Tuesday, February 11, 2014

American Foursquare

A style popular ca. 1900-1920 by mail-order catalogs such as Sears and Roebuck and speculative builders that were part of a larger movement toward simplified rectilinear domestic architecture. Distinguished primarily by its box-like massing and broad proportions, and often devoid of overt stylistic references, the prototypical Foursquare is two stories in height, with a hipped roof, widely overhanging eaves, central dormers and a one-story porch spanning the front facade. Several features alleviate the stark massing and straight lines of the Foursquare: the low pitch and overhanging eaves of the hipped roof, echoed in the dormer and porch roofs, minimize some of the structure’s sheer bulk, and the front porch, an essential component of the Foursquare plan, is often supported by Tuscan columns and features a filled-in or balustrade railing. The simple exterior is reflected in the straightforward interior plan of the Foursquare, which typically features four large rooms on each floor and a corner reception hall and stairway that is reflected in the asymmetrical placement of the front door. Relatively simple and inexpensive to build, the Foursquare provided spacious “modern” homes to Americans for the first several decades for the twentieth century.

The City of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin is rife with examples of the American Foursquare. Numbering over 450 examples in the city, they are colloquially referred to as the “Fond du Lac Square.” They are located throughout the city and include single examples to clusters, while exterior sheathing ranges from brick to stucco to wooden shingle and clapboard.

I was lucky enough to purchase such a home back in 2012. When we purchased the home, we were told it was built ca. 1908. I did check out the town plat map and discovered that a smaller home was on my lot prior to 1908. My husband and I are slowly working on getting this home back to the original beauty. I fell in love with all the natural woodwork on the first floor. The house was four bedrooms and a prior homeowner combined the two smaller front bedrooms into one large master bedroom. The upstairs hall built-in has been modified and I have seen pictures of other homes on what it should look like and I hope to bring new life to the built-in. The two smaller bedroom floors, dining room and kitchen all have original hardwood floors showing. The Master bedroom floor had different wood where the wall was removed and the main floor entrance hall wall was also removed and thus new carpet was laid to cover the imperfections. The exterior was repainted, the front porch steps and railing repaired plus a new hanging outdoor light was added. This is my second home that I stay at during the summer to work on family research. In this home, I feel closer to all the relatives that I am researching. The simple house reminds me of the simpler lifestyles that many of our ancestors lived. Of course simpler doesn't mean easier, because I have air conditioning, indoor plumbing, electricity and all the modern electric conveniences that go with electricity. However, sitting on the front porch at night, watching the neighborhood kids playing, just makes me smile!

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