Before the advent of the homes we know and love, prehistoric people lived in caves. These dwellings were composed of the natural landscape. Some of them were ice caves carved into mountainsides. Others were caves that were created by digging into a mountain. Because building materials were scarce, people had to create dwellings with what they had. When civilizations began to form, people began using materials like clay and dirt to make bricks and build homes.
As people became more civilized, their methods of home-building advanced. From caves to small homes with one or two rooms to castles with many rooms surrounded by moats, there have been many changes and advancements in the building of homes. Today, Americans can buy and live in homes created in many different styles.
American Architecture Styles
Traditionally, the styles of homes had a lot to do with their environment. For instance, log homes started out as one room built from the ground up with logs. They are common in rural settings where trees and lumber are plentiful. Another popular type of American house is the Cape Cod style. These two-story homes have slanted roofs and were heavily inspired by the thatched cottages native to Britain. A more modern take on architecture is Art Deco style. This style of home is heavily inspired by ancient Egypt mixed with the styles of early Hollywood. Typically, Art Deco homes are covered with stucco and feature very bold, rounded accents.
Yet another style of American architecture is the craftsman style. This style showcases a lot of wood, brick, and stone. Exposed beams are very popular in this style as well. Living in such a dwelling really reminds a person of the great outdoors and American adventure. A very American style of home is the colonial. There are a number of variations to this style, like the Dutch colonial, the federal colonial, and the Georgian colonial, but they all draw on the original look and feel, which includes features like shuttered windows and columns outside of the front entryway. The diversity of American home design is truly impressive, with modern homes running the gamut from suburban raised ranches to more ornate structures created in the French provincial, Greek revival, or Italianate styles. The history of American home-building is a rich one, and architects continue to innovate and create new takes on what we call “home” every day.
The Development of Levittown
Americans continue to make advancements not just in the designs of their homes but in those of their communities as well. Perhaps no person had a greater impact on the design of the American community than Abraham Levitt, founder of Levittown, New York. This hamlet was created by Levitt and his two sons as the first planned suburb between 1947 and 1951. They took a swath of farmland and build a community that housed hundreds of people by mass-producing small, cookie-cutter homes using standardized materials erected on concrete slabs. Each home was created primarily as a one-floor dwelling, with an unfinished second floor that could be finished later by the owner and rented out to tenants. With these methods, the Levitts could build as many as 30 houses in a single day. The first Levittown was started in New York, but the Levitt family did not stop there. They traveled to New Jersey and Pennsylvania and named suburban lands there Levittown as well. The homes built in these communities were very uniform. They were coveted by their owners and quickly became the desire of American families everywhere.
After the second World War, there was a severe housing shortage in the United States. The Levittowns in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania were very desirable places for war veterans and their families to live. But in later years, living in a Levittown would not be so coveted. The Levitt family refused to allow black people to purchase their homes because they wanted exclusively white communities. Sadly, the Levitts weren’t the only ones with this idea, but thanks to the efforts of those who fought against these racist practices, today, the Levittowns of the United States are inhabited by people of all races.
- History of Houses
- Housing History and Purpose
- Housing: Then, Now, and the Future
- American Home Styles of the 20th Century
- Features of Victorian Homes
- Retrofitting Levittown
- Levitt and Sons and the Post-War Housing Boom
- A Digital Archive of American Architecture
- Styles of American Architecture (video)
- 400 Years of American House Styles