Happy Hill – What is A Shotgun House? – Part 2

“A place without meaning is no place to be.”
Wayne Gerald Trotman

The Happy Hill Neighborhood has broken ground on a new project, Beal Street Square, a cause for celebration. I want to remind you about the architecture you find in Happy Hill, and throughout the south, so when you see the design for Beal Street Square, you will appreciate it all the more.

HOUSE_IN_THE_FIFTH_WARD_OF_HOUSTON,_TEXAS._THIS_IS_ONE_OF_A_SERIES_OF_21_BLACK_AND_WHITE_PHOTOGRAPHS._THEY_DOCUMENT..._-_NARA_-_557633The “shotgun house,” a domestic residence, is a Black cultural architectural form that originated in the American South and was used extensively throughout the region. Shotgun houses are typically 12 feet wide with a gable-ended entrance, and are two or three rooms deep. They are one story high with few windows, if any, on the sides There are doors at each end of the house, which allows better airflow. The narrow frontage increased the number of houses that could be planned along a street.

“Shotgun” & “double shotgun” are two common dwellings types in Happy Hill. “Double” shotgun houses consist of two houses sharing a central wall. There are “Camelback” shotgun houses that include a second floor at the rear of the house. In Happy Hill, perhaps all, were built by Thomas Watson, a wealthy Rocky Mount businessman and area farmer who invested in rental  property. Over the years variations of shotgun houses have been updated to the needs of later generations of owners. The simple design of shotgun type houses wound up giving us the southern porch, a gathering place for the tight knit neighborhoods that evolved.

 

shotgun-house-photoThis photo on the right is an example of how the houses have been embellished with ornate fixtures. Brackets that hold the roof aloft are usually carved after the Victorian or Greek Revival fashions. Vent covers are intricately designed and the front windows and doors are adorned with shutters. Today you can find these little houses restored to a level of splendor that did not exist when they were first built.

Join me for Part 3

    Visiting with Aunties Mary & Viola – The Roses of Beal Street

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About Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin

Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin grew up in Evanston, IL. and is a graduate of the University of Kentucky. She is an author of two novels: The Greening of a Heart and Facing East. She lives, writes and gardens in NC. Visit her: Stephenyhoughtlin.com
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2 Responses to Happy Hill – What is A Shotgun House? – Part 2

  1. We lived in Mobilr AL for a number of year and were always told that white and blacks lived in them. it was more of an economic thing. We were told that they got their name from the fact that you could stand at the front door and shoot straight through to the back doors hence them name shotgun house!

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    • I read that explanation for the name of these houses (shotgun) in some of the research. I think it falls into the category of ideas that get repeated and become fact, like all the big houses “saved” from burning in the civil war because the soldiers and homeowners were Masons or some such thing. Thanks for leaving a comment. I love them.

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