In my continuing effort to study and immerse myself into the early 20th century, I recently finished reading 1000 Turn-of-the-Century Houses. The book is a collection of floorplans from the late 1890s and early 1900s.
The floorplans were all drawn by a St. Louis architect named Herbert Chivers. He compiled them into a book he published in 1910 called Artistic Homes. Throughout the book are testimonials as well as statements by Chivers stating the virtues of working with an architect. Chivers strikes me as someone who would be difficult to work with. For example, he stated that he could not be bothered with simple inquiries because the people who ask them aren’t serious about buying his plans.
I noticed immediately that homes at that time were not sold by square footage. A few listed the widths and depths, so I was able to calculate that the houses ranged from 800 to nearly 6,000 square feet. The plans were sold for $5 to $15, and the homes cost from $500 to around $3,500 to build.
I also noticed that features we think of as being quite modern were already in place in these homes. These features include:
- Walk-in pantries
- Nine or 10 foot ceilings
- Walk-in closets/large closets
- Water closets, although by 1900 these were falling out of disfavor for a toilet combined with the rest of the bathroom.
- Nearly all contained an office, den or library.
- Laundry rooms
Some features that were different were:
- The kitchen was closed off from the rest of the house. This is a feature I wish we still had. Who wants to see a sink full of dirty dishes or a messy kitchen when entertaining guests?
- Servant quarters
- Music rooms
- Sewing rooms
- Storage rooms
- Trunk rooms
- Girl’s rooms and boy’s rooms. I’m unfamiliar with these terms, and I’m wondering if they were playrooms.
Other things the homes had in common:
- Having one to eight bedrooms which were mostly labeled “chambers” although a few were called “bedrooms.”
- While many homes today have a family room and a sitting room, these houses had a parlor and a sitting room.
- Many times a bedroom was located near the kitchen and the other rooms were upstairs. These were large rooms and, therefore, were not servants’ rooms. Could they have been guest bedrooms?
- Bathrooms were usually on the ground floor. Is this because of easy access for guests, keeping them out of the private parts of the house?
- Access to the basement from both inside and outside the home.
- Foyers were called “reception rooms”.
- Many had more than one staircase.
I would love to see some photographs of these homes once they had been completed.
Have you ever lived in a Victorian house? Leave a comment below.
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