One-room houses represent some of the earliest structures built in St. Louis, and very few remain. At first these houses were undoubtedly made of horizontal logs or hand-hewn frame; remaining examples are constructed of manufactured lumber or brick. Those that still stand all have undergone substantial alteration.
Most one-room structures contained a small loft space above the main room, for storage or additional sleeping space, reached by an interior enclosed stair; an entry at the front or side, and one or more windows. The house provided minimum shelter: all activities, including cooking and sleeping, were necessarily confined in a single room. But it had the advantage of being inexpensive and quick to construct, and could easily be enlarged should the owner's fortunes improve.
The front rooms of the existing houses at 8414 Water Street and 2631 Missouri represent the original one-room houses. The house on Water Street has a shed addition on the rear, through which the house is now entered. 2631 Missouri had its door originally on the front facade; it was later changed to a window. Both houses were covered with wood clapboards.
Story-And-A-Half One-Room House
A variant of the one-room house type is the somewhat larger story-and-a-half one-room house, which has an articulated loft space above. Extremely rare in St. Louis, what distinguishes these houses is a line of windows beneath the eaves on the front facade, that provide additional light to the loft area. The walls of the house are also somewhat higher than that of the one-room house, adding more headroom and greater space to the second floor.
Although the house at 8117 Reilly has been covered with artificial siding, the appearance of the house is close to original. Of frame construction, the house has a low gable roof and front entry on the left, with a single window to the right of the door. Above, two small awning windows serve the loft space. The front porch is a later addition.
A somewhat later variant is the one-room row, formed when several one-room houses are joined together with common walls. Unlike the other one-room examples, rows were usually constructed as rental houses. The row houses at 214-220 Loughborough are each comprised of a single room, with a door and window on the front. Each house is a self-contained unit, with its own chimney, and is joined to the adjacent unit by a shared brick wall. Although the buildings are simple in appearance, some attempt at decoration is apparent in the brick corbelling below the front parapet.
A two-room house is created, in essence, by placing two single-room houses side by side. On the front facade, a door opens into each room. The doors may be the only openings on the front, or they may be interspersed with windows. Inside the house, another door allows entry from one room to another. This arrangement of two entries on one single-family house is traditional, and derives from vernacular houses in southern England. It was often used in log construction, and the custom carried over into later frame houses. All remaining two-room houses in St. Louis are frame, and like the single-room houses, were sheathed with horizontal clapboards.
The frame house at 8143 Church Street was built as a two-room house about 1850. It had a loft space for storage over both rooms, accessed from an enclosed stair in the room on the left. The foundation of the building is brick, with a partial basement. Two doors flanked by windows are located on the front facade, which is covered by a full porch. The two-story addition was constructed about 1900.
Hall-and-Parlor houses are related to the two room attached house. They also are comprised of two side-by-side rooms connected with a door. The hall-and-parlor house, however, has only a single exterior door, and the rooms are not equal in size. The front entry leads into the smaller room, or hall. A door from the hall leads to a private room, the parlor. The hall was used for a variety of purposes, including cooking, while the parlor was used as a living area and bedroom.
The house at 8308 Vulcan Street is an example of the hall-and-parlor property type. This one-story frame house has an entry placed slightly off-center on the front facade. Two rooms share a common wall with a central chimney, providing a stove or fireplace for each room. Although covered with siding, the house retains its original multi-light windows.
Central Passage House
The central passage house is a one-story building, with a symmetrical plan. The door opens into a central hall, with one or two rooms to either side of equal size. Opposite the front door, the hall has another door leading to the rear of the property. The front facade is also symmetrical, in that each room has the same number of windows, customarily on both front and rear. Chimneys were located at either end of the house. Central passage houses were usually occupied by middle class owners, and could be quite ornate in their interior and exterior detailing.
The central passage house at 2819 Indiana, in Benton Park, dates from the 1860's and is in nearly unaltered condition. The one-story brick building has low raised basement, a long front facade, and a gable roof. Chimneys at each end are connected with parapets, a detail known as a Baltimore chimney. A vernacular building, the exterior decoration of the house still looks to the Federal style popular at the time it was built, with a simple brick cornice, and stone lintels cut into a pediment shape. The multi-light windows are original.
The I-House was perhaps the most popular rural house form in the 19th and early 20th century. It was a symbol of economic achievement for rural midwesterners, and appeared in various sizes, proportions and architectural styles everywhere in Missouri. This house form is called an "I-house," because the type was first identified in the states of Indiana, Illinois and Iowa; it was popular, however, throughout the central United States. The I-house is similar in plan to the central passage house, but two stories in height. The entry hall contained an open stair leading to the second floor, which allowed the bedroom area to be completely separated from the living space below.
The house at 6002 Eitman, in Clifton Park, is an example of the traditional I-House. It was constructed when this neighborhood was far outside urban St. Louis. The frame house has a central entry, with two windows at each side of the door. Above the porch, the second story has smaller paired windows and a central door which once opened onto a second story porch. The door is set in a steeply-pitched dormer in the center of the front facade. This particular element comes from the Gothic Revival architectural style and hints that considerable "gingerbread" detail once may have adorned the house. The existing one-story porch is a later alteration.
The two-story brick I-house at 2223 Salisbury in Hyde Park dates from about 1870. The house has considerably more architectural expression than the previous I-house-an indication of its builder's prominent position in St. Louis society-but it displays the same basic floor plan. Although typically I-houses have gable roofs, this example has a truncated hipped roof with balustrade. The front facade's cast iron lintels and elaborate cornice follow the Italianate architectural style as does the delicate ornamental porch. The house has a large parlor to either side of its central hallway, with a fireplace centered on each end wall. This house in fact was built as an addition to the original house on the site, a more modestly detailed I-house, which can be seen at the rear.
A two-story, central passage house with two rooms on either side of the passage is referred to as a Georgian plan, so-called for its popularity in the American colonies during the reign of King George III of England. Georgian houses tended to be fairly formal and symmetrical, with a restrained use of classical detail, especially at entries.
The Georgian Plan house at 3324-26 Missouri, in Benton Park, was constructed in the 1870's. Despite its two-story height, the building is very similar to the central passage example at 2819 Indiana. It also shows the influence of the Federal style in pedimented windows and Baltimore chimneys with parapets. The basement is lower, however, and faced with stone, and the cornice is wood with incised ornament. The house has been converted into apartments.
Raised Basement Houses
Raised basement houses appear in a range of different types and configurations, all with their main story set on a high foundation, considerably above grade, with an exterior staircase providing access to the living quarters. The ground story of the building was used for kitchen or storage. The earliest of these houses seem to have been influenced by French colonial buildings, although they date from a later period. The remaining St. Louis examples of this property type were constructed about 1860.
The frame house at 3010 Wisconsin, from about 1865, has a high rubble limestone foundation with small window openings on front and rear. The only entry into the house is from a gallery off the second story. Above are two side-by-side rooms where, as in our two-room example, an exterior door leads into each room. This house is one of the oldest structures remaining in the Benton Park neighborhood. The house has been extensively altered. The sketch shows the building as it probably appeared when first constructed.
Galleried houses have full-length porches as their most prominent architectural feature. The French term galerie referred to the wide covered porches which were a prominent feature in the earliest French colonial buildings, and continued to be an important feature in house design throughout the 19th century, providing shelter from summer heat. Porches were considered a part of the house's living space, and were often furnished as completely as the interior rooms of the house.
The frame house at 3907 Illinois Street, constructed before 1875, is an example of a galleried house. The house's hipped roof extends out to cover a two-story porch running the length of the front facade. The entry door to the left and two windows are spaced symmetrically on the first story. On the second, two windows flank a central door. The house has undergone some alteration, including the addition of siding, but is substantially intact. Three of the original six chimneys remain.
The frame house at 4137 Ohio, constructed in 1841, has also received some alteration, yet its most distinctive feature-the two-story gallery wrapping both the front and south facades-is intact. In this example, the gallery is recessed beneath the house roof. The entry is at the right of the front facade, and two windows are placed to the left. The second story has a central door to the gallery. The house has had several additions, including a large front dormer, which later was closed.
A variant of the galleried house is the side gallery. Typically, these are one-story or story-and-a-half buildings with a gable roof facing the street. The porch or gallery runs the length of one side, where the main entry to the house is located. Side gallery houses are usually of frame construction.
The frame, two-room house, at 3313 North 19th Street is one-and-a-half stories in height. The house has two windows facing the street, and a small round-headed window in the gable end. Notice that here again, there are two exterior doors-this time on the side facade-on a single-family house.
The shotgun house is often found in older St. Louis neighborhoods. This vernacular building type is probably a Caribbean house form that was brought to the American south in the 18th century by Caribbean traders and slaves. The building type proliferated throughout the south, especially in New Orleans, and settlers brought the type north through the Mississippi valley. Shotgun houses are single-story buildings with narrow front facades. There is no interior hallway: each room leads directly into the one behind it. Shotgun houses appear in frame with a front-facing gable, or in brick, with a hipped roof. Examples from this period can be found in Carondelet, Hyde Park and Old North St. Louis neighborhoods.The shotgun house at 8225 Vulcan, in Carondelet, is built of brick on a rubble stone foundation. Constructed about 1860, it is three rooms deep and has a low hipped roof, and simple corbelled cornice. From a low porch, the front door opens directly into the house's front room. The porch is a modern addition, but the remainder of the house is in close to original condition.