Colonial Home Architectural Style


Located in the heart of the city, famous colonial remodeling Minneapolis homes include the John Gluek House and the Theodore Wirth House, constructed in 1902 and 1910 respectively. When the post–World War II economic boom was unleashed, prosperity finally rained down on the middle class. Along with buying cars and investing in higher education, Middle America’s pent-up demand for consumer goods included, of course, building and purchasing homes. Nevertheless, the Depression-induced ethic of thriftiness was strong, and Boomers’ tastes were nothing if not practical; whether one considered them to be lavish and elegant or big and boxy, a revival of Colonial-style homes swept the country.

But first, some history: First Period “architecture” borrowed from late-medieval European traditions, but was often a rather crude version of the original style. First Period houses characterized the earliest English settlements in Jamestown (Virginia) and Plymouth (Massachusetts). Despite any stylistic aspirations the colonists may have had, they were often limited by the materials available. In New England, timber was the main resource; in the South, it was brick. And the climate naturally drove how houses were constructed. In the north, roofs had steep inclines to shrug off the snow, with open fireplaces used for cooking as well as heat, and chimneys were in the center of the roof. Because space was at a premium, everything inside had a practical use — no fun nooks and crannies allowed. Southern Colonials were most notable for higher ceilings, which allowed the hot air to ventilate upward.

A variety of Colonial styles sprang from the First Periods. Although the Georgian Colonials were named during the rule of Kings George I–IV in the 1700s, they were inspired largely by the Italian Renaissance. They tended to be owned by wealthy colonists, but were less ornate than their European counterparts. Dutch Colonials had split doors whose top half could be opened to let in fresh air, while the bottom remained closed to keep out ‘critters.’ The “Dutch barn” roof — a common site on farms to this day — had several pitches, or angles, to allow more room for attics or lofts.

Spanish settlers in Florida and the Southwest incorporated the ornate Baroque stylings of the motherland into their churches. Their Spanish Colonial homes were more down to earth — literally — with earthen roofs and walls made of rock or adobe brick. The emphasis was on keeping cool. Meanwhile, in Louisiana and up north in the Land of Lincoln, the classic log cabin sprang up. This was the hallmark of the French Colonial movement. As is well known, mud, lime mortar or clay was used to insulate the gaps between the timbers. A raised basement supported the living-room floor, and an exterior staircase often led up to a porch.

Two other major subtypes of Colonial homes that deserve mentioning were German and Mid-Atlantic Colonials.

The nation’s first World’s Fair, the Centennial Exposition of 1876, made Americans long to get in touch with their historical beginnings. Since then, there have been a series of Colonial revivals, with the latest occurring in the early 2000s; thanks to globalization, parts of the country have recently been inspired to adopt British Empire and Anglo-Caribbean styles.

Despite the longevity of the Colonial movement, it’s not a dominant style in the Midwest or Twin Cities area. Still, several latter-day offshoot brands have emerged. Along with the always-popular Dutch, there is Postwar, Federal and Adams Colonial architecture. Exterior features common to all include clapboard siding or brick, white trim and shutters.

Famous local examples include the John Gluek House and the Theodore Wirth House, constructed in 1902 and 1910, respectively. Both are located in the heart of Minneapolis on South Bryant Avenue.

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