The Dutch Colonial Revival is not a style unique in itself. It’s a subtype of the Colonial Revival style so popular during the first half of the 1900s, sharing many of its characteristics, but with certain unique elements. In the 1928 Home Builders Catalog, the following described this architectural form:
"While the term “Dutch Colonial” conveys a definite type of house to almost everyone, the name itself is misleading. “Dutch” does not refer to Holland and “Colonial” has no direct relationship with Colonial Architecture. This type of home takes its name from the Dutch Colonists who settled in the lower parts of New York and New Jersey. There they lived for many years in warm and cheery comfort. The Dutch Colonial house conveys to us this rich domesticity and love of good living.
"The most characteristic feature of the Dutch Colonial style is the gambrel roof—so much so, in fact that “gambrel” and “Dutch” have become synonomous. The legend goes that this low, sweeping roof, with its dormer windows, was the ingenious means by which the Dutch Colonists evaded the heavy tax on two story houses. And there is today a practical advantage over the two story house in saving of materials without the loss of space. The extraordinary flexibility of the style makes it possible for one to arrange the interior to suit his taste and still be assured of an harmonious exterior. One wing or two can be added without disturbing the gentle contour. One can compare this flexibility to Colonial types where there is harmony without freedom, and to English types where there is freedom without definite symmetry.
"If a man decides to build a Dutch Colonial home he should keep some things constantly in mind. First, the best types are long and low and set close to the ground. Secondly, the dormer window should be considerably narrower than the first story window. Lastly, it can be equally well executed in shingles, siding and brick, but it is not advisable to mix them up. The narrow, high, top-heavy kind is to be avoided if one is to be true to precedent. Above all let it ramble, for the Dutch Colonial home is nothing if not picturesque."
The Dutch Colonial Revival style is distinguished by its gambrel roof, with or without flared eaves, and the frequent use of dormers.
It was built from about 1890 to 1930 in various forms. A typical Victorian form from 1890 to 1900 was often cross-gabled with many accompanying excesses including bric-a-brac and fish scale siding. After 1900, more classical elements began to predominate.
The gambrel style allowed an almost complete second floor without the expense of two-story construction. Far from being a mere legend, the original Colonial style with a gambrel roof became popular during the last part of the 1700s because they were less expensive to build and avoided the pitfall of being taxed as a two-story house. The Federal Direct Tax records of 1798 shows that gambrel-roofed houses were classified as one story. What a bargain!
In addition to many Colonial Revival characteristics, the following were common to the Dutch Colonial: