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The History of Ranch Houses

Clifford May, a self-taught architect in San Diego, is considered the father of ranch houses because many historians trace the origins of the home style to a house that he built in 1931. May’s design was inspired by the adobe Spanish colonial homes of southern California, but was much more informal and prioritized horizontal, wide-open spaces. (In fact, the term “ranch” came about because the home’s open spaces reminded people of cattle ranches.) After World War II, ranch-style homes took off as returning soldiers began families and moved to new housing developments in the suburbs. Ranch houses were quick and affordable for developers to build, and by 1950, 9 out of 10 new homes built in the United States were ranches. Around the 1970s, American tastes changed, and two-story houses became more popular than ranches. However, ranch-style homes are once again sought after today, largely because these modestly sized homes are easy to customize or remodel.

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