Colonial Architecture

from the Home Builders Catalog, 1928

The following description of Colonial architecture was published in 1928 by in the Home Builders Catalog:

"The Colonial architecture is more closely associated with American history and traditions than any other type of architecture. A brief review of the famous dwellings to which Americans look with pride will show them to one Colonial style or another. So closely has the Colonial home been interwoven with American Life that it is only within recent years that a family of culture would consider anything else. Nor must we think that all houses looked alike, for in its wide and extensive use different kinds of Colonial houses developed. Colonial houses flourished in New England, in New York, in Virginia and the South and in the North under diverse climates and conditions. As necessity is the mother of architecture, it was inevitable that Colonial architecture should develop along various lines.

Colonial Home Drawing--Builders Home Catalog

"Nothwithstanding the close association of Colonial architecture with American home life and the fact that it has taken on various forms, it has one common and foreign source. The style was directly borrowed by the American Colonists from Georgian England, whose architects in turn looked to Greek and Roman models for their inspiration. Knowing this ancestry, it is not difficult to understand the emphasis upon horizontal lines, the simple division of interior space, the application of Classic orders, the comfortable impression of compactness and the exceeding economy of the style. The use of flat pilasters and columns which are part and parcel of the Southern Colonial style have also obviously their Classic models. Nor was it a simple task to adapt the cold, monumental architecture of the Greek and Roman public buildings to home use. We have to thank the particular genius of Englishmen of the Georgian period for making this style flexible and warm and at the same time retentive of all its ancestry. One has only to look at the old Georgian houses to ascertain this.

"While the American colonists copied the Georgian style in general, they were not content to leave it untouched, and many of the delightful features of Colonial architecture are their innovations. Such indispensable accessories as brass knockers, cut glass door knobs and old gilt mirrors topped with their bold eagles were the devices of our forefathers. The double twist in the newel post, the dark mahogany hand rail and the frequent application of shutters are also American in origin. A comparison of New England and Southern Colonial homes with the pure Georgian houses will help to convey the extent which Americans have altered, and in some ways refined upon their original English models. Excepting the architectural principles themselves there is very little of the old English houses in either New England or Southern Colonial homes.

"As has been pointed out, local conditions play a tremendously important part in the shaping of an architectural style. Thus we see two different styles of Colonial architecture in New England and in Virginia and the South which are designated as New England Colonial and Southern Colonial. The difference in climate shows it effect upon the height of ceilings, high ceilings being required in the South because of the heat. The local supply of material accounts for the fact that New England Colonial homes are almost invariably built of wood siding, while the discovery of excellent beds of clay in Virginia caused brick to become popular there.

"The Southern planter, being the wealthier man, indulged in the use of Classic orders with greater profuseness, as is evidenced by the colonnade which extended through two stories, an outstanding characteristic of the Southern Colonial home. He was also able to place the kitchen and servants’ quarters in adjoining structures, thus permitting retention of the fourfold division of rooms on the first floor. The practical New Englander, on the other hand, converted one entire side of the first floor into a large living room and had to refrain from the privacy of outbuildings because of the much higher fuel consumption. Other necessities caused other distinctions in style, so that we have come to look upon the Southern Colonial and New England Colonial as two different types of architecture altogether.

"In spite of these outward differences, the essence of classic architecture is retained in both. The emphasis upon horizontal lines, the economic use of space, there being no cozy corners or nooks, the simple dignity withal are seen in both. Because of its simplicity and subsequent economy and because it is a type of architecture proven by our countrymen, it deserves serious consideration from the prospective home builder. He may be sure that he will never tire of his Colonial home, that its charm will be lasting and that it will mellow with age. And what a cultural environment it provides for the raising of a family."

Published in 1928 By Home Builders Catalog Co., 1315-1321 Congress St., CHICAGO

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