While brick walls were the most substantial, of course, of the many materials used, local conditions governed the selection to a great extent. Oftentimes these brick came over as ballast. In districts where stone was plentiful, quarries were opened up, the stones laid with the same wide joints, and, in some cases, plastered over the entire surface. In lumber districts, of course, you naturally find the use of wood in the form of clapboards or shingles.
The gambrel-roof type is early, and slowly disappeared in the more distinguished forms of hip and gable roof, though this form of roof allows more space and head room in the attic for the storage of hat boxes, wedding gowns, beds and what not. And, by the way, the combination of a rainy day, a Colonial attic, and the neighbor's children, will create a memory that time can never efface. The Secret Drawer in Graham's "Golden Age" has the spirit. Read it.
These old people believed in the use of plain wall surfaces for the exterior, with the embellishments provided at the proper supporting points. First came correct proportion, then the making of the entrance doorway, ornamented as a focal center. The cornice with the classic forms of decoration received equal attention, and with a Palladian round-arch and mullion window, lighting the stair landing or second-story hallway, and the careful consideration of the dormer windows, you have the entire secret. In the South we find the colonnade extending through two stories, of stately columns capped with Corinthian or Ionic capitals, and supporting a projecting roof and pediment. This form varies, as you may, if you wish, pilaster the face of the wall, breaking the cornice, and increasing its beauties at the points of support. You should not be hampered by precedent, however. Knowing the laws of style and proportion, and with an appreciation of the human, you may play - and, as a matter of growth, you should. Study the local atmosphere, and design, as did the old chaps. The combination of line and mass and variation of detail and ornament are not exhausted by any means.
As to the interior: give the family a large room on the left of the hall, with a real fireplace and a paneled mantel to the corniced ceiling, cupboards concealed in the woodwork, for the surplus poker and wood-box; a low dado or a high wainscot, careful selection of the details of the trim and the wall coverings, comfortable davenport and strong-legged table for the home lessons.
On the opposite side, the reception or music room in the cool style of the brothers Adam; beyond, in the wing, the library or dining-room, with the proper appurtenances thereof - light, air and ease of communication, proper orientation, and the usual consideration given to these utilitarian motives by any conscientious and studious practitioner.
From your large family room on the left you may have French windows opening on a brick-paved terrace, with the supporting columns, or pilasters, and a second-story projection, or not, as you choose; steps to the box-bordered and grass-pathed rose garden; crimson ramblers at the porch and the wild pink rose on the border of the garden, where considered wildness begins.
Throw away the grape arbor, disdain the formal garden, eliminate the water pool with the green frog, forget the sun-dial, close up the attic, decorate your walls with "artistic" burlaps, furnish the house with that most distressing type of furniture, the bilious-green Mission, and you will find yourself far removed from refinement, from truth and from all the evidence of cultivated human sentiment. Under these conditions, you must, of course, give up your dainty table napery and cut glass or bits of old china. Tour old silver must be put away, packed in a Mission wood-box, with affected hammered iron straps and handles. Lovely, isn't it?
Can you find any type that, equally with the Colonial, will set off My Lady's house-gowns on the second floor, and her dinner gowns on the first, or that will better suit the austere lines of man's evening clothes? The housemaids themselves are influenced in their manners and service, and can you not realize how the kiddies absorb unconsciously ar keener appreciation of the finer things of life? Again, and finally, the axiom - please say it for me! - the Colonial type typifies the gentlest, the purest and the most human of all domestic styles.
Local chararteristics appear, such as the "Germantown Hood".
A 1745 doorway on the Peabody house, Danvers Mass.
A McIntire garden arch in the Pierce-Nichols garden.
A beautifully carved doorway in the Oliver house, Salem.
The cost of production has some hearing on the subject, with the continued cost of maintenance - and here again the Colonial leads as the most economical on first cost and continued care. In house building, brains are the cheapest commodity on the market and the most necessary part of the details of construction. You may see for yourself, if you wish, that a rectangle with plain surfaces, with wings or with the entire house confined under one roof, is the more economical thing to do, as compared with angles, bays, turns and quirks, which cost labor, waste material in the building, and add to the cost of maintenance in repairs in the many other styles. And, in the planning, if you will study for direct perpendicular bearings, for spans, without cozy corners - a la Mission - and without inserts or outsells, you may, when once begun, proceed with wall and floor timbers, without stopping the labor for adjustments, and for a new method or material.
When once carefully laid out, a house of this style should proceed continuously without break, or continued consultations with foreman or contractor. You need less labor, and less raw material of different sorts. In consequence, the road is straight and the cost per cubic foot is less.
A revival of the classic forms in the designing of our federal buildings has taken place in the last few years, and the style is being widely adopted for local public and semi-public institutions, much to the betterment of our cities and towns. This is merely proving my assertion that the classic styles are the most expressive of our national life. Out of them, undoubtedly, the "American style" of the future will be evolved, as it was in the case of the Colonial in earlier times. I believe a new and better era in architecture is with us. In domestic building we are slower to return to those excellent classic models of which we should be so proud, but a Colonial revival - not a faddish copying, but a sincere and studied acceptance of our most precious architectural heritage - is a thing to be hopefully and prayerfully looked forward to.