Overview of Historic Cape Architecture

Written by Posted On Friday, 14 March 2014 10:15

As rich as Cape Cod is in nautical history, its architecture is nearly as storied. From antique houses on the National Historic Registry to historic sea captains’ homes to modern condo developments, the Cape has a little bit of everything to offer its residents, seasonal dwellers, and visitors. Perhaps the most famous architectural style the Cape has to offer actually bears its name: a Cape Cod house.

Most people recognize a Cape when they see it: a quintessential cottage with a signature steep roof, gables, central chimney, and lack of fussy adornments. A Cape generally stands about a story and a half, although many have been converted over the years to allow for at least a partial second story and additional livable space. Initially built to withstand harsh New England coastal winters, Cape Cod-style homes enjoyed popularity through the Colonial era and saw a resurgence in the 1930s through the 1950s as slightly modified Colonial Revival Capes.

The Cape is also the birthplace of the Cape Cod style lighthouse. The first of these were built on the Cape during the early part of the nineteenth century, and although none remain standing on the East Coast today, the style was swiftly adopted for use in many West Coast lighthouses, perhaps most notably Alcatraz’s original lighthouse – proving that the Cape’s architectural influences have spread far and wide.

For those looking to buy or rent on the Cape, modern architecture is predominated by cedar shake shingles. Over the years, Cape Cod houses have mingled with other architectural styles to create newer and more updated floor plans across the region, while still maintaining the “feel” of a traditional Cape. Modern permutations of the original Cape-style houses are generally larger, paying homage to the style, if not the frugality, of their predecessors; many feature dormers to add living space. Window boxes filled with flowers seem to abound everywhere on the Cape, lending to the area’s charm.

The Cape’s architectural styles are not limited to variations on the home named after it. Colonials and ranches are abundant, and buyers will also find Victorians, Queen Anne’s, and salt boxes from a spectrum of eras. Traveling across the Cape, visitors will find one thing in common among all of the Cape’s architectural styles: gracious living. Homebuyers will find that their options range from the simple to the elegant, and the antique to the contemporary. Architecture aficionados will fall in love with the area’s many historic buildings, while the outdoor enthusiast with the open air on his mind will find smaller options fitting someone who just needs a place to crash at night.

One thing is for certain: Cape Cod architecture is recognizable for its signature elements. Take a drive across the Cape to see its architectural highlights and classic New England charm.

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Kim Clark

As a Real Estate broker, a former pediatric nurse, and a resident for 35 years, Kim Clark knows Cape Cod! She specializes in residential real estate, waterfront homes, dock homes, golf homes, 1031 tax exchange, and at this point works mostly by referral. She also has a team member that specializes in commercial real estate if that is your need. As the owner of Bayside Realty Consultants, Kim services these areas: Cape Cod, Orleans, Dennis, Brewster, Harwich, Chatham, Yarmouth, Barnstable, Eastham, Wellfleet,Truro, P-Town, and Sandwich.

Kim has been married for 27 years and has two children, two dogs and a cat. She enjoys water sports, classic cars, hockey, basketball, volleyball, and car racing. She owns a pro-4 race car that races all over New England.


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