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United States Architecture

stone, column, result, classic, houses, colonial, construction and architectural

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UNITED STATES ARCHITECTURE. The earliest settlers within the present limits of the United States have left us little in the way of architectural remains. Leaving an old and civilized country and starting life anew in the untrodden vastness of a wild world of primeval peoples, they devoted their time and strength to clearing the land and cultivating the soil, living meanwhile in hastily constructed log cabins or rude houses of clay, stone and The tide of immigration grew larger yearly, and soon homes were built replacing the pioneer emergency domiciles, and though not palatial in any sense of the word made comfortable and satisfactory dwelling places. The effect of the constructive methods of the different mother countries is evident in these buildings. With the increase of wealth came the desire for bet ter and more pretentious architecture. In the southwest during the 16th, 17th and 18th cen turies, influenced by Spanish types, were built picturesque mission buildings (New Mexico: San Juan de les Caballeros, 1598; California: Santa Barbara, 1787), cathedrals (Saint Fran cis, Santa Fe, 1713; Florida, cathedral, Saint Augustine, 093; Louisiana, cathedral, New Orleans, 1792), and a few secular constructions (Florida, Fort San Marco, Saint Augustine, 1756; Louisiana, Cabildo, New Orleans, 1795). As the Spanish Dominion in North America took the form of conquest rather than coloniza tion, the conditions making for growth and prosperity were lacking in these provinces and is reflected in the stunted architectural de velopment. The long slender column of our Colonial style is not the result of an esthetic development. The classic proportion of the column of the Georgian period was abandoned by the construction during the Colonial period through necessity as imposed by law and not through choice. The column with a height of 15 and even more diameters is not the outcome of years of development and study to improve the already well-established and accepted pro portions of the Classic columns — the sudden abandonment of the columnar proportion that had satisfied both the structural and esthetic requirements of classic design for centuries was due uniquely to an order of the British Privy Council, prohibiting the colonists from cut ting down for domestic construction trees of a diameter greater than 16 or 18 inches, in order to reserve for the construction of the British ships and especially for the spar and masts, the trees of the larger diameters. The

immediate result of this order was to force the colonists in the construction of a porch two stories in height to use a column in which the ratio of diameter to height was far greater than in the established classic proportion. The radi cal change in the colonial column necessarily affected the established proportions of the other architectural elements to a degree in excess of the structural limitations of the materials used. And the resulting bastard style cannot be re garded as the naive efforts of an artist in using forms with which he is not thoroughly familiar, as seen in the early period of develop ment of the Renaissance in Europe. The lack of a developed architectural appreciation in the colonial buildet is well exemplified in his use of wooden groins. This reversal of the usual development of a structural element from wood into stone is probably unique.

In the vicinity of the Hudson Valley and on Long Island the Dutch settlers constructed long, low houses of rough stone garnished with brick, with timber gabled roofs, the eaves of which projected far over the side walls. Though simple in design, these Dutch houses, like those of the immigrants of other nations who settled in the United States, show that Old World restrictions imbued the builders with a spirit of deference to inherited customs; with the result that they followed the tradi tions of their teachers, and built as they had been taught, instead of developing new ideas and methods to meet the new condition. This did not prevent them, however, from adapting to their needs available materials, and a variety of them were frequently employed in the same building; stone, brick, stucco, clap boards and shingles being used together in such a manner as to result in a harmonious whole. In • the houses of, the more wealthy, dressed or cut stone was frequently employed, and in those of the less well-to-do or less exacting, rubble masonry sufficed. The ground floor was used for kitchen, living-room and bedchambers, and the upper floor for the storage of supplies and at times for slave quarters. In the early days dormers were sel dom employed, when light was necessary windows were introduced in the gable ends. Later, the introduction of the gambrel roof with its steep slope and the elimination of waste space just inside the eaves made it possible to use the second or attic floor for bedchambers, as well as for storage.

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