Cape Cod House

It's fair to say the Pilgrims and the English settlers who followed in their wake left a mark on the Cape Cod area. One such mark is the style in which many of them constructed their homes. So distinctive is this style that today we call a home designed this way a Cape Cod house.

Each Cape Cod house is as distinctive, one from the next, as the occupants who dwell in them but there is a great degree of similarity. It's from the similarities that the style is defined.

Early Cape Codders built their homes much like the homes in England they left behind except a Cape Cod house, of necessity, was constructed from the materials indigenous to the Cape. It was also modified a bit to protect the occupants from the ravages of the severe storms for which New England is notorious.

An original Cape Cod house, from the 17th century, would have been one story or one and one-half stories tall with a large central chimney. Construction was of wood, with clapboard or shingle siding, and the home's size usually varied between 1,000 and 2,000 square feet.

Symmetry was important for the earliest Cape Cod house and the front door was most often placed in the center of the face of the house, aligned perfectly with the chimney. Outdoor ornamentation and landscaping were of little value so were usually not included.

The perfectly pitched roof of an original Cape Cod house would have been steep to prevent the accumulation of rain, snow, and ice and it would feature gables at either end. The gable ends almost always contained an odd number of windows and each window was composed of either six or nine panes of glass.

Inside, a hall and parlor, reminiscent of homes in England, would provide the hub of family activities. Each room would have had hardwood floors and a fireplace that connected to the centralized chimney.

It was the then-president of Yale University, the Reverend Timothy Dwight IV, who first used the term Cape Cod house in a book he wrote describing his travels to the area in 1800. The book, Travels in New England and New York, was published in 1822, several years after his death.

Over time, the seminal Cape Cod house changed a bit although the basic style remains distinct. The original Cape Cod house is now often referred to as a Colonial Cape but the later version, built from the 1930s to the 1950s, is often called a Colonial Revival Cape or Revivalist Cape Cod house. One major difference between the original and the revised home is that the chimney was placed at one end of the living room, usually situated at one end of the house, in the newer homes.

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