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Cape Cod — 1880 to 1960

1940s Cape CodCape Cod Characteristics

Is your house a Cape Cod?

The Cape Cod is a subtype the the popular Colonial Revival style that dominated the American housing market from the late 19th century to the present, but was most popular from 1920 to about 1960.

The simple Cape Cod is an idealized version of the homes built by the early colonists. Twentieth century Americans were traditionalists. Nineteenth century centennial celebrations and the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago popularized the Colonial Revival style with its classical columns and dignified expression. The Cape Cod was a smaller, more affordable version of the larger homes.

Cape Cods are usually very symmetrical, but during the 1930s and 40s, many Capes were built with less strict symmetry than earlier houses. The image shown here is a typical example.

Cape Cods are found in almost every neighborhood more than 50 years old. Most are planned around variations on the same theme. The entry typically opens into a central hall with stairs to the second floor. The main floor is divided into three or four rooms. Some homes have a large living room with a fireplace on one side, and one crosses the entry hall to a dining room, which connects to the kitchen. Upstairs are two bedrooms and a bath. A common variant divides rooms on the main floor to accommodate a bedroom and bath as well.

Regardless of the configuration, Cape Cods were extremely popular because they were small, affordable, and traditional, but often incorporated the same modern character of the related Minimal Traditional style. (It could be argued that the Cape Cod is a Minimal Traditional by definition.) Even though they were considered starter houses, they were often designed to be added to as finances permitted.

The Cape Cod continues to be one of the most charming and timeless of American residential styles. Hundreds of thousands were built across the country throughout the 1950s making this a popular mid-century home style.

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