Colonial Architecture in New England Essay

colonial architecture / New England / style / building / Boston

Essay Topic:

The heritage of the Americas architectural development during America's colonial times.

Essay Questions:

What is the most important architectural heritage of the colonial times? How did the culture of the 13 colonies differ from each other? What are the peculiarities of the New England colonial architecture?

Thesis Statement:

It was the late 1600s that gave the birth of the colonial style and become the first step on the way of architectural development of the country.


Colonial Architecture in New England Essay


Table of contents:

1. Introduction: Americas architecture during colonial times

2. New England colonial architecture

1. First steps of constructing in New England

2. Transition to more effective building

3. Cape Cod style

3. Colonial styles and their example in the Boston area.

1. Colonial styles and their example in the Boston are

4. Conclusion

1.Introduction: Americas architecture during colonial times

One of the brightest examples of Americas architectural heritage is the architecture of America's colonial times. Americas colonial architecture was influenced by the building traditions of many countries such as Spain, France and England and others. These were the houses of the first settlers who tried to apply their cultural traditions to the new houses they constructed. It was the late 1600s that gave the birth of the colonial style and become the first step on the way of architectural development of the country. Back then America was divided into 13 colonies and the culture of each of the colonies together formed the cultural well being of the young country. The architecture of that period reveals a lot about the ways of life of the settlers. This period was very important due to the impact in had later on the architecture of the country in general. To understand the peculiarities of the style it is necessary to see the reason that lead to this peculiarities.

2. New England colonial architecture

New England settlers by the mid 1600s were already carrying out the ideas of constructing substantial houses that would protect them and remind their native land houses. Such houses are usually expected to have two stories and the entrance situated exactly in the center of the house and a huge chimney in the middle. The early settlers that started the architectural movement in New England brought a lot of Anglican elements into the building style. One of the priorities while building any house was its level of safety. The connection of these two components resulted in very strange but beautiful in their own way constructions. New England was controlled by the Puritans, which did have definite influence of the building style and the quality of the houses. All the houses were approximately of the same economical level. Mansions and manor houses were not constructed simultaneously to the construction of ordinary cottages until the Georgian style. Boston area is one of the strongest acts of concentration of the colonial style architecture.


2.1. First steps of constructing in New England

The colonization in New England, to be accurate, started in 1620 generally and in 1630 in Boston area. As the Puritans influenced the area the first structures were made of wood and used the technology of frame structuring. Meeting the restrictions in the materials possible to use while building all the constructions were mainly of the same pattern. They were all timber-framed. In the very beginning of the architecture practice the settlers did not apply clapboard siding, but lately it was approved and added to the primary house patters. The general shape of the house was called saltbox form with a steeply pitched gable roof. The second floor used to overhang the first floor and the windows were very small. As it has been mentioned before it was all complemented with a huge chimney. The houses obtained by the New England settlers were the representatives of a new synthesized style that was the combination the settlers native culture, the conveniences required to survive in the new area and the lack of more effective materials. The houses did not have any extras, as they were also restricted by the religion.

2.2. Transition to more effective building

Wooden constructions caused a lot of problems for the settlers as the constant use of timber chimneys held them under the constant danger of a fire breakout. Gradually, a standard type of an English cottage was established. The best examples of this establishment were the houses in the Boston area, Massachusetts. It was ordinary a one-room house in which this one room met all the possible requirements: it was a kitchen, a living room and a bedroom. This type of building did not require much time and efforts and was occupied by large families. The second story was a small garret usually used to locate children. The roof remained steeply pitched and sometimes the fireplace was moved from the center of the room closer to its end. Other words, the salt-box engrained into the architectural traditions of the settlers in New England. The basic improvement was the usage of clay to make the houses more steadfast to the exterior influences.

2.3. Cape Cod style

A well-known example of the New England colonial architecture contribution is the Cape Cod House. For instance, Hoxie House built in 1637 in Sandwich, Massachusetts. These houses were situated all along the Boston Bay, resisting the weather and the climate. The houses were made of wood and were in wide clapboard or shingles. It gave a lot of advantages over the humid climate of the Boston area. It let the fresh air inside the house, aerating it and at the same time it did not let the wind inside. Altogether with the heat from the chimney it provided rather good conditions for living. The Cape Cod style is the full reflection of the salt-box houses mentioned above with some possible variations. The house looked very symmetrical, had double-hung windows with shutters and a very conservative outside decoration of the house. The door and the chimney were situated in the center of the house and there usually were windows by the entrance. As Boston was similar to London with its climate and water resources this type 1-1,5 storied of houses with a small attic and a fireplace in each room proved to be suitable for this region. It is known that New England has always possessed a great amount of stone. Nevertheless, the end of the colonial period in New England faced units of houses made of stone. These houses later gave the start to a new architectural era. The settlers needed time to learn how to treat stone and to get acquainted with stone building.

3.Colonial styles and their example in the Boston area.

The colonial style proved to be rather simple both in the houses and public buildings, which were primarily churches. The 17th century architecture in the Boston area brought mainly wooden houses. Massachusetts by itself is the concentration of 39 different colonial style homes. Boston area peculiarities do not deal with a large amount of styles presented but nevertheless the examples still remain the brightest in the whole colonial history.

For instance, we can review Whipple House built in 1640 in Ipswich, which is located in the North of Boston. This famous house is an original oak, pine and chestnut framework. There is a garden, surrounding the house, which was very typical for the Massachusetts houses. This house is considered to be a true work of craftsmens skills and masterpiece of the colonial style period. It has a typical door at the center and a massive chimney, four square-wave windows and two tiny square attic windows at the front. The color palette of the house ranges from gray-blue to black. There is nothing spare in the structure of the house; it is classically elegant and it full with symmetrical simplicity. Another example of a house often observed in the south of Boston is the Harlow Old Fort House. It is a house with grayed shingles, a chimney and gambrel roof so typical for the colonial times in New England. The house is a pure projection of a house of the period of the Pilgrims. Nowadays this house like many houses of that time is a museum.

3.1. The summary of peculiarities of the style

Summarizing all the peculiarities of the colonial style in Boston area it is necessary to emphasize all the possible inclinations from the standard form in the later houses of that period. The roof can be of three possible shapes: gabled, gambrel or hipped roof, the cornice is of a standard classical appearance, the exterior walls have clapboards and flat boards. The windows of the houses of this region are double-hung, the entry is pedimented and the shape of the house if outlined with the corner and sill boards. The front door has windows at the sides and sometimes even in the door itself, all of the windows in the house are symmetrically placed. The color palette differed from dark to soft colors. The color of doors and shutters usually differed from the color of the house itself. The houses were mainly middle-class houses. The New England colonial style in the Massachusetts area was spreading fast and therefore was gradually improved. Colonial style was replaced by the Georgian style and opened the architecture to mansions, wealth and luxury.


The type of houses designed during the colonial period in the Boston area became very popular all over the United States and were not just an English influence, but more a completely different style, American style. The experience of the colonial settlers of New England in general and Massachusetts in particular had an enormous impact on the architectural development of the region. Even the contemporary houses posses the elements of the colonial homes and become especially elegant owing to them. American architectural heritage is perfectly reflected in the colonial architecture in New England with Boston in its heart. Massachusetts is a historical museum of the colonial times. The historic traditions of the region have to be remembered and traces. So therefore it is tremendously important to be able to recognize the colonial New England style form numerous other styles represented in the United Stated of America.



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