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Early Residential Building Types

Dugout 1850-1920
Single-Cell 1847-1910
Hall-Parlor 1847-1910
Double-Cell 1847-1890
Central Passage 1847-1900
Pair House 1853-1890
Double Pile 1847-1880
Side Passage/Entry Hall 1847-1920
Saltbox 1847-1870
Temple Form 1847-1875
Cross Wing 1880-1910
Central Block with Projecting Bays 1885-1915
Rectangular Block 1885-1915
Shotgun House 1875-1910

Many of the residences in this category are difficult to distinguish without inspecting the interior, since

all have symmetrical facades parallel to the ridgeline of the roof. You can generally recognize a Harmon-House-9MCdouble cell by its even number of door and window openings (in contrast to the single-cell and hall-parlor types), and central-passage houses are usually (but not always) larger than those with a hall-parlor plan. BUT—only the specific floor plans truly identify these types.

The remaining types, including the side-passage house with its distinctive offset door, can all be identified by their exterior appearance.

In an effort to demonstrate the stylistic and compositional variety found within each category, we offer several examples of each house type.

A dugout might be considered more of an archaeological resource than a building type; however, we are including it as a type because it was a common residential form in early Utah. As the term “dugout” implies, this dwelling type was partially subterranean, dug either into level ground–up to approximately six feet deep–or, more commonly, into a hillside, preferably south-facing, to capture TSdugout1_largesun in the winter.

Interior floor dimensions varied from dugout to dugout, but 12’x 12’ seems to have been an average size.  The builder typically constructed a wall of log, earth, stone, or sometimes brick above ground around the perimeter, high enough to provide adequate head room.

The roof could either be flat, sloped, or a have a shallow-pitched gable.  Roofs were constructed of either flat boards or heavy wood poles (and sometimes metal poles) spaced evenly as rafters.  The builder placed willows or other saplings between the poles, and covered them with straw or bundles of brush.  Over all this went a thick layer of dirt.  Needless to say, the roof did little good in heavy rain, but it did an adequate job of protection at other times.

The occupants used the interior space primarily as shelter; it provided little room for domestic work.  Furniture was limited to a bed (that could also serve as a bench or table), a couple of chairs, a cupboard, and a sheet-metal stove or small stone fireplace–but not much else.

Early Utah settlers were likely inclined to build dugouts if they lacked knowledge about the viability of the area they had moved to.  Probably the most common reason for the construction of dugouts, however, was expediency.  When only a few families settled an area, a shortage of manpower required most families to make do with available resources until they could build more permanent dwellings. Most people think of dugouts only as housing for very early settlers; however, historical references reveal that people used this dwelling type well into the 20th century.

The single-cell house consists of a single square or rectangle unit that is not further subdivided into uha-single-cell-drwg_largerooms. This minimum building form may be one, one and a half, or two stories tall. The single-cell house, sometimes called the “square cabin” or “hall house,” is an English form found in all sections of the United States.

While often considered an impermanent frontier dwelling type, this small house was in fact a substantial and fashionable residential form that remained popular in Utah well into the 1890s.


The hall-parlor house is composed of a single square room (the hall) with a smaller room serving as uha-hall-parlor-drwg_largethe best room (the parlor) attached to the side. The house is one room deep and may be one, one and a half, or two stories high. While primarily associated with the Classical styles, Utah examples may have Picturesque and Victorian detailing as well.

The internal plan is always asymmetrical, but a characteristic three- or five-bay symmetrical façade masks that imbalance. Chimneys may stand either internally or at the gable ends.

This house type, ubiquitous in America, comes from England. The hall-parlor may be considered the quintessential Utah house during the second half of the 19th century.

The double-cell house has two square or roughly square units arranged axially. It may be one, one uha-double-cell-drwg_largeand a half, or two stories tall and usually has a façade with two front doors and either two or four windows arranged symmetrically. Chimneys may be located at the gable ends or in the center of the house.

The presence of the two doors has often led people to conclude that polygamous families developed this as a unique Utah house type—with one door for each wife.

While in fact the house did lend itself to multifamily living situations, the double-cell house is a common American form in the South and Midwest, with the double doors providing a balance of openings on the principal façade.

The central-passage house type is a modification of the earlier hall-parlor house. It has a passage oruha-central-pass-drwg_large hallway (usually containing a staircase) between two square or roughly square rooms. One, one-and-a-half, and two-story examples of the house have been recorded, and both three- and five-bay forms are common (bays are window or door openings).

From the outside, an observer generally can’t distinguish the central-passage type from the hall-parlor house, although central-passage houses are usually larger and more elaborate. But in houses built after 1880, the chimneys ordinarily stand on both walls of the central passage. So the resulting pair of internal chimneys indicates the presence of an internal passage—one way to identify these later central-passage types.

The house type constitutes a legacy of Georgian stylistic influences on American traditional housing during the 18th century.

In its two-story form, the central-passage house (often called an I-house because of its widespread occurrence in Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa) became something of a national symbol of economic achievement during the 19th century. Successful farms in all parts of the country adopted it as the house form of choice. People in prosperous sections of cities and towns also built this house.

The pair house is defined by its distinctive three-room-wide floor plan. The name comes from the uha-pair-house-drwg_largeSwedish parstuga, meaning a house with a pair of rooms flanking a central room.

The pair house differs from the central-passage type in that the central room is more than a passageway; in fact, it is usually either the kitchen or the living room.

The house may stand one, one and a half, or two stories tall and has either gable-end or internal chimneys. The presence of paired internal chimneys (more widely spaced than central-passage chimneys) indicate a pair house.

The house usually has three or five bays. In the five-bay examples, the inner windows are very close to the central doorway, and the gaps between them and the outer windows reveal the location of the internal walls. This distinctive fenestration pattern becomes another readily recognizable diagnostic feature of the pair-house form.

Mormon immigrants from Scandinavia introduced the pair house into Utah. Not surprisingly, most examples stand in Sanpete and Sevier Counties, where many Scandinavian immigrants settled, but other examples are scattered throughout the state.

The double-pile house, in contrast to all the house types previously described, is two rooms deep. uha-double-pile-drwg_largeThis is a regional modification of the Georgian detached house (which has two rooms on either side of a long central passage.) Utah has no examples of the true Georgian form; instead, the double-pile plan generally reflects a New England adaptation in which the central passage runs only halfway through the house, with a tier of three smaller rooms to the rear. Other double-pile forms in Utah extend the hall parlor, pair house, and double-cell types one unit to the rear.



The side-passage house has a square or rectangular plan with an entrance passage on one side of uha-side-passage-drwg_largethe main floor, which gives the house a distinctive asymmetrical appearance. The side-passage house is one and a half or two stories and displays a remarkable longevity, being used in styles ranging from the Greek Revival to the Prairie School.

The side-passage form originated as an 18th-century variant of the Georgian detached house, which had two rooms on either side of a central passage. In essence, the side-passage house represents two-thirds of the complete Georgian form. The side-passage plan was found in both urban and rural areas of the country during the 18th and 19th centuries.

The saltbox type is defined principally by its roof shape rather than its plan. The saltbox has a two-uha-saltbox-drwg_largestory front section and a one-story extension, or outshut, to the rear. A long sloping roof contains the entire house. The continuous, unbroken roofline gives the house the shape of an old-fashioned salt storage box.

Utah examples occur in central-passage, hall-parlor, and pair-house plans, but all share the distinctive sloping roof. The saltbox is a New England colonial form that never became very popular in Utah, despite many settlers’ Yankee origins. However, people often erroneously give this name to any house with a rear lean-to roof.

The temple-form house is a distinctive type that has its entrance in the narrower side of the house, uha-temple-form-drwg_largeusually under the gable end of the roof. Temple-form houses may be one and a half or two stories high, and are almost always associated with the Greek Revival style. The house may use different floor plans, including the double-cell and side-passage.

It may also have wings on one or both sides. Subordinate to the main block in early 19th-century plans, these side wings had become more prominent by the time of Utah’s settlement. By 1850, several new types, most notably the cross-wing and cruciform houses, were emerging as important new forms.

The temple-form house was an early 19th-century product of the Greek Revival stylistic movement. Seeking to capture the spirit of monumental buildings in ancient Greece like the Parthenon, American architectural theorists championed gable-front, pedimented structures with columned porticoes. People commonly built this house type along the expanding New England frontier, and it became particularly popular in the Upper Midwest during the mid-19th century. The popularity of the temple-form houses in the Eastern United States increased steadily during the 1930s and ‘40s, although usually with a simple gable roof instead of colossal porticoes.

The cross-wing house consists of two wings placed at right angles so that the floor plan resembles uha-crosswing-drwg_largeeither a “T” or an “L.” The side wing often contains the stairway.

The stylistic emphasis of the house is divided equally between the facade of the forward-projecting wing and the porch fronting the main entrance in the side or flanking wing, and it is at these points that decoration is commonly found.

The house itself is usually one and a half stories tall, although some are two stories. Smaller one-story examples, often called simply “T-cottages,” also appear with great frequency.

The cross-wing house initially developed in association with the Gothic Revival and Italianate styles, but during the late-19th century it became a popular plan for Victorian dwellings as well.

Variants of the basic cross-wing form include the “double cross wing,” a house that has two forward projecting wings, and the “cruciform cross-wing,” a house that has side wings projecting to both sides of the principal wing. Sometimes a builder constructed a single section of a cross wing, planning to add the other wing at a later time. Several of these “half cross wings” stand throughout Utah; they have the general appearance of a temple form house, with the narrow, gable end facing the street. However, they are typically more narrow than a temple form and do not have a doorway on the front, but rather on the side, where the later wing was to be added.

The Victorian period in American architecture witnessed a vast increase in the number and variety of uha-vict-forms-drwg_largepopular housing forms. Generally irregular in shape and highly ornamental, these new houses came in various types and styles and were popularized by such house pattern books as Robert Shoppell’s Artistic Modern Houses of Low Cost (1881) and Radford’s American Homes (1903). Victorian houses became common everywhere in Utah after 1890, although they were particularly popular in urban Salt Lake City, Provo, and Ogden.

Within this enormous number of different types, two forms emerge as particularly important. The first–and by far the most common–is the central block with projecting bays. This house, found in one, one and a half, or two stories and a bewildering variety of external treatments, represents a basic modification of the older side-passage form. In the Victorian version, projecting bays were added to the principal rooms, thereby achieving a desired external irregularity of design while at the same time making the rooms larger and brighter. The Victorian central block with projecting bays is thus characterized by a roughly large square central section punctuated by bays to one or several sides.

The main roof is typically hipped or pyramidal, but may be gabled, while the bays usually are gabled. Sometimes referred to as “Queen Anne cottages,’ these houses are in fact found in various sizes and in a wide range of Victorian-era styles, ranging from the Romanesque to the Neoclassical. In the largest houses, the side passage was often expanded into a formal entrance hall, sometimes containing a fireplace. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the entrances of smaller, less expensive houses usually led directly into the living room or parlor.

Another common Victorian house plan, again based on the side-passage type, consists of a rather 334S-900E-SLC-largeaustere rectangular block with the narrow end facing the street and containing the main entrance. In this respect, the rectangular block is reminiscent of the older temple-form houses. These Victorian houses often have protruding bay windows, but generally lack the pronounced irregularity associated with the central block with projecting bays. They usually have gabled roofs, and often have a front projecting porch or bay window. Again, the smaller houses in this category lack an entrance passage.

The shotgun house is narrow, one story tall, one room wide, and two or more rooms deep. The uha-shotgun-drwg_largenarrow gable end faces the street and typically contains a single entryway and window. Each room is placed behind the other in single file, with no hallway. The roof ridge is perpendicular to the street.

The shotgun is an African-American house form that is most closely associated with New Orleans but is found throughout the Southeast and in the industrial cities of the Northern United States.

In Utah the shotgun house is uncommon; it is usually encountered in mining towns and urban working-class neighborhoods.

Where did the term “shotgun” come from? Nobody knows. One myth is that if one fired a shotgun through the front door, the shot would pass through the lined-up doors of each room and out the back door. However, typically the doors of the various rooms do not always line up. Possibly, the term may have originated among slaves from southern Africa, who used the word “to-gun,” which means roughly, “place of assembly.”