History of Architecture – Shotgun House

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Shotgun House

The shotgun house was the popular and average style of house in the United States since the Civil War and into the Great Depression. Shotgun style homes have a unique layout. They are narrow and only about 12 feet wide. Length of houses varied as house taxes were determined by the width of your house (how much house was facing the street) and not how long or deep your house was. Also, in a shotgun house, each room is directly behind the other room. Most would be laid out with a porch and the Living/Sitting room in the front, the bedroom next, then followed by the Kitchen and small bathroom in the corner. Many of these house still survive in Louisiana, especially in the New Orleans French Quarter.

How did the shotgun house get it’s name? Well traditionally all the doors of the house align so that if you open the front door, the room doors, and the rear door, you could shoot a shotgun through the house into the front and out the rear end (or vice versa). However there are some houses that have misaligned doors and the reasoning behind this has its roots buried in superstition and folklore. At the time, the belief in ghosts were wide spread. It was believed that ghosts were attracted to shogun houses, as they could pass quickly and directly through them. (Apparently post Civil War ghost were polite and had impeccable manners, as they did not travel through walls.) Due to this belief, you can find many old shotgun houses with misaligned doors, although the oldest ones tend to have aligned doors.

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