AreaGuide Boston: Boston Massachusetts Articles & Information
Colonial Architecture in New England
One of the brightest examples of America's architectural heritage is the architecture of America's colonial times. America's 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 1600's 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 1600's 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 settler's 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 craftsmen's 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.