All the pieces You Have to Know About Saltbox-Type Homes

All the pieces You Have to Know About Saltbox-Type Homes

There’s one thing about an previous home with good bones—and the New England saltbox is the mom of all relics. Drive northbound on I-95 alongside the Atlantic coast in what has come to be referred to as Yankeeland, and these picturesque houses will begin to crop up. “It’s a particular profile on the New England panorama,” says Maine state historian Earle G. Shettleworth Jr. “In its rural or coastal setting, it creates an exquisite sense of 18th-century time and place. You may’t have a look at that with out questioning who constructed that and what their life was like.”

The story of saltbox houses goes past brick and mortar, or relatively—shingle and clapboard. These humble landmarks are vestiges of early European settlers and the robust realities of on a regular basis residing. And whereas this quaint residence model has roots going again centuries, many up to date architects have reinvented its design in fashionable revivals. Right here’s all that you must learn about saltbox-style houses.

What Is a Saltbox-Type Home?

Viewing the home from the entrance, one may simply mistake any saltbox for a colonial-style residence—with its flat exterior and easy symmetrical facade—however a couple of steps to the aspect and that basic steep-pitched roof will give it away.

The saltbox takes its title from a well-liked wood field used to retailer salt. In early colonial America, salt was onerous to return by and helpful sufficient to advantage show in ornamental wood bins. These bins, which held on their partitions, had slanted lids—thus a becoming title to even be bestowed upon their homes, which imitated that charming “lopsided” form.

All the pieces You Have to Know About Saltbox-Type Homes

A mixed-wood saltbox, late nineteenth or early twentieth century, Shenandoah Valley.

Courtesy Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates

Saltbox houses have been usually constructed with two tales within the entrance and one within the rear, accented by a single chimney rising from the middle. They have been usually sheathed with shingles and painted shutters. As it will be a couple of centuries earlier than electrical energy was invented, saltbox windowpanes have been strategically positioned to get most daylight.

Inside, there may be usually a great-room entrance and a rear kitchen. With the abundance of mature bushes in dense forests, these houses had wooden flooring with thick-cut planks. The second ground of the salt field was often a loft the place the children slept or issues have been saved.

Unique designs—these constructed within the seventeenth and early 18th centuries—included uncovered wooden ceiling beams and stone or brick fireplaces, however within the 18th century there was emphasis on plaster end even within the extra modest homes. “Obscuring these wood beams was a solution to put their frontier previous behind us,” says Shettleworth.

So What’s the Historical past of Saltbox Homes?

Courting again to the 1600s, saltbox houses have been constructed by European settlers immigrating to New England all through the colonial interval and into the early Republic—most prominently in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. This architectural model, in its inventive simplicity, is a testomony to the inventiveness required to fight the tough realities of early Colonial life and farmstead residing. The signature high-pitched roof—referred to as a gable roof—is a holdover from the times of thatching and a means for early settlers to fight roof harm from the burden of heavy snow and brutal winds, winter after winter.

saltbox style house

Options of a conventional saltbox-style home.


The saltbox model additionally persevered largely due to its capability to facilitate low-cost growth. Early colonists began constructing lean-to additions on the rear to accommodate their regularly altering wealth and household measurement. The look finally caught on and have become a longtime a part of the design.

Of their heyday, the mid-1600s to the mid-1700s, saltbox homes have been frequent in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and what’s now northeastern Ohio and continued to be constructed till round 1820. These homes might need remained in obscurity had there not been a surge in recognition within the late nineteenth century, in response to Shettleworth: “In the course of the 1870s an entire new era of architects born within the years earlier than the Civil Battle got here of age, they usually have been fascinated with American historical past and colonial-period structure,” Shettleworth says. “Many architects have been visiting these previous colonial homes within the coastal cities of New England and sketching them after which in their very own very progressive means, utilizing these roof varieties to create a brand new type of American structure that we name right now the ‘shingle model.’”

The saltbox home has continued to be influential to the neo-shingle-style architects of right now, together with New York Metropolis–primarily based architect Robert A.M. Stern, one of many pioneers in rediscovering colonial-revival shingle-style homes and using their options in additional contemporary-style homes. “Saltboxes had loads to do with inspiring that era of architects to create these free-flowing roof varieties, which you’ll nonetheless see in new houses right now,” Shettleworth says.

The place Are Saltbox Type Homes Discovered As we speak?

As we speak, most older saltbox houses have been reworked by design companies to protect the smooth, angular architectural traces of the outside however embody a extra up to date inside with fashionable options. For that purpose, unique buildings are at present more durable to return by, in contrast with their extra frequent counterparts like Cape Cods and colonials. After all, the historical past of those homes lives on by means of those that proceed the legacy.

illuminated holiday home in iceland during the winter

A recent saltbox model home in Iceland.

Cavan PhotographsGetty Photographs

As principal at Massachusetts-based agency Latady Design, Kevin Latady focuses on historic residence renovations, the place he says “excavator” is the extra becoming phrase for what he does. “I really feel as if I’m unearthing historical past, and the home is a form of archeological website,” he says. “I keep in mind peeling off the layers of this one saltbox to reveal the wood beams and discovering sudden insights into every era that had lived there. [Once] earlier than [peeling back] that final [layer of] plaster, we discovered that somebody had wallpapered it. What a shock.”

Having spent his childhood in a saltbox inbuilt 1726 and later elevating his three youngsters in a saltbox that he himself restored, Latady fondly articulates their attraction. “I referred to as our basement ‘the dungeon’ and performed within the crawl areas of my childhood residence, letting my creativeness go as I speculated on the lives of those that lived there earlier than me,” Latady says. “These homes are a residing historical past, one thing that reverberates, one thing you’re spiritually linked to.”

Past the hand-worn banisters and the hid attic doorways, these previous homes not solely maintain secrets and techniques to be unearthed however counsel there are new ones to be made. “That’s the great thing about these older houses,” Latady says. “The Yankees have been at all times evolving, and their houses have been made to be simply modified—and have been for hundreds of years. So it’s about preserving the character of the historic home and the spirit of these unique householders, whereas understanding the wants for the now with an eye fixed on the long run.”

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