Category Archives: Architectural Anthropology and History

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.

Tudor Style Houses

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Tudor Houses

Tudor Houses. Even today people love their style. The top row and the garden are the Southampton Tudor style house. The main house was first built around 1491 and belonged to Sir John Dawtrey a landowner and Sheriff. The site existed since the Norman era, but is was much deteriorated by the end of the 15th Century. During the Tudor era it was owned by Sir Richard Lyster, Judge and Chief Justice of the King’s bench who further renovated it in much of the Tudor Style you see today.

The bottom two rows (excluding the garden) is the Anne of Cleves house. Anne of Cleves was the 4th wife of Henry VIII. She was the German Princess who came all the way to England to marry the fat old king and he decided he did not like her all that much. No doubt she was in a terror awaiting her doom, only to be surprised and elated when the King offered her divorce terms (instead of an execution). He proclaimed she was so unpleasing that he was impotent. Also, he wanted Catherine Howard. In return she agreed to a annulment due to non-consummation and she would be first lady in the land next to his new Queen and daughters, as a Princess, the King’s sister. he even gave her properties and a nice income. She lived her out her days happily, mainly in this house. She had no wish to return to Germany, not only humiliated that her husband set her aside, but also to be used as another marriage pawn to God only knows who else.

Both houses are museums now, open to the public.

Some things about Tudor Houses:

Oak remained the basic building material, with infill of the framework made of wattle and daub (wood and clay).

Brick began to replace wattle and daub.

Increased prosperity meant larger houses.

Traditionally, and Englishman’s home was E shaped, built around a courtyard. The E shape had nothing to do with Elizabeth I, as this style was on the market long before she was born.

Roofs were made of slate or thatch.

Staircases replaced ladders to get from floor to floor.

Fireplaces and chimneys kept the smoke for the most part out of the room.

Rich people built special rooms in their houses: kitchens, sculleries, larders, libraries, and dinning rooms.

The poor have continued to live in hovels in the countryside or were crammed into tiny tenements in the towns. Homes didn’t have bathrooms or toilets called privies, they usually had holes in the ground to do their business in.