Reader and commenter Deb wondered aloud yesterday after reading about my Cape Cod fetish: "...I wonder if there are any authentic Cape Cods here in the Madison area?"
Well, the answer is no, I'm afraid.
Now, don't get me wrong. There are undoubtedly various revival versions of the Cape Cod style in Wisconsin, but the true Cape Cod style never even made it as far west as New York State. The first truly contemporary style I can come up with that isn't just a vernacular shelter that covered the midwest is Greek Revival. Civil War-ish.
Got me to thinking though. Here in Massachusetts, I can go right back to the medieval. Most of Europe can't find anything as old as what we've got right here. If they do, it's usually a big stone cathedral or palace. The home of a regular person, made from flammable wood, is a rare thing when you're talking just past the middle ages. Check this out:
That's the Peak House in Medfield, Mass, and it's still there. I've been in it a handful of times. I've driven past it many thousands of times. I've banged nails into the house next door, which might be even more interesting. It was the stagecoach stop on the Boston to Milford Post Road.
The Peak House is from 1680. Look at it. You can see the beginnings of a true version of American architecture there. Of course, you can picture a medieval European street there as well.
After hovel type shelters, this is the first sort of thing they built in America. It's called a linear plan. It's one room deep, two stories high (the second story is really just a loft) and the rooms are laid end to end in a linear fashion. Glass was expensive, and grew crazy expensive if you wanted big panes, hence the little leaded bits of glass for windows. Even that was a luxury.
Hey look, I've got the plans for the thing if you want to build one.
15 by 24 feet. Almost exactly twice as big as the shed I keep my mower and garden tools in. Cozy.
Anyway, the people crazy enough to brave the Atlantic Ocean, Metacomet, and Medfield mosquitoes built that little gem in the linear style, and eventually their collective children moved to Connecticut and stuck a sort of lean-to shed on the back, and extended the roofline. Et Voila! The saltbox:
Then followed all sorts of variations of two story things. And then someone, in the 1700s now, decided that a house two rooms deep, one story high, with an attic you could live in if you wanted might be just the thing. Think of it!
Hey, look, a 3/4 Cape. Lovely.
Eventually a furniture making maniac moved to Southcoast Massachusetts, and wondered what kind of house to live in. He built this thing in the swamp, and you can hear the table saw or the clicking of the keyboard if the wind's just right.