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The History of Cape Houses

Cape houses, or Cape Cod houses, did indeed originate on Cape Cod, as the name suggests. The original Cape-style home was modest and practical. Built from about 1690 to 1850, they were typically clad in shingles, arranged to take advantage of the sun, and their interiors were centered on a hearth-warmed kitchen. Most were either half or three-quarter Capes, which were usually very simple inside and modestly sized. The term “Cape Cod house” was in use as early as 1800, when Yale College President Timothy Dwight mentioned it after a visit to Cape Cod. It’s worth noting that by 1790, the style had spread throughout much of New England and New York, including Long Island, and entered into central New York, Ohio, and Michigan by 1830. In fact, due to its widespread popularity, the Cape house is now one of the most recognizable home styles in America today. Eventually, Victorian-style homes supplanted the original Cape-style houses, but during the Colonial Revival of the 1930s, Revival Capes became quite popular and remarkably widespread. This second wave of Capes is representative of what we typically think of as Cape houses today. They are usually symmetrical and feature a pitched roof and a symmetrical five-bay façade with a large entrance door and are centered on a large chimney. Most are clapboarded and shuttered, have two floors, and feature more formal, flexible floorplans than their predecessors. Today, Capes remain a highly sought after home style and are nearly ubiquitous in most areas of the United States.

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