ventilation
- An embellished or decorated entrance way that attracts significant attention
- Multi-paneled windows on either side of the entrance way
- A rectangular facade that's in keeping with the balanced, symmetrical design
- A central hall in the floor plan that's at the intersection of two identical sides of the house
- Two-storied, with a staircase leading from the hallway to the upper floor
- Bedrooms that are typically located upstairs
- Formal rooms like the living room and the dining room at the front of the lower floor
- A kitchen at the back of the lower floor
- Paired chimneys placed one at each end of the house to prevent the build-up of heat in the summer
History of Colonial Homes
The history of colonial style houses in America dates back to the First Period, which is when the first English settlements were developed in Virginia (in 1607) and Massachusetts (in 1620). These were the earliest colonial homes built on American soil, and they featured steep roofs, small casement leaded glass windows, elaborate ornamentation, and an enormous central chimney. The other distinct segments of colonial architecture were developed with influences from the French, Spanish, Dutch, and Georgian styles.
French Colonial Homes
These houses were popular in the areas of North America in which the French had settled, such as Quebec (in 1608) and Louisiana (in 1718). The Mississippi River Valley region was another popular French settlement where houses were constructed using heavy upright logs of cedar wood set into the ground vertically.
These houses also featured double-pitched hipped roofs and were bounded by porches and galleries that helped the habitants handle the hot summer weather. Eventually, around 1770, the houses evolved to include small bricks between the posts, and began to feature double-louvered doors, flared hip roofs, dormers, and shutters.
Spanish Colonial Homes
The history of Spanish colonial style houses dates way back to 1565 when Spanish settlements were built in Augustine, Florida. These early homes were generally board houses, which were small, one-room cottages made from pit-sawn softwood boards, with thatched roofs.
Eventually, somewhere in the eighteenth century, the style evolved to include two stories and featured cooling porches that offered relief from the climate in Florida. It was during this period that Spanish colonial style houses were whitewashed in lime mortar with an oyster shell aggregate. Spanish influences also extended to some other regions, like the southwest and Alta California.
Dutch Colonial Homes
In the 1630s, when the Dutch arrived in New Amsterdam, Bergen (present-day New Jersey), and the Hudson River Valley (present-day New York), they brought along the Dutch style of colonial architecture. Much like the Spanish, the Dutch also started off with one-room cottages that eventually evolved into two-storied, gable-end homes, which were popular in New Amsterdam.
In the Hudson Valley, the Dutch influence grew into linear-plan homes where the straight-edged gables were moved to the end walls. Around 1720, the style progressed to include gambrel roofs and saw the addition of overhangs on the front and rear end to protect the mud mortar used in the stone walls and foundations.
Georgian Colonial Homes
As is clear from the name, Georgian styles of colonial architecture trace their influence way back to the periods during the reigns of King George II and King George III. The houses during those times were generally built from brick, painted in white and featured wood trim and wooden columns. In America, colonial style houses influenced by Georgian architecture included both brick buildings and structures in wood with clapboards. They were often painted a pale yellow, and this differentiated them from most other buildings, which were usually unpainted.
These colonial style houses were typically a box shape and featured multiple chimneys. As the style evolved, it included several elements like a portico, a formal living room, a family room, bedrooms on the upper floor, dual chimneys, and multi-pane windows. This is the essence of a typical colonial style house as we know it today.
Reasons to Love Them
There are endless reasons to love colonial style houses. Some people are in awe of the historical aspect associated with them while others may be taken in by their sheer grandeur. Whatever the specifics may be, there are several reasons a colonial style house is loved by many people. Some of these reasons for their enduring popularity are listed below.
The Quality of Resources Used
Historic homes have a durability about them that's hard to replicate in modern buildings. The colonial style houses from the previous centuries were built to last and were generally constructed with the intention of housing several generations of the family they were built for. These houses were all created by dedicated labor and constructed by hand, unlike the assembly line products we have today.
Historic homes also feature old-growth lumber and faultless timbers that are unavailable for purchase in today's markets. They also include dependable plumbing constructed with metals like copper and authentic plaster walls that keep the interiors cool in warm weather.
Generosity of Space
There's no lack of space in a standard colonial style house. These houses typically have two stories with several rooms distributed between them, meaning you'll always have room to spare. The square footage of these buildings is also impressive because most colonial style houses are sprawling structures that were constructed to accommodate large families.
Some colonial houses also have rooms to accommodate household staff. This should give you a fair idea of how enormous the historical colonial homes were. Modern colonial style homes may not be as immense, but they typically have two (or even three) stories with several bedroom options and ample areas for socialization.
Attractive and Functional Architecture
Historical and modern colonial style houses have many things in common. One of these is the fact they're both extremely impressive. Using striking architectural elements like imposing entrance ways and commendable symmetry lends an eye-catching appearance to these houses. Many colonial style houses also have detailed esthetics such as tall white columns, balconies, large windows, elaborate front entrances, and lengthy front porches.
Aside from being attractive, this architectural style is also functional, because several elements in colonial houses aren't simply included for enhancing their appeal, but also because they serve a purpose. For instance, the use of a pitched roof ensures that rainwater drains downward and doesn't stagnate on the roof. It also increases attic space and facilitates ventilation.
The Use of Natural Materials
Another distinct feature of colonial houses is that they use natural materials like brick, limestone, and cedar wood, as opposed to manufactured materials like asphalt and cement. Brick is also scalable, unlike concrete, and this is another reason to love these historic homes. Cedarwood is a natural insect repellant, and the use of cedarwood shingles on the roof helps keep away insects and bugs. This isn't the case with asphalt, which has no natural insect-repellant properties. Above all, the use of natural materials like wood and brick ensures that the house remains cool in summer and warm in winter.
Colonial houses will never go out of style, and there's a timelessness about them that's impossible to find in contemporary and modern homes. These houses also have high resale values, and should you ever decide to sell your colonial style house, you can expect to enjoy a decent return on your investment. Above all, living in a colonial house is comfortable and relaxing, and makes you feel more at home than other kinds of houses.