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Architectural Styles of College Hill (1880-1950)

1870 and 1910: Folk Victorian

Folk Victorian houses usually have a square, symmetrical shape.  The porches have turned spindles or flat, jigsaw cut trim. The more common Folk Victorians have porches across the front, or perhaps also, across the back.  However, the porch may wrap around two sides suggesting Queen Anne architecture, but unlike Queen Anne's, Folk Victorians are orderly, symmetrical houses without towers, bay windows or elaborate moldings.  Industrialization and expansion of the railroads meant that decorative architectural trim could be mass produced and sent to remote corners of the continent. A crate of scrolled brackets might find its way to Kansas where carpenters could mix and match the pieces according to personal whim.   Indeed it is the addition of decorative elements on the porch that allows this farmhouse to mimic more decorative types of Victorian architecture.  Spacious, but lacking fussiness, the Folk Victorian is likely what is called to mind when many Kansans reflect on childhood memories of visiting grandma and grandpa.

1880 - 1910: Queen Anne

Queen Anne houses are commonly recognized by steep roofs, complicated, asymmetrical shapes, front-facing gable, wrap around decorative porches, towers and bay windows.  The siding consists of shingles, usually rounded "fish-scales," and wood moldings often painted in contrasting colors.  Inventive, multistory floor plans often include projecting wings, several porches and balconies, and multiple chimneys with decorative chimney pots.  Massive cut stone foundations are typical of period houses. Created by English architect Richard Norman Shaw, the style was popularized after the Civil War by architect Henry Hobson Richardson and spread rapidly, especially in the South and West.  The earliest American examples of the bungalow were the small, one-story Queen Anne-style cottage.

1885 - 1925: Neoclassical

"New" classical, architecture describes buildings that are inspired by the classical architecture of ancient Greece and Rome. Interest in classical models originated with the World's Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893.  A Neoclassical building is likely to have a balanced, symmetrical shape and tall columns that rise the full height of the building.  Some window and door detailing is borrowed from early classical revival, second
empire and Adam style architecture.  A second sub-class of Neoclassical is the Greek Revival home.

Greek Revival architecture began with public buildings in Philadelphia.  Colonnaded Greek Revival mansions - sometimes called Southern plantation houses or Antebellums - sprang up throughout the American South in the 30 years or so preceding the Civil War.  "Ante-bellem" means "before war" in Latin. With its classic clapboard exterior and bold, simple lines, Greek Revival architecture became the most predominant housing style for that time period in the United States. These homes have gables with pediments, bold simple moldings and narrow door-length windows by the front door.

1895 - 1930: American Foursquare

The American Foursquare, or the "Prairie Box," was a post-Victorian style especially practical for mail order house kits from Sears and Montgomery Wards. Often the entire house (in the form of labeled timbers) came via freight train. Other times, builders used local materials to construct homes according to the catalog house plans.  The boxy foursquare shape provided roomy interiors for homes on small city lots. Creative builders often dressed up the basic foursquare form. Although Foursquare houses are always the same square shape, they may borrow features such as bay windows or small towers from the Queen Anne, stucco siding from the Mission, and exposed rafters or beamed ceilings from the Craftsman.  Consistent characteristics are that Foursquare are two-and-a-half stories high with a large central dormer in the attic; have a full width front porch with wide steps, and utilize a four-room over four-room floor plan. 

1874 - 1910: Shingle Style

Shingle style is a very difficult architectural style to classify.  At times it may seem that the only thing Shingle houses have in common is the material used for their siding - but even that may not be true. Shingle style was used to describe a type of Victorian home in which complex shapes were united by a taut skin of cedar shingles, but it could also depict houses that had turrets, two-story bay windows or balconies with varied roof lines and only partial shingling. Built in seaside resorts like Newport, Cape Cod, and eastern Long Island, many of these houses were vacation "cottages" for the very wealthy. The Shingle style gained popularity during the Arts & Crafts movement.  The unity of surface texture and its ability to blend into the landscape of wooded lots made it an Arts & Crafts architectural ideal. By covering most or all of a building with shingles stained a single color, architects created a uniform, monotone, unembellished surface that celebrated the honesty of form and purity of line. Most Shingle style homes have a front facing gable,
either the main roof or a dormer with full-length windows. Another common characteristic is for porches to be enclosed with solid shingle surface rather than a spindled porch and piers covered in shingles. A true shingle house will have shingles all the way to the corner without interruption of wood molding or trim.

1900 - 1920: Prairie 

The Prairie style was developed by Frank Lloyd Wright in Chicago.  It is one of the most short-lived architectural styles, having grown, flourished and declined within twenty years.  Born out of Louis Sullivan's idea and philosophy that "form follows function," Wright's Prairie houses come in two styles--boxy and symmetrical or low-slung and asymmetrical.  Roofs are low-pitched, with wide eaves. Brick and clapboard are the most common building materials. Other details may include rows of casement windows and wide one-story porches with massive square supports.

1890 - 1920: Mission

Mission Style homes were inspired by the adobe structures built by Spanish missionaries.  California was the birth place of this style.  Examples found in the Midwest often are heavily influenced by Prairie and Craftsman styles.  Identifying features usually include the sculpted "humped" mission dormer or roof parapet, red Spanish tile roofs, and wide overhanging eaves.  The porch roof is separate and supported on large, square piers and the siding is done in smooth stucco.  Asymmetrical forms tend to be more elaborate than the balanced square facade with clean lines and hipped roof.  The Mission style differs from Spanish Eclectic in roof pitch and overhang of the eaves.  Spanish Eclectic houses have very low pitched roofs and no eaves.

1905-1930: Arts and Crafts, or Craftsman Style

The Arts and Crafts Movement celebrated simple forms and natural materials, a glaring contrast to the Victorian Era of ornamentation and clutter. In the United States, two California brothers, Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene, began to design houses that combined the ideals of the Arts and Crafts Movement with their own fascination of Chinese and Japanese architecture. The style was billed as the "California bungalow."  Bungalows are modest one- or 1 1/2-story dwellings of five to seven rooms. The roof pitch varies from moderate to slight, and some kind of porch or veranda graces at least a portion of the front. The porch is a transitional space since the front door opens directly into the living room, bringing the outside in.  Space flows unimpaired from living room to dining room, making them almost, though not quite, one room. Whatever else may be said of these interiors, "homey" or "cozy" is the highest of compliments.  Architect and furniture designer Gustav Stickley in his magazine, The Craftsman, reflected
that the bungalow was "a house reduced to its simplest form... its low, broad proportions and absolute lack of ornamentation gives it a character so natural and unaffected that it seems to... blend with any landscape."  Soon the word "Craftsman" came to mean any house that expressed Arts and Crafts ideals, most especially the simple, economical, and extremely popular Bungalow.  Craftsman houses feature overhanging eaves, a low-slung gabled roof, and wide front porches framed by tapered columns. Material often includes stone, rough-hewn wood, and stucco. Many have exterior chimneys made with stone.  Some have windows with stained or leaded glass.  The craftsman house has an open floor plan, few hallways, beamed ceilings, dark wood wainscoting and moldings, and built-in cabinets, shelves, and seating. 

A popular sub-type of bungalow is the Airplane Bungalow.  The birthplace of the so-called "Airplane Bungalow" may very well have been Topeka, Kansas.  Apparently no one referred to this bungalow variation by that name during the brief era of its construction, from 1920 - 1930. When and how the
name gained popularity is a mystery. Why the style was nick-named "Airplane Bungalow" was due to the smaller than usual second floor area of this bungalow, centered on the structure, thought to look like the cockpit of an airplane.  Some versions even have a pair of wings, as can be seen on the house at 1247 College.  Nearly every older, pre-1930 neighborhood in Topeka possesses at least one example; yet, step away from Topeka, and the style vanishes. Only 20 miles to the east in Lawrence, one can find only a handful.

1876 - 1955: Colonial Revival

Colonial Revival is the most popular historic revival house style in the United States, gaining its popularity after it appeared at the 1876 US Centennial Exposition. When we speak of the Colonial style, we are referring to a rectangular, symmetrical home with bedrooms on the second floor. The double-hung windows usually have many small, equally sized square panes. During the late 1800s and throughout the 20th century, builders borrowed Colonial ideas to create refined Colonial Revival homes with elegant central hallways, staircases, and elaborate cornices. Livings rooms are usually large with a fireplace as the focal point. Most homes are built of brick or wood.  Some have roof  dormers.  The most dominate form of Colonial Revival is the Georgian.  Another popular sub-type is the Dutch Colonial.  This colonial style was named after the King Georges' of England.  Georgian homes are most easily depicted by the row of single windows (usually five evenly spaced) across the second floor.  They will be in alignment horizontally and
vertically with the first floor windows.  The triangular pediment and flattened side pilasters flanking the door is also common to this style.  Front doors are usually raised panel and may be further accentuated by a small window transom or a fanlight above the door, and sidelights.  Roofs are hipped, side gable and dentil molding is generally found around the eaves. 

The Dutch Colonial style originated in homes built by German or "Deutsch" settlers in Pennsylvania as early as the 1600s. A hallmark of the style is a broad gambrel roof with flaring eaves that extend over the porches, creating a barn-like effect. Double-hung sash windows with outward swinging wood casements, long shed-like dormers, and a central Dutch double doorway are also common. The double door, which is divided horizontally, was once used to keep livestock out of the home while allowing light and air to filter through the open top. The style enjoyed a revival until around 1930, as the country looked back with nostalgia to its colonial past.

1890 - 1950: Tudor Revival

The name Tudor suggests that these houses imitate English architecture from the early 16th century. However, most Tudor style homes were inspired by building techniques from an earlier time. Some Tudor houses mimic humble Medieval cottages - they may even include a false thatched roof.  Tudor style houses feature striking decorative timbers. In Medieval houses, the timber framing was integral with the structure. Modern Tudor houses, however, merely suggest the structural framework with false half-timbering. This decorative woodwork comes in many different designs, with stucco or patterned brick between the timbers. Roofs are steeply pitched and adorned with chimney pots. The style became enormously popular in the 1920s and 1930s.

One popular Tudor inspired type is the Cotswold Cottage. Sometimes referred to as "Storybook Style" or "Hansel and Gretel Cottages," the picturesque Cotswold Cottage is usually asymmetrical with a steep, complex roof line that imitates a thatched roof. The floor plan tends to include small, irregularly-shaped rooms, and the upper rooms have sloping walls with dormers.  A massive chimney often dominates either the front or one side of the house.

1930 - 1945: Art Moderne

With the sleek, streamlined appearance of a modern machine, Art Moderne architecture expressed the spirit of a new, technological twentieth century. Art Modern design was highlighted at the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago. Based on the Bauhaus movement in Germany, building shapes were based on curves, triangles and cones.  Sometimes the term "international style" is used with Art Moderne interchangeably.  The style was pragmatic, simple and economical to build.  Flat roofs, cube-like shapes, glass block windows, and steel trim are trade-mark characteristics of this style.  It's easy to confuse Art Moderne with Art Deco, but they are two distinctly different styles.  While both have stripped-down forms and geometric designs, the Art Moderne style will appear sleek and plain, while the slightly earlier Art Deco style can be quite showy. Art Moderne buildings are usually white, while Art Deco buildings may be brightly colored.  The Art Deco style is most often used for public buildings like theaters, while the Art Moderne style is most often found in private homes.

1930 - 1970: Ranch

One-story Ranch style homes are so simple some critics say they have no style. But there's more than meets the eye to the classic suburban ranch style house. Here's the story behind the no-nonsense houses we call American Ranch, Western Ranch, or California Rambler.  The first Ranch home, designed by Cliff May, was built in San Diego, California in 1932.  Emphasis was on openness (few interior walls) and efficient use of space. Ranch homes have a horizontal, rambling layout.  They are long, narrow, and are classified as rectangular, L-shaped, or U-shaped.  Built low to the ground, many are built on concrete slabs.  Due to the popularity of the automobile, many early ranch homes had a single car attached garage.  Because Ranch-style homes reflected the hard-working, simple life styles of its owners, it gained popularity as the style that best expressed the informality of Western culture. Over the next 20 years, Ranch-style houses spread to across the United States becoming the dominant home style of the 1950s and 60s.

Written by Debra Guiou Stufflebean

*    Field Guide to American Houses
*    Realtor Magazine Online
*    Your Guide to Architecture by Jackie Craven
*    Topeka Capital-Journal