Cape Cod home plans were originally developed by English settlers in America, who developed this northeastern United States style featuring a plain front with central door flanked by two windows, and gabled roof with small dormers. The next time you see someone playing Monopoly, look at the little green houses put down on Park Place and Boardwalk. These game pieces, with their steep roofs, central chimneys, and rectangular shapes, are good examples of classic Cape Cod home architecture.
While Cape Cod is a quintessentially American style, the earliest styles were built in the 1600’s by English settlers in imitation of the simple thatched cottages common back in England. It is a good design to keep out harsh New England winters, since the heart of the home is a big central chimney which provides heat to all rooms clustered around it, as well as light and fire for cooking. Exteriors as well as roofs were sheathed in cedar shingles, which also helped to insulate against the cold.
Coastal home plans from the 17th and 18th centuries often had uninsulated crawl spaces beneath the first floor which were used as root cellars and the original settlers packed seaweed against the stone foundations to insulate against the chilling drafts blowing from the ocean. Steep roofs quickly shed snow and rain. In short, Cape Cod design is about functionality rather than form.
The style had largely died out until Royal Barry Willis, a Boston architect, revived the style in the 1920’s as a contemporary option for housing. Willis retained the exterior shape of the Cape Cod, but he adapted the interior to modern lifestyles. The majority of homes seen today were built after World War II, when returning soldiers with young families needed inexpensive, functional housing. The Cape Cod filled this bill magnificently, and it was the basic design of some of America’s first big housing developments, such as William J. Levitt’s Levittown on Long Island, NY, which contained over 17,000 identical homes; and which was a model for many later developments.