We’re going to be taking a look at some of the classic Minnesota residential home styles in the weeks ahead–exploring the history of the style and what makes them popular and practical in our region. We’ll kick things off with a common and very popular style here in Minnesota and in other regions across the country: the Cape Cod. You can’t drive more than a few blocks in many Minnesota cities (including much of Minneapolis, most first-ring suburbs, and many outstate communities) without seeing several examples of this lovely and practical style.
Constructed in Minnesota extensively from the 1920’s through the 1950’s, Cape Cod houses were originally built as modest starter homes, smaller and more affordable than other popular styles. Typically Cape Cod-style houses are known for their one and a half stories, symmetrical look, steep roof with end gables, and a chimney in the center. Also common among Cape Cods are multi-paned windows.
Originally created in Massachusetts (on the Cape, naturally), these houses were constructed for practicality, not just aesthetics. The frigid conditions of New England winter required homes where the fireplace was easily accessible. In a Cape Cod, the box shape allowed the most rooms to be centered around the fireplace. The interior of a Cape Cod usually has a relatively large living room connected to the dining room through an arch. You’ll usually also find two bedrooms, one at the front of the house and one at the back with a bathroom between them.
One thing that is particularly unique about these houses is that they are the first houses to be constructed with the Building Research Council kitchen standards, which includes a standard cabinet size that is still in use today–so when you see a bank of cabinets at Home Depot or Ikea, they’re the same dimensions that were established for the Cape Cod kitchens.
They tend to be sturdy and well-constructed, and lend themselves well to renovations and additions. Many owners bump up the half-story up to a full second floor, and add on to either side or the rear of the home.
It’s been such a popular style that it’s never really completely gone out of style, even as ramblers and split levels gained popularity in the mid-century. And in the past decades they’ve reemerged in many suburban developments, as well as some urban infill lots.