In the 18th Century the development of architecture in America ran parallel to the development in the homelands of the settlers. Earlier developments in building fused where settlers met each other on their way farther into the continent, slowly developing a general understanding of architecture.
The French settled in the south, at the Mississippi, while Spanish missionaries founded settlements in California, New Mexico, Texas and Florida. Both would influence the later architecture of these areas.
The French Colonial Style
The French occupied a very big part of northern America in the 18th Century, but compared to its size not many settlers lived in this area. Most houses were built in towns in the south. Logs were put vertically into the ground, constructing the walls of a hut with one room, this was called 'poteaux-en-terre'. A porch was built around all four sides of the hut. Both hut and porch were covered by a hip roof, which was a bit steeper on the hut than on the outside. The porches brought shade to the walls of the hut and could catch the wind for ventilation.
Where floods could reach the houses, a ground floor made of bricks was built under the wooden house and porches, to protect the wood from water. This ground floor was mainly used for storage and cooking. French double doors became a typical feature of the French Colonial style.
Later in the 18th Century, the log walls were replaced by timber frames with infillings made of brick, called 'briquette-entre-poteaux'. The porches disappeared, but the hip roof remained a characteristic of the French Colonial style. Dormers brought light to the attic, which was now used for bedrooms.
The German Colonial Style
In the late 17th Century many Germans settled in the Delaware valley. In Europe, half-timbered houses with infillings of stone were usual at that time. The German settlers built their own variant using a combination of wood and stone. The lower floor was built of stone while the upper floor was built like a log cabin. At the end of the century the houses became bigger, with up to eight rooms, and were only built of stone.
At the beginning of the 18th Century country houses were often half built into hills, which helped keeping them cool in summer and warm in winter. Especially in towns, two-storey houses were built. Often an extension for the kitchen was made later on the ground floor. The staircase at one of the short sides of the house allowed further extensions so the house could grow with the families.
The German Colonial style also became popular with Scottish and Irish settlers.
The Spanish Colonial Style
The Spanish founded hundreds of small missions with Baroque churches to 'civilize' the Native Americans in the south-west. The churches were small simple buildings with white façades and quite often open bell towers. Garrisons for soldiers who protected the missions were built at the end of the 18th Century. These so-called 'presidios' were built in today's cities of San Diego, Monterey, San Francisco and Santa Barbara. They were four-sided buildings with a big courtyard in the middle and made from bricks, clay and wood. Facing the courtyard were quarters for soldiers, stables and store rooms. The outside walls were particularly solid and durable.
Cape Cod Houses
Cape Cod is situated in the south-east of Massachusetts, in a rough climate with cold winters. Most of the houses here were built by people who usually built ships. They had to be resistant to wind and sand.
The construction was a simple wooden frame onto which oak boards were attached vertically with nails. The same boards were attached to the steep roof. The outside of the house (walls and roof) was covered with shingles, the inside of the walls was plastered. Many of the houses could be extended if more space was needed.
The centre of the house was a chimney made of bricks for all fireplaces. On the ground floor was a hall, a kitchen and a room for ill people and pregnant women. The bedrooms were situated in the attic, with windows at the gables.
The Plantation Style
Plantations were built at the rivers in the south and brought wealth to the people. The early plantation houses in Virginia, North and South Carolina mirror the European roots of their builders.