When the pilgrims first sailed into what is now Plymouth Massachusetts,
in the winter or 1620, they faced a hostile, rugged wilderness
and bitterly cold climate. Although over half of then died that
first winter, the settlement at Plymouth took hold. By 1643 20,000
settlers had arrived from England. The prospect of land to farm
and timber to build a home was a great incentive even for those
who were not escaping religious persecution. The Pilgrims brought
the memory of the basic 17th century dwellings, based on the
medieval technique of post and beam construction
with them. The first homes were simple timber structures with
thatched roofs and white limestone walls. They soon learned that
the harsh New England winters required adaptions to the traditional
style. They protected the exterior with horizontal, hand cut
clapboards and roof thatch with wood shingles to withstand the
biting northeast winds. There are still examples of this early
Colonial style existing today, the most famous, Turner-Ingersall
House (House of the Seven Gables) in Salem, MA, Paul
Revere House, Boston, MA, and many homes built before 1700
still being used as residences throughout New England.
As the New England colonies grew and prospered, the new architectural
styles and building techniques that made their way across the
sea from England were adopted by New England craftsman with a
unique New England adaptation. With the beginning of the 18th
century, the Georgian style was all the rage, replacing the Colonial.
By 1780 the Federal style replaced the Georgian and was interpreted
and brought to a high level of design excellence by America's
first trained architects. Next there was a procession of distinctly
American styles, from Greek Revival to present day, most originating
in New England.
There is such a rich architectural heritage and wonderfully preserved
stock of antique homes in our New England area, We thought you
might like an introduction to the styles and their history. It's
surprising how much the town's architecture reveals about the
town's history if you know the dates of the predominant architectural
style in town.
There is a wealth of information at local libraries and historical
societies available for your own study if you want more information.
We hope you enjoy this feature and would like your comments.