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Dutch Colonial Revival Architecture

Example of Dutch Colonial Revival, Plainfield, NJ.   Topeka
Dutch Colonial is a style of American domestic architecture, primarily characterized by gambrel roofs having curved eaves along the length of the house. Modern versions built in the early 20th century are more accurately referred to as "Dutch Colonial Revival," a subtype of the Colonial Revival style.


There seems to be some conflict on the origins of this American style of home.
Most sources state that the Dutch settlers of New York, Delaware, New Jersey, and western Connecticut built these homes to reflect their Dutch culture.
However, at least one other source states that this style of home originated with German, or “Deutsch” settlers in Pennsylvania.

It may be worthwhile to compare the Dutch colonization of the Americas with the history of the Pennsylvania Dutch.

Whatever the case, central to the style is a broad gambrel roof with flaring eaves that extend over the long sides, resembling a barn in construction. Earlier homes were a single room, with additions added to either end (or short side) and very often a porch along both long sides. Typically, end walls were made of stone and a chimney was located on one or both ends. Common were double-hung sash windows with outward swinging wood shutters and a central double Dutch door.

Revival in the 20th Century

Beginning in the late 19th century, America began to look back romantically upon its colonial roots and the country started reflecting this nostalgia in its architecture. Within this Colonial Revival, one of the more popular designs was a redux of the original Dutch Colonial.

Within the context of architectural history, the more modern style is specifically defined as "Dutch Colonial Revival" to distinguish it from the original Dutch Colonial. However, this style was popularly known simply as Dutch Colonial, and this continues to be the case today.

Up through the 1930s, Dutch Colonials were most popular in the Northeast. While the original design was always reflected, some details were updated such as the primary entryway moving from the end to the long side of the house. The more modern versions also varied a great deal with regard to materials used, architectural details, and size. For example one Dutch Colonial might be a small two-story structure of 1,400 square feet with dormers bearing shed-like overhangs, while another larger example would have three stories and a grand entrance adorned with a transom and sidelights.
Of the many forms of the Colonial Revival style, the Dutch cottage variant is among the most distinctive. Adapted from eighteenth century farmhouses erected by Dutch settlers, the defining characteristic of the style is a gambrel roof, which was introduced to America by the Dutch in the Mid-Atlantic colonies. The double-pitch of the gambrel roof created more space in the upper story, while allowing for the rapid run-off of rainfall, common to the eastern seaboard.

Dutch Colonial Revival houses are typically a tall one-and-one-half story building with a large flank-gambrel roof containing the second floor and attic. The lower roof slopes at both front and rear are broken by large full-width shed dormers on the second story level; the dormers usually dominate the roof, and the gambrel form is sometimes evident only on the end walls.
Based on the style of housed built by the Dutch settlers on New Amsterdam (New York) in the 1600s, this style acquired popularity between 1900 and World War II. In Chicago, the style can be found in such community areas as South Shore, Norwood Park, and Morgan Park.

Common characteristics are:

-symmetrical facades
-doorways ornamented with columns, sidelights and transoms
-gambrel roofs (i.e., a curving roof with a shape similar to a barn roof)
The Dutch Colonial Revival is not a style unique in itself. It’s a subtype of the Colonial Revival style so popular during the first half of the 1900s, sharing many of its characteristics, but with certain unique elements. In the 1928 Home Builders Catalog, the following described this architectural form:

"While the term “Dutch Colonial” conveys a definite type of house to almost everyone, the name itself is misleading. “Dutch” does not refer to Holland and “Colonial” has no direct relationship with Colonial Architecture. This type of home takes its name from the Dutch Colonists who settled in the lower parts of New York and New Jersey. There they lived for many years in warm and cheery comfort. The Dutch Colonial house conveys to us this rich domesticity and love of good living.

"The most characteristic feature of the Dutch Colonial style is the gambrel roof—so much so, in fact that “gambrel” and “Dutch” have become synonomous. The legend goes that this low, sweeping roof, with its dormer windows, was the ingenious means by which the Dutch Colonists evaded the heavy tax on two story houses. And there is today a practical advantage over the two story house in saving of materials without the loss of space. The extraordinary flexibility of the style makes it possible for one to arrange the interior to suit his taste and still be assured of an harmonious exterior. One wing or two can be added without disturbing the gentle contour. One can compare this flexibility to Colonial types where there is harmony without freedom, and to English types where there is freedom without definite symmetry.

"If a man decides to build a Dutch Colonial home he should keep some things constantly in mind. First, the best types are long and low and set close to the ground. Secondly, the dormer window should be considerably narrower than the first story window. Lastly, it can be equally well executed in shingles, siding and brick, but it is not advisable to mix them up. The narrow, high, top-heavy kind is to be avoided if one is to be true to precedent. Above all let it ramble, for the Dutch Colonial home is nothing if not picturesque."
Thanks to
Dutch Colonial Revival Architecture in America
Time Period: Late 1800's to Mid-1900's
By Sarah E. Mitchell

During the late 1800's and 1900's, Americans were looking back to America's earlier styles, and building copies of the originals, with updates for more modern tastes and materials. The Dutch Colonial Revival style mimicked 1600's and 1700's Colonial homes with gambrel roofs (popularly called Dutch Colonial; but the gambrel roofed homes were built by English and other immigrants as well as the Dutch).

Victorian house design books of the 1870's and 1880's, such as Supplement to Bicknell's Village Builder, Containing Eighteen Modern Designs for Country and Suburban Houses of Moderate Cost, With Elevations, Plans, Sections., A. J. Bicknell & Co., Architectural Book Publishers, New York, 1871 and Palliser's New Cottage Homes and Details, Palliser, Palliser & Co., New York, 1887, offered designs with gambrel roofs. However, the designs are so rich with bay windows and brackets, fish scale shingles, verge-boards, etc., that it is hard to classify them with the later clean and little ornamented designs featured in the early 1900's.

The first examples of the more simple Dutch Colonial Revival style that I have seen were in photographs printed in Aymar Embury II, One Hundred Country Houses: Modern American Examples, The Century Company, New York, 1909 and in Chas. Edward Hooper, The Country House, 1904. Later, Frederick H. Gowing offered several plans for smaller Dutch Colonial homes in his 1925 work Building Plans for Colonial Dwellings, Bungalows, Cottages, and Other Medium Cost Homes. Many other books and sources offered plans in the style.

Most Dutch Colonial Revival homes were built of wood, brick, or stone (or, occasionally a combination), with a shingle gambrel roof. I usually see grey shingle in examples around Historic Chatham, Virginia, but I do not know if that is a local custom or not. The size of the homes varied a great deal, from small two-story structures of 1400 square feet to large examples with three stories.

The photograph seen at the top of the page is reprinted from Aymar Embury II, One Hundred Country Houses: Modern American Examples, The Century Company, New York, 1909. It is a cottage then belonging to a Mr. Henry S. Orr, Garden City, Long Island, New York and designed by Aymar Embury II, Architect (I do not know if the house is still standing). Note the interesting elements of eyebrow dormer windows on the front (third story) and the open wheel windows on the end (also third story).
Thanks to