The first Cape Cod homes were developed by early settlers from England in the 1600s. Partially inspired by the simple, thatched cottages common in Britain, the settlers adapted the style to keep out the harsh New England winters they experienced on Cape Cod. Everything about the Cape style was adopted for its function rather than its form.
The style largely died out until Boston architect Royal Barry Willis reintroduced the it in the 1920s as a contemporary housing option. He retained its basic exterior shape, but adapted the interior for modern life.
Most of the Cape Cod homes you see today were built after World War II, when thousands of returning soldiers and their young families needed inexpensive housing. Cape style homes fit the bill, and were used in some of the first major housing developments.
- Large, central chimney. The large, central chimney is located directly behind the front door, with the rooms clustered around it in a rectangular shape.
- Steep roof. Cape style homes have steep roofs to quickly shed rain and snow.
- Windows and dormers. A full Cape has two windows on each side of the door, and often has a dormer on each side of the chimney to open up the attic.
- Captain’s stairway. The second floor was reportedly used for boarders or seafaring men. You got there by a narrow stair, which has incredibly steep risers and shallow treads to maximize the use of the first-floor space.
- Shingle siding. Weathered gray shingles are one of the most recognizable elements of a classic Cape Cod, but newer homes are built of brick, stucco, and stone.
- Additions. It’s easy to ad on dormers, porches, and additional rooms to Cape style homes.
I have a beautifully restored Cape listed for sale in Cambridge, Vermont. When the owners restored it they kept much of the original materials. It’s a true restoration-lovers home. If you’d like to see it, give me a call at 802-858-9193 and I’ll give you a tour.
Thanks for reading!