An Introduction to Dutch Colonial Architecture

By: Virginia Wherland

Dutch Colonial architecture provides an attractive glimpse into America's early homestead history. The building style was used by northeast farmers as far back as the 1600s, and is still seen in many rural homes across the region. Dutch Colonial architecture has also been commonly used in luxury homes, and is often preferred for its adaptive features and distinct decorative touches.

Classic barn-style roofing sets Dutch Colonial homes apart from other homes. These roofs feature a broad gambrel shape, meaning they angle once, instead of laying flat and rising to a ridgepole. Dutch Colonial roofs also have flared eaves that extend over the porches, which gives them a hat-like look. Barns were built with these roofs to maximize space on the second floor, and even allow for a hayloft on the third floor, and Dutch Colonial homes offer similar benefits - it's common to see three story homes built in this manner.Other characteristics of Dutch Colonial architecture include include side entrances, central double Dutch doorways, asymmetrical layouts, ground level porches, double hung sash windows, and a chimney at one or both ends.

Many older Dutch Colonial homes also include eyebrow dormer windows and open wheel windows on the third story. It's also common to find older Dutch Colonial homes with horizontally divided front doors, which were useful for keeping livestock out, but allowing light and fresh air in through the upper half. Opinions vary on the origin of the Dutch Colonial style. Some sources claim it was developed by Dutch settlers of New York and New Jersey, while others say the origins are in Pennsylvania. Unlike most other architectural styles, Dutch Colonial was developed exclusively for homes, and isn't generally found on public or commercial buildings.

Most Dutch Colonial homes standing today should actually be referred to as "Dutch Colonial Revival" buildings. Even homes built in the 1920s and earlier were done with nostalgia and admiration for a the original Dutch Colonial period, centuries ago. Twentieth Century versions of the Dutch Colonial style tend to vary considerably in size, layout and features. For example, one might cover just 1,400 feet with a side entrance, and angular dormer-style windows on the second floor, while another fills out three full floors, with a grand entrance, and fan-shaped transoms on the third floor - both are valid interpretations of the form.

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