“The 1906 Joseph Downey House, a large classic American Foursquare, is now the Berger Park Cultural Center.
“Last month, when I blogged about the work of architects Huehl & Schmid, I highlighted two American Foursquares produced by the firm—the Stayart and Zuncker houses. These fine brick residences are actually somewhat different from one another, and they made me think about how the Foursquare is such a fascinating house type. The earliest versions appeared as if by magic in the early 1890s and the house type soon became very popular across the country. I’m definitely a fan of these houses—in fact, I live in one! So, the American Foursquare is the star of this month’s blog.
“The American Foursquare building type generally refers to a two-story house with a square floor plan that includes four rooms on the ground level and four rooms on the second story. They are often cube-shaped in form with a pyramidal hipped roof and a center dormer. One thing I like about the house type is that there are many variations, including gable-roofed versions. Foursquares tend to have wide front porches with the entry door in the center or on one side. The houses were constructed of various materials, including stone, brick, and frame. The wood-frame buildings could be finished with clapboards, shingles, stucco, or a combination of these. And best of all, Foursquares ranged from modest cottages to spacious mansions, and thus provided (and continue to provide) homes to people of varying means.
“Many architectural historians believe that the Foursquare emerged as a reaction to eclectic Victorian house styles, such as the Queen Anne, which had been popular for more than two decades at the end of the 19th century. In a master’s thesis entitled The Four Square House in the United States, Thomas Walter Hanchett wrote: “The gaudy complexity of the Queen Anne brought a widespread revolt which set the course of American design from the 1890s through the First World War. Architects and the general public as well cried out for a simpler, more sensible residential architecture.” In contrast to Victorian houses, Foursquares featured clean lines, simple and often minimal ornamentation, and an efficient use of space. The new house type quickly sprouted up in cities, suburbs, and even rural areas across the country.”