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American Colonial Architecture

If you're interested in a piece of history, you might be on the lookout for American Colonial-style homes. This has been a popular style for over 200 years, and has enjoyed several revivals. If you're looking at a historic home with symmetrical design, a high-pitched roof, and multi-paned windows set equally on either side of a centrally-placed door, you're probably looking at an example of Colonial style.

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Colonial Homes: History & Styles

At the beginning of America's colonization by European settlers, homes were constructed in the housing style of the country that the builder came from. This resulted in a number of different styles being unified thanks to the adaptations that settlers had to make in order for their homes to better suit America's climate and terrain. Between 1600 and 1800, what is now known as American Colonial was the dominant architectural style.

There are many types of colonial homes: French, German, Spanish, Dutch, English and Georgian, to name a few. While there are many variations in style, there are several unifying themes. Colonial homes are usually two or three stories in height, and a high-pitched roof with dormers is a defining feature. Clapboard siding is the most common, followed by brick. Multi-pane windows are set symmetrically around the central front door, which is often accented by crown molding that is supported by two columns. A large chimney is commonly seen in a central location, as fire would have been used to heat the home.

Architectural Styles & Features

First Period Colonial homes - These houses were built in the early 1600s, and featured a lot of medieval details like small windows (due to a scarcity of glass), steep roofs, and large chimneys.

French Colonial - These homes were built to suit humid, wet environments. External stairs and a full-length porch are common features of this style.

Spanish Colonial - Developed in Florida, the Southwest, and California. The earliest examples of this style were built in the late 1500s. The distinctive whitewashed appearance was commonly used in the 1700s.

Dutch Colonial - These homes started as one-room cottages, but evolved to include gambrel roofs and gable ends by the end of the 1600s.

German Colonial - This style began its rise in the late 1600s, and was based on the "half-timber" style (a timber frame filled-in with brick or stone masonry).

Georgian Colonial - Came onto the scene in the 1700s, and was distinguished by its symmetry and its square, centralized construction.

Colonial Revival - The revival of Colonial-style architecture came in the late 1800s when there was an increased interest in heritage and historical architecture. Colonial Revival homes were built with machine-made woodwork and featured modern conveniences such as lighting fixtures. Subsequent revivals have often mixed Colonial architecture with other styles, such as the ranch-style house.

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