Architecture for Kids

Medieval Beginnings

This is one of the few remaining Medieval houses in the thirteen colonies. During the revolution, it was occupied by Paul Revere, possibly the only reason it still stands today. It is now a museum.
The architectural style that began the American civilizing culture, is Medieval in character. This is what the first few generations of colonists knew. Until the Great Fire of London, in 1666, all cities in Europe were Medieval. Boston and New York began as Medieval cities. When you visit these cities, you will note immediately that the earliest settled areas are not planned, as cities eventually were, but the streets were based on paths and convenience. The first houses in the new settlements were Medieval.

Note the asymmetical design, the small windows,  the overhanging second floor, and the pendant drops across the overhang. These are all Medieval characteristics.

The appearance of the houses is similar to what the settlers knew back home. However, they used different materials. Houses in England, since at least the 13th century had been timber framed, because there was an abundance of oak. The gaps between timbers were infilled with panels, saplings woven into flat mats and covered in clay, called "wattle and dob". The roofs were thatch.

Here, "wattle and dob" did not hold up to extreme weather either in New England or in Virginia. The settlers, however, had access to primieval forests, and could build their homes out of a more substantial materials. In the north with wood, and in Virginia with brick. The buildings are Gothic in nature, with highly pitched roofs -- which in England had been thatch --so the rain would slid off and few windows as glass was rare and expensive. The houses were usually one room deep or linear.

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