Louisiana is a place like no other. It and its surroundings are home to a truly unique style of architecture known as the Creole house. While you’re less likely to see this home outside of New Orleans, that doesn’t diminish the rich history and unique composition this style of home has to offer.
Take an in-depth look at the Creole house, including its complex beginnings, its two distinct subtypes, and some of the defining features of the style. Read on to learn for yourself what makes this type of architecture so special.
History of the Creole house
The word “Creole” has a varied and complex history. It can refer to anything from ethnic heritage to recipes or music styles. In the same way, the history of Creole architecture comes to us from a variety of different paths. No one knows for sure what the exact origins are.
However, we know that rather than being the result of adaptation to the environment, Creole architecture was formed from the cultural influences of the various settlers who took up residence in the Mississippi Valley. Some believe that the Creole architecture is largely due to the French-Canadian settlers in the area. Others think that it comes directly from France. Still others argue that the architecture shows more influence from the West Indies.
To further complicate matters, after two fires in the after 1700s finished many of the original Creole houses, the Spanish settlers of the time responded by strengthening the building codes and adding their own architectural influences to the mix during the reconstruction.
Types of Creole houses
There are two main subtypes of the Creole house. You can distinguish them in the following way.
The Creole Chalet
The smaller of the two types of houses, the Creole cottage is also the oldest. These houses have one to four rooms without corridors to speak of. However, unlike the shotgun house of similar construction, which is also widespread in the area, these cottages have roofs that extend from side to side or parallel to the street. They also have a second half-floor for the bedrooms. In rural areas, these houses are known for their spreading front porches. However, in New Orleans, where space is at a premium, they meet the street.
The Creole Town House
The Creole townhouse is perhaps best known for its presence in the French Quarter of New Orleans. These houses date from after the Great Fire of New Orleans in 1788. Made of stucco or brick rather than wood, these houses are more resistant to fire. This type of Creole house has thick walls, open courtyards, arcades and cast-iron balconies. In addition, they show both Spanish and French influence with their steeply sloping roofs and dormers.
Defining characteristics of Creole houses
Although the two subtypes of Creole households differ from each other, they still share many similarities. There are also few defining characteristics that connect this style. Here are some of the exterior and interior features to look for in a Creole home.
- Large front porches on each floor
- A wide and spreading roofline that overlooks the galleries
- Gallery roofs supported by columns
- Main rooms above sea level
- A lack of corridors between the rooms
- Lots of French doors
- Presence of French wraparound coats
- What do you think of this style of house? Let us know in the comments!