Cape Cod House Style

A Cape Cod is a style of house originating in New England in the 17th century. It is traditionally characterized by a low, broad frame building, generally a story and a half high, with a steep, perfectly pitched roof with end gables and a large central chimney.

The Cape Cod style (and in turn its Colonial Revival descendant of the 1930s–50s) originated with the colonists who came from England to New England. They used the English house with a hall and parlor as a model, adapting this design with local materials to best protect against New England’s notoriously stormy weather. Over the next several generations emerged a one- to one-and-a-half-story house with wooden shutters and clapboard or shingle exterior.

See pictures of some cape cod cottages:

The Reverend Timothy Dwight IV (1752–1817), president of Yale University from 1795–1817, coined the term “Cape Cod House” after a visit to the Cape in 1800. His observations were published posthumously in Travels in New England and New York (1821–22).

Dwight described them as having “one storey… covered on the sides, as well as the roofs, with pine shingles… the chimney is in the middle… and on each side of the door are two windows… the roof is straight. Under it are two chambers; and there are two larger, and two smaller windows in the gable end.”

Dwight described a “full Cape,” made by doubling the small house unit or “half Cape” which would have been familiar to early English colonists like the Pilgrims. The “half Cape” could also be multiplied to make a “house-and-a-half” or “three-quarter Cape.”

Twentieth century Cape Cod houses often have dormers. The chimney is usually placed at one end instead of at the center. The shutters on modern Cape Cod houses are strictly decorative; they can’t be closed during a storm.

Traditional, Colonial-era Cape Cod houses had many of these features:

  • Steep roof with side gables
  • Small roof overhang
  • 1 or 1½ stories
  • Made of wood and covered in wide clapboard or shingles
  • Large central chimney linked to fireplace in each room
  • Symmetrical appearance with door in center
  • Dormers for space, light, and ventilation
  • Multi-paned, double-hung windows
  • Shutters
  • Formal, center-hall floor plan
  • Hardwood floors
  • Little exterior ornamentation

More information at: Wikipedia, About.com, Pilgrimhall