Monday, July 5, 2010

Small Homes - An American Tradition

This holiday weekend I thought it would be fun to take a peek at homes from the 1700's.  These houses were typical for the average homeowner in the 1700s.  Based on my not-so-thorough research, houses generally were 1000 to 2000 square feet and were based on styles settlers brought from their home countries.

Cape Cod was a typical home style built by English colonists who came to America in the late 17th century. They modeled their homes after the half-timbered houses of England, but adapted the style to the stormy New England weather. Reverend Timothy Dwight, a president of Yale University, is credited with recognizing these houses as a 'style' and coining the term "Cape Cod."

Another common style in the late 1600s and 1700s is the "Colonial".

Built in 1678, this New England Colonial was the home of Rebecca Nurse, who was executed in the Salem Witch Trials.

When the first settlers came to North America, houses in England had steep roofs, massive chimneys, and details that had survived from Medieval times. The Colonists continued these building traditions through the 1600s and well into the 1700s in some areas. Since these homes were constructed of wood, few original New England Colonials are still standing. 1 The New England Colonial above was the home of Rebecca Nurse, who was executed in the Salem Witch Trials. Built around 1678, the house has two rooms on the first floor and two rooms above. A large chimney runs through the center of the main house. A kitchen lean-to addition with its own chimney was added around 1720 and another addition was built in 1850.
Isn't it funny that even back then people wanted more space and built additions!

An interesting and fun fact is that in 1775 Rebecca's great-grandson, Francis, who lived in the house, was a sergeant in Captain John Putman's Alarm Company, whose orders were to march within a few minutes notice of trouble. On April 19, 1775, Nurse received the alarm that British troops were coming to Concord. From this house he shouldered his musket and marched to the battle.3

Here are a few photos of interior rooms in the house courtesy of the Rebecca Nurse Homestead.

This is a Georgian Colonial.  Which to me, is just 'fancied up' Colonial for wealthy early Colonists.

The Georgian Colonial became the rave in New England and the Southern colonies during the 1700's. Stately and symmetrical, these homes imitated the larger, more elaborate Georgian homes which were being built in England. 4

This is a Dutch Colonial built with brick and stone familiar building materials to those found in the Netherlands.

The John Teller House is a Dutch Colonial home in the Stockade neighborhood of Schenectady, NY. The home was built in about 1740.

A favorite of mine is the German Colonial. Why?  My father's family came over as Hessian solders from Germany to fight with the British in the Revolutionary War.  They fell in love with the country and deserted their British general.  This is the kind of house I imagine they first lived in.

Schifferstadt Architectural Museum in Frederick, Maryland is a German Colonial House completed in 1756.
The sandstone walls are two feet thick and  hand-hewn beams are pinned together with wooden pegs.  Reinforced arches of stone above the windows and doors on the first floor provide support for the outside walls above them.5
And here is the 'Piece de Resistance'!  This is Paul Revere's House!!!

We all know the story, on the night of April 18, 1775, silversmith Paul Revere left his home in Boston's North End and set out on a journey that would make him into a legend. This is his actual small wooden home that is still standing today at 19 North Square. It is downtown Boston's oldest building and one of the few remaining from an early era in the history of colonial America. 6

Paul Revere purchased the home in 1770 and moved in with his wife, Sarah, five children, and his mother Deborah.  The house is now a National Landmark and has been restored to its original condition.  All photos below are courtesy of the Paul Revere House foundation.



 Paul Revere courtyard garden.

This post has made me realize that many of our American leaders lived part or all of their lives in a smaller house. And arguably, the first steps toward the birth our great country began on the steps of Paul Revere's small wooden house.  For some reason, this makes me feel a lot better about living in a smaller house.



  1. Susan Adler SobolJuly 6, 2010 at 6:44 AM

    Genevieve - There is a lovely jewel box home on Oak Street in Winnetka, that was on the market a few years ago. We were just curious neighbors / voyeurs wanting to check out this jewel box with windows that sparkled like diamonds. We were told at the time that it was modeled on Paul Revere's home. I never researched it but now that I've seen the photo of the Revere home -- I see the similarities. It's those amazing diamond paned leaded glass windows. Thanks for this informative post! Susan

  2. I absolutely love this post, Genevieve!! I just finished watching the John Adams mini-series and am enamored with all things colonial. :-) Beautiful!