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March 19, 1961 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 1961-03-19
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he Growth of Colonial Architecture

Continued from Page Five
delphia were quite alike. This fea-
ture was characteristic of the
people, for they shunned the in-
dividualism of. the South and
tended to be quite like their neigh-
Up through the Hudson Valley
and over into Pennsylvania, the
settlements were largely inhabited
by the Dutch. These were the In-
land Colonies.
The houses there were typically
Dutch in many ways, almost all of
stone, with steep, sloping roofs.
Miost of them were farmhouses,
but the urban types were distinct-
ive too. They were often quite nar-
row and sandwiched in close to one
another, with steeply - pitched
angle gables or crow-stepped
A Swedish visitor, Peter Kalm,
best described New Amsterdam
(New York.) "The streets do not
run as straight as those in Phila-
Jelphia- (they were not planned),
and they have sometimes consid-
Erable bendings, however, they are
very spacious and well-built and
most of them are paved, except in
high places where it has been
found useless. In the chief streets
brees are planted, which in the1
summer gives them a fine appear-
ance and during the excessive
tieat of that time afford a cool-
ing shade. I found it extremely
pleasant to walk in the town, for
it seemed like quite a garden . .."
The interiors of the houses were
t sort of "pioneer Dutch." The
beams, floor, and woodworking
"ere dark and varnished, and the
walls were white. Curved brack-
Ats supported the-heavy transverse
~loor beams, and there was an

emphasis on dutch doors and hea-
vy black-iron hardware, in hasps,
hinges, and latches..-j
In the more elaborate houses,
there was also an emphasis on in-
tricate design in the woodworking,
and this English ornateness com-'
bined with the Dutch precision
into " a final blending of colonial
styles, producing an architecture
of charm and beauty that in-
herited the best of both traditions.
High up in the valley where the
Connecticut influence was strong,
these influences again met to pro-
duce some rich and lovely frame
houses toward the close of the cen-
tury (Waterman)."
In New England, things were a
bit more austere, quite indicative
of the puritan society. The houses
themselves were very plain -and
showed a resourcefulness, but lit-
tle or no imagination. The early
New England settlers were of quite
the same cloth.
The first colonists who landed
in 1607 hardly lasted a year and
remnants of their attempts at
housing show them to have been
amazingly crude. The famous Pil-
grims in 1620 built log cabins of a
sort, but Governor Bradford noted
in his diary that "a storm soon
caused much damage of our houses

to fall down." They were evident-
ly of miserable construction.
Finally, after they tired of re-
building their houses in the wake
of each storm that happened
along, they turned to braced,
frame houses -and 'clapboards.'
However, it is important to note
something more to consider than
that " the New Englanders had
architectural beauty. The Indians
in the area had a disturbing habit
of annoying settlers, and suitable
defenses had to be built into the
houses, accounting somewhat for
their austerity. In fact, in many
towns, the inhabitants finally re-
sorted to building a community
garrison for mutual protection.
Soon, however, it must have be-
come quite inconvenient for the
laboring colonists to drop every
thing and run for the fort when-
ever the Indians decided that they
were being taken for granted, for
individual garrison houses ap-
peared on the scene.
Garrison houses were both
homes and forts. They had all the
features of any New England
dwelling, except adequate win-
dows for obvious reasons. Like or-
dinary houses they were one and
a half or two stories high, and of
one or two rooms to a floor.

Their walls were strong enough
to stop arrows and/or bullets. In
defense against fire heavy timber
was used in log construction,
which is not easily burned, and
against the -battering ram the
door was heavily reiniforced and
Of the ordinary dwellings, they
were often only one or two rooms
with a loft, usually an end chim-
ney/ and an extremely steep,
shingled roof.
When things finally settled
down in New England, and the
Indians were driven over into New
Netherland for the Dutch to worry
about, the colonists found time to
raise a family and had to expand
their houses. And it is here we
note that they were not very good
First they raised their dwellings
to a full two stories and then the
basic floor plan was duplicated on
the other side of the end chimney.
Houses having central chimneys
presented something of a problem,
and apparently another chimney
had to be tacked onto the end.
The New Englanders were im-
pervious of architectural improve-
ments. The growing trend to the
ornate and lavish affected them
little. They stuck firmly with their

austerity program and their in-
teriors were sparsley done, with
few, if any, frills.
Even so, New England had her
mansions, such as they were.
These consisted of regular houses
raised to three stories and treated
with full-height pilasters and the
roof with balustrades. Inside, how-
ever, the change was a bit marked.
Austerity made room for some
measure of ornateness, with rugs
appearing on the floors, elabor-
ate staircases rising up into the
ceilings, and mural wallpapers of
no mean design on the walls.
And so the various colonies pro-
gressed up to 1776 and the homes
of the people who made our his-
tory tell every bit as dramatic a
story as Gov. Bradford's diaries
or Peter Kalm's reminiscences or
the pages of the history books.
These dwellings reveal the tale
of the proud, aristocratic South-
ern colonies, the resourceful in-
dustrial middle colonies, the old-
world, pioneering inland colonies,
and the austere, practical New
England colonies. All were differ-
ent in their own way but by the
same token all were the same-for
they were all distinctively Ameri-




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March 19, 1961

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