Folk Architecture Page 4

            Sometimes a house with the same floor plan was built with the hall enclosed. If the hall had double doors, these could be opened in the summer to provide ventilation almost equal to what was available in the dogtrot. In bad weather, however, the doors protected the inhabitants as they moved from one room to another. Often very well-to-do families lived in these homes, many of which have fashionable trim on the façade—the older ones using Greek Revival motifs and more recent ones Victorian. The owners’ wealth was displayed for all to see in the stylish details of porch and front door.

            A fourth kind of traditional two-room house—one only rarely found in North Central Arkansas—is the saddlebag house. It consists of two separate rooms connected by a massive central chimney with fireplaces opening into each room. Sometimes each room had its own entrance, rather like the double-pen house. The spaces on each side of the chimney stack could, in that case, be used for storage. In other cases a single front door led into the space beside the fireplace, turning it into a small entryway. Possibly the heat generated by summertime cooking in the central fireplace made this kind of house generally unacceptable.

All these house types are only one story high. Only two types of traditional two-story houses are found in North Central Arkansas:  the stack house and the I house.

            The stack house has a one-room floor plan, one pen stacked atop the other. Commonplace in parts of Virginia, it is seldom found farther west except in areas settled from Virginia.

The more common traditional two-story house is the so-called I house, something of a catch-all term for houses one room deep, at least two rooms wide, and two stories high . While any kind of two-room floor plan is possible, the most common Southern version has a central hall, sometimes left open in dogtrot fashion, but more often enclosed. In the Midwest this kind of house is a typical farmhouse, but in North Central Arkansas the I house is usually found in towns or at least in small communities. Very few are found out in the countryside as farmhouses. Perhaps the greater expense of building such a relatively large house—twice the size of the more commonly-found one-story types—was more than hill farmers with only marginally-productive fields could afford. Although many of the town versions were ornately trimmed and were large by contemporary standards, again they afford us with a striking contrast between then and now in the amount of space required for a family. What similarly wealthy family of today would live in a four-room house?

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