The Cape Cod And Its Effect On Architecture Today

The Cape Cod Home style of architecture dates back to the 1600’s.  New England settlers needed homes that were inexpensive to build and from materials that were readily available.  They patterned these homes similarly to those found in England at the time.  They also needed structures that could grow as their families did. Original Cape Cod homes were constructed of wood and pine shake roofs. These materials were readily available, inexpensive for the most part and could be constructed by the home owner.

What was later classified as a Half Cape was a basic 2 room home. Due to its type of construction, square frame and steep roof, additions to the home  could be easily done. A Half Cape could become a Whole Cape or an additional rear wing could be added.  A smaller second floor with dormer windows and shutters could easily be added due to the steep roofline.

Half capes were basic two room homes that had a front door and two windows. The rooms consisted of a hall and a parlor. The hall was used as a living area and kitchen, while the parlor was used for entertaining and  doubled as a master bedroom. When the construction was doubled in size, it was then classified as a Whole Cape. Whole Cape’s had a central door and 2 windows on each side in the front, as well as a central chimney and several fireplaces. This design kept the whole home warm during harsh New England winters.

Rear wings and second floors could also be added to the home. Rear wings were most often used as kitchens. When smaller second floors were added, dormer windows were cut into the roof to add space, light and ventilation to the home. Shutters were placed around windows in order to protect the home from storms.

The Cape Cod received its name from Dr Timothy Dwight in 1800. Dwight was the president of Yale University and wrote a book concerning travel in New England. He named this class of homes Cape Cods due to finding them predominately in the New England area.

In the late 1800’s during the colonial revival period, the Cape Cod style of home changed to include a more appeasing outward appearance. Window panels were added to each side of the front door to add light, decorative windows were utilized especially on the second floor of the home. 

The Cape Cod style regained popularity once again in the 1930’s. This style of home was revived and combined styles of the Colonial Revival period and  earlier Colonial period homes. After the Depression, people wanted and needed homes that were small, inexpensive and wanted an old fashioned look and feel to them.

In the 1940’s and 1950’s,the style continued to gain popularity, partially due to military men coming home from the war and needing homes that could grow with their family. These homes changed the design to include chimneys that were on one end of the home, instead of the center as they were originally built. Shutters and ornate windows were added to give the house more curb appeal instead of their practical uses earlier in history.

Today, the Cape Cod home continues to thrive in architecture. This type of structure appeals to those interested in our heritage, the past and are romantic in nature. It has withstood the tests of time and will continue to have its place in the future as its durability and tenacity has shown. As it appears now, there will always be a place for this style of home in the foreseeable future.

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