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Colonial Architecture

Colonial Architecture

American Colonial Archiecture describes houses built in the Americas during the 17th and 18th century. There are a wide diversity of colonial styles, drawn from the different European countries that colonized the Americas, but the style is predominantly charaterized by wood construction, steep roofs, and narrow windows.

 

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As French settlers moved into the Mississippi Valley in the early 18th century, they adapted their native housing style to the hot, wet climate of the South. Following tradition, the French Colonial style typically featured porches on three sides, but raised them for protection from flooding in their swampy locales. Unlike English house styles, French houses have a tradition of being externally focused. The French Colonial style’s external emphasis is frequently expressed by featuring many narrow door and window openings, often using paired French doors and paired windows. Designs typically have a steep, hipped roof that extends over a wide porch with slender columns supporting the porch roof.

Article: French Colonial Home Styl...
Source: French Colonial Home Styl...
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In summation, colonial architecure in America is melding of distinct, country specific styles, adapted to suit new environments. Colonial houses are generally wood built, often have gabled or hipped roofs, are birghtly painted, and have various decorative and supportive columns. They are also usually simple box shapes.

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A no-frills home for a no-frills period of American history, saltbox houses had their heyday starting in the early 1600s, and were built virtually unchanged for the next 100 years. They are the oldest of the Colonial New England houses — the first structures meant to be permanent, once the colonists knew they were staying. Neighbors would get together to "raise" the sturdy frame of oak or hard pine, sometimes as large as a foot square.

Article: Colonial Architectural St...
Source: Colonial Architectural St...

The Southern Colonial house is the type you'll see in historic Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia: a brick or timber frame house that's narrow and just one room deep, covered with a steeply pitched roof, and usually painted white or gray. Narrow windows are spaced regularly around both stories, and flanked with narrow, dark shutters.

Article: Colonial Architectural St...
Source: Colonial Architectural St...

Classic barn-style roofing sets Dutch Colonial homes apart from other homes. These roofs feature a broad gambrel shape, meaning they angle once, instead of laying flat and rising to a ridgepole. Dutch Colonial roofs also have flared eaves that extend over the porches, which gives them a hat-like look. Barns were built with these roofs to maximize space on the second floor, and even allow for a hayloft on the third floor, and Dutch Colonial homes offer similar benefits - it's common to see three story homes built in this manner.Other characteristics of Dutch Colonial architecture include include side entrances, central double Dutch doorways, asymmetrical layouts, ground level porches, double hung sash windows, and a chimney at one or both ends.

Article: An Introduction to Dutch ...
Source: An Introduction to Dutch ...

If any one thing may be said to be typical of colonial structures in New England it is that the material used is generally wood. Several reasons may be given for this characteristic of the New England structure. In the first place the Puritans who came from England were familiar with frame structures. Brick had been introduced for building the smaller dwellings in England only a few years before they started out for the New World. Probably a more important reason for the adoption of wood for the first homes is that lime was not easily obtained. There was an abundance of sand, clay, and stone, but the absence of lime made the manufacture of mortar out of the question. Only eight houses of brick and four of stone are known to have been built before 1700 in New England.

The colonial architecture of New England has sometimes been viewed as a new achievement in a new world. It has been assumed that the colonists adapted the traditions of their homeland to the new environment, evolved new forms, and achieved an architectural style that was essentially American. Nothing could be further from the truth. So far as can be determined no single new building technique was invented and no new architectural form evolved in the English colonies in the 17th century.

Article: 78.04.03: The Architectur...
Source: 78.04.03: The Architectur...

The architectural style of the 18th century in England and in the English colonies in America was called Georgian. There are slight differences in usages of the term in the two countries. In England, Georgian refers to the mode in architecture and the allied arts of the reigns of George I, II, and III, extending from 1714 to 1820. In America, Georgian refers to the architectural style of the English colonies from about 1700 to the American Revolution in the late 1770s. Formal and aristocratic in spirit, it was at first based on the Baroque work of Sir Christopher Wren and his English followers; but after 1750 it became more severely Palladian. Typically, houses were of red brick with white-painted wood trim. Interiors had central halls, elaborately turned stair balustrades, paneled walls painted in warm colours and white plaster ceilings.

Article: Western architecture
Source: Britannica Online Encyclo...

While viewing the excellent images, they will learn that American Colonial buildings were influenced by the Italian architect Andrea Palladio as well as ancient Rome. We see Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home with its domed and columned designs and the University of Virginia. Then we take a look at Washington's Mount Vernon and the Capitol, where we learn that Georgian, Federal and Palladian all make up aspects of Colonial American architecture.

Article: What is Colonial American...
Source: Arts & Activities
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Essentially, American colonial architecture is not a completely new architectural style, and it is not a uniform one. It is an amalgamation of many styles, and has many regional variations.

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The colonial architecture of the United States and Canada was as diverse as the peoples who settled there: English, Dutch, French, Swedish, Spanish, German, Scots-Irish. Each group carried with it the style and building customs of the mother country, adapting them as best it could to the materials and conditions of a new land.

Article: Western architecture
Source: Britannica Online Encyclo...

The architectural term "Colonial" refers not to common design characteristics but to the period of time between the early 1600s, when the first colonists began to build settlements, and 1776, the year the colonies declared their independence from England.

So there are actually many styles of colonial architecture, created when people came from different parts of Europe with different memories of houses they had lived in and wanted to reproduce for themselves in America.

Article: Colonial Architectural St...
Source: Colonial Architectural St...
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