The Sassy Countess is a blog about historic houses, properties, castles, estates, mansions, homes, land, and lifestyles! Focusing mostly on 18th century, other time periods are also included, such as Regency, Golden Age, Gilded Age, Victorian, American Post and Antebellum, Romantic, Jacksonian, Medieval, Renaissance, Edwardian, New Republic, etc.
Americans emulated the housing styles of the natives, as well as styles from
the owner’s motherland.Romanticized
versions of English and classical versions became a popular style that the
Americans emulated. The Anglicization of the homes of the American elite was
due in part to the person’s national origin, but it was mainly due to other
ideals. The home’s beauty was important to the homeowner due to its symbolism
of wealth and social status.
status in housing was not new to the Americas. Natives had their own type of
status in their housing. The longhouses of the Eastern Woodland Indians had
areas where the wealthier people lived. The higher status person would have a
bark floor instead of grass mats. The chief’s house had a special location in
the town center where the others could not live.
The Mississippian people had their higher status houses upon the higher
man-made mound summits. Sometimes these were closer to the center of the city
and closer to the temple of worship.
The Anasazi people had whose “pueblos stood four stories tall and contained 650
rooms” possibly had the better units at the top.
was the one story tall native house that found its way into the main stream
American housing market. Wigwams and long houses of the natives turned the
imagination of the colonists into a type of hybrid. Taking on a type of
Cherokee building of wattle and daub was very similar to the log cabin method.
The one and one and a half log cabin was one of the most important inventions
in housing for the Americas. The colonists emulated these styles and then the
natives did their own emulations in turn. The Indians liked the hybridization
and built anglicized towns and even European style mansions.
Germans who moved from their European homes to America found that their
steep-roofed houses did not work as well in their American environment. In
Germany, they kept their food in the attic. However, they found that it spoiled
in their homes in Pennsylvania and found that they needed more light in New
York. So, they made their attic space smaller and added more windows for light.
Thus changing the appearance of their homes to a more English look.
appearance of the houses of Scottish and Scotch-Irish were a little different.
Many of the poor that came over found that they would be able to create a house
very quickly by adapting the native style wigwam or a simple mud-house. Their
rock houses from the mother country suited very well in the American
environment. These were easy to construct if the chosen area had the necessary
The houses from this group tended to be easily more English in appearance due
to the proximity of England to Ireland and Scotland.
was not as close to Holland, but they did share some of the same heritage,
especially during the time of William of Orange. The housing style of the Dutch
had the general appearance of a barn. The façade was usually stone and had no
front porch. These houses were typically one to two stories with a half story
attic. The front was placed facing the east to limit the number of windows. The
ingenious half door was shut on the bottom and open at the top to encourage
socialization of passers by. The American climate made itself known to the
Dutch as well. The northerners added dormers for more windows and moved to a
more Anglicized design of half-timber and half stone.
The southern Americanized Dutch added a front porch to resist the sun added
more windows for ventilation and placed the house on a hill to assist with
who had their ancestry from England found that their homes were easily
adaptable to the new climate. There were still some changes due to location
such as the addition of a front porch in the south, as was the Dutch.Other changes were subtler. These included
less ornamentation and less formal. However, other than those two smaller
items, it really had more to do with the income of the homeowner than the style
of the house changing. This was the time of the wealthy Anglo-American and they
were proud to show their heritage.
as early as 1584 when Richard Hakluyt stated “That the rischesse that the
Indian Threasure wrought in time… is to be had in consideracion of the moste
excellent Majestie, leaste the contynuall coming of the threasure from thense
to his sonne…” So while
Hakluyt meant that the Indian treasure was to have been gold and silver, the
true treasure was the land itself. Hakluyt was only one man that took the
Indian land and worked it to make a fortune. Many others found their fortune in
the southern and middle colonies. These new elite made their home their
barometer of wealth as they found a higher standard of living than their
compatriots back in England.
The higher standard of living held
that there was also a higher level of disposable income. This was mainly due to
the great farmland that was so readily available in America.
The colonists emulated the British gentry in many different areas. The
gentleman of the Americas were not necessarily bred from the English stock,
they were actually the descendents of some of the lower stock that had gained a
foothold in landholdings over the years. It was the wealth that brought forth
the manners and means of American nobility.
the colonist had the financial means, they emulated the British no matter the
national origin of their European ancestor. They not only purchased their fine
goods, they emulated the gentility in manner and design. Their houses grew to
look more and more like English country estates. “Every object was on display
and subject to applause or censure.”
These Nuevo-elite built larger and more refined houses abandoning their darker,
unpainted and cruder houses of their previous generations. They were ever more
sensitive to how they looked to their counterparts in England and so continued
to esteem and worship the building styles of the great architects Andrea
Palladio and Robert Adam.
and Adam were master architects that specialized in neo-classicist styles.
These were Grecian and Roman in style, but of a more contemporary fashion.
Palladio held a Baroque and formal feeling where as Adam was more Rococo.
Palladio was really only interested in the layout of the rooms while Adam’s
Romanian style brought the ideals of fabulous painted interiors to the
Americans took every pain to make sure that the high fashioned British
architects’ designs would find their way to the colonies as well.
fashion of England was to have a connection with the great societies of the
past. This made England feel like they were also a great empire. Indeed, the
American colonists followed in their footsteps. If the English were descendents
of the great Roman and Greek empires, then the Americans were part of them as
well. An American studied classical style in England and came back to design
many houses and government buildings. Even though Thomas Jefferson found his
rhythm after the United States became a country, he got his start while still a
housing of the Burgess was of the utmost quality and sophistication. These were
stately homes usually built upon a hill so that the general populace would
literally have to look up to them. They had areas to entertain outdoors, again
for the populace to see how great they were. There was usually a great formal
parlor and dining room to impress the guests at parties. And, the burgess,
himself had his own office to complete his work. Almost every one of these
great men had been a multi-generational Burgess member.
These houses were definitely organized like their Parliamentary counterparts in
the first portion of the colonization of the original thirteen colonies were
definitely more English than any other nationality, by the 1750’s there were
many more nationalities involved.
Emigrants from England began to wane, as the local economy grew better.
Manufacturing there grew and took in many of the people that had previously not
been working. Also, wars on the continent swallowed up many more men into the
fighting ranks. There was less need for Englishmen to move out of their
homeland than there had been.
There were about 270,000 English emigrants less than the previous century. This
was interrupted when there was a gluttony of men when the cease-fire occurred.
Because of this negative influx, Britain decided to offer citizenship to men to
moved and followed the rules of citizenship.
The second largest
group of free-will emigrants to the American colonies in the 18th
century was the Germans. While most Germans emigrated east, there were still
over 100,000 the emigrated to the American colonies. Most of these people
arrived in Philadelphia, but moved to Pennsylvania. British ships that
specialized in the emigration venture business had brought these people there,
and only British ships were allowed to do this because of the Navigation Acts.
The largest groups
of emigrant freeman were the Scots at 145,000. There were actually three types
of Scots that moved. The Lowland Scots were very British in manner and were
relatively wealthy. They were only around 150 total, but were skilled
tradesmen, farmers, and held other professions such as doctors. Highlanders
came over because of their bad circumstances at home. They were ambitious and
tough. Almost half of the total Scots were from Ulster, Ireland. They were
called the Scotch-Irish or Sots-Irish in America. A lot of these people were
destitute and sold themselves into indentured servitude to get over to America
to start a new life.
There were also
those that were brought over against their will. In 1717 convicted felons were
authorized by Parliament to be shipped to America instead of being executed.
Around 15,000 felons found themselves a new home across the ocean. These men
were used as a type of slave because they were cheaper than those men from
By far the largest groups of emigrant people in the 18th century
were from Africa. Six million people did not move across the ocean by their
free will! West African princes sold them to the Europeans.250,000 slaves went to the mainland
colonies, and 1.2 million slaves to the West Indies. Easily one-third of these
people died an early death.
So, the slaves and
the indentured servants helped to create wealth for the freeman, no matter what
the European ancestry. What made the elite of the other nationalities move
toward the Anglican style houses? The first reason would be the obvious. This
was still a British nation. To blend in without being censored. America was the
area of racial discrimination. America was “addicted to slave labor” and their
wealth per person was so much higher than that of the European.
And, the taxes were less as well.
The next reason
that the changes occurred was for simply fashion sake. Because fashion were
indicators of cultural conditions.
Fashion also has to do with personal choice and technology.
The most important part of fashion would be the “roles appropriate to scenes…
and even more so for the male.”
And since, the English were gaining power throughout the world, the
British-American would have had to have the appropriate house to indicate the
role that the man held in this society.
So, the obvious choice would have been an Anglo style mansion to show off the
wealth that he (or another family member) had amassed.
The third, but
less obvious reason of the change to the Anglicised version of the Americans,
was of course, the environment. While this was certainly a point, it was less
British as apposed to the new American styles. However, because the environment
required certain points of housing, it did necessitate changes. These were
definitely influenced by the British neighbors, if the builder was from another
area of Europe. And, if the American was from England, then the changes were
less severe due to the general quality of the English country house that was
being copied. The two or three story Georgian was a simple plan with basic
roofing that could have been adjusted very easily to suit any environment and
And, the best form
of change was made by the lifestyle of the builder. As the Europeans gained
wealth, they increased their style of living. As their wealth increased, the
demand for European goods also increased. People became more literate and read
more newspapers, which was specifically charged to “draw colonial readers into
an English perspective on the world.”
The land-rich Americans had a larger disposable income to their compatriots
back home.This was the most visible way that they
showed off their newly found wealth? It also demonstrated their refinement by
building “larger and more ornamented houses…filled with fine furniture.”
early-American houses were definitely built by the elite. These men were from
many areas of the world, including men of several generations of American
heritage. The fashion, climate, wealth and status of the owner had been
indicated by the stature of his home. The trend of the colonies had been
dictated by the power and prestige of their mother country, England. The beauty
of the house was necessitated by the symbolism of its visual proximity to that
of the English elite.
and Britain.” Royal Institute of British Architects. 2011.
(accessed May 13, 2012).