Architecture Corner – The American Foursquare

As the names imply, these houses are almost perfectly square. Although there are regional variations, a Foursquare home typically has these features:American_foursquaresears52

  • Two stories, with an attic and a full basement
  • Boxy shape
  • One-story porch across the front
  • Squat, pyramid-shaped roof
  • Single dormer at the center

The interior of an American Foursquare house echoes its box-like form. Typically, each floor contains four rooms–one neatly tucked into each corner. On the first floor you will find an entry foyer, living room, dining room, and kitchen. The second floor is an orderly arrangement of three bedrooms and, in one corner, a bathroom.

During Victorian times, the fashion was to build houses that were complex and often highly ornamented.  Homes of the 1880s and 1890s often had irregular rooflines with several gables, asymmetrical arrangements of windows and doors, and complicated floor plans that required many hallways and stairways. By the turn of the century, however, homebuilders were seeking easier, more economical forms.

The classic Foursquare shape became an American standard in the early 1900s and dominated neighborhoods throughout the first decades of the 20th century. The square form made these houses especially practical for narrow city lots. Arranging the rooms in quadrants eliminated the need for long hallways and made efficient use of interior space. What’s more, simple, symmetrical Foursquare homes were less costly to build than more complicated Victorians. Mail-order companies often featured no-fuss Foursquares pre-cut "kit" homes. Sears Roebuck & Co. featured 15 Foursquare models, ranging from the unpretentious wood frame "Hamilton" to the Spanish Mission "Alhambra" with scalloped parapets.


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