Even the most modest of colonial houses – those built for poorer residents – maintain the sense of structural integrity and simple elegance of their larger and more ornate neighbors. Lacking the same level of detail and visual interest as the mansions that have been preserved in the centuries since they were built, these little houses are often overlooked. This issue of the White Pine Historic Monographs takes a look at the various types found across the early United States.
There’s a reason why most of the small, economical houses of that period were nearly identical in any given state: the design worked. The author notes that the plan used to create modest colonials in Connecticut was so ubiquitous, it’s still known as the ‘Connecticut Plan.’
Rather than opening directly into the living room as most houses do today, these homes nearly always had entranceways that were closed off from the living spaces in order to save heat. People couldn’t afford to let heat escape as they went in and out of the house.
There’s something we could all learn from these houses, that many of today’s builders seem to have forgotten: orienting the plan to take advantage of the natural heating power of the sun. “In these early houses very respectful attention was paid to the points of the compass, since with the entirely inadequate heating arrangement of the Colonial period, the natural heat of the sun was utilized to its fullest capacity. Thus the Dutch houses almost invariably faced the south…”