American Foursquare

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American Foursquare


Historic Overview

The American Foursquare was a popular building type of the early 20th century. It was one of the early types of “kit houses,” sold through large mail order firms such as Montgomery Ward and Sears. The “kit” included all the parts necessary to build the house, along with a booklet explaining how to assemble the pieces to create a house. The type was common throughout the United States from 1905 through 1935, but interestingly was only built in the Witherspoon-Jackson community during the second half of that time window (1915 to 1925). 

American Foursquare houses have a set of specific characteristics. The typical example is a 2.5-story house with a pyramidal roof, dormers on at least one of the four roof slopes, and a full-length front porch. As mentioned earlier, a house with a pyramidal roof over a cube-shaped massing but with no dormers is technically a pyramidal roofed vernacular house. 

The only American Foursquare house indicated on the Sanborn atlas of 1918 in the Witherspoon-Jackson community is the house at 244 Witherspoon Street (see photo). It includes the major features of the American Foursquare: the hipped dormer and massing. The house may have a stone-faced foundation, as the use of stone as a load-bearing foundation material was becoming increasingly rare after 1900.

Another American Foursquare of note in the community is located at 111 Birch Avenue, one of the 14 examples in the survey constructed between the time of the Sanborn Atlas of 1918 and the Franklin Survey map of 1930/historic aerial of 1931. Ten of these 14 Foursquares were constructed along Leigh and Birch avenues. Like the house at 244 Witherspoon, 111 Birch features the hipped roof dormer, overhanging eaves, and cube-shaped massing. Two other features are typical of Foursquares. The first is the window type; windows on the house feature four vertical lights in the upper sash and a single paned lower sash. These 4x1 windows were typical among Foursquares and Bungalows but tend not to survive due to the expense of maintenance. The second feature of note is the front porch, a typical early 20th century design. The hipped roof is supported by stubby tapered square columns that stone on masonry piers. The practice of using short columns standing on masonry piers was rarely seen in the 1890s but became the most common porch support type of the early 20th century.

American Foursquare

Historic Resources

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