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A Field Guide to American Houses Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 525 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (May 12, 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394739698
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394739694
  • Product Dimensions: 2.6 x 3.6 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,869 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

How to Use This Book

Preface

Looking at American Houses

Style: The Fashions of American Houses

Form: The Shapes of American Houses

Structure: The Anatomy of American Houses

Pictorial Key and Glossary

Folk Houses

Native American

Pre-Railroad

National

Colonial Houses (1600-1820)

Postmedieval English

Dutch Colonial

French Colonial

Spanish Colonial

Georgian

Adam

Early Classical Revival

Romantic Houses (1820-1880)

Greek Revival

Gothic Revival

Italianate

Exotic Revivals

Octagon

Victorian Houses (1860-1900)

Second Empire

Stick

Queen Anne

Shingle

Richardsonian Romanesque

Folk Victorian

Eclectic Houses (1880-1940)

Anglo-American, English, and French Period Houses

Colonial Revival

Neoclassical

Tudor

Chateauesque

Beaux Arts

French Eclectic

Mediterranean Period Houses

Italian Renaissance

Mission

Spanish Eclectic

Monterey

Pueblo Revival

Modern Houses

Prairie

Craftsman

Modernistic

International

American Houses Since 1940

Modern

Neoeclectic

Contemporary Folk

For Further Reference

Index

From the Inside Flap

For the house lover and the curious tourist, for the house buyer and the weekend stroller, for neighborhood preservation groups and for all who want to know more about their community -- here, at last, is a book that makes it both easy and pleasurable to identify the various styles and periods of American domestic architecture.

Concentrating not on rare landmarks but on typical dwellings in ordinary neighborhoods all across the United States -- houses built over the past three hundred years and lived in by Americans of every social and economic background -- the book provides you with the facts (and frame of reference) that will enable you to look in a fresh way at the houses you constantly see around you. It tells you -- and shows you in more than 1,200 illustrations -- what you need to know in order to be able to recognize the several distinct architectural styles and to understand their historical significance. What does that cornice mean? Or that porch? That door? When was this house built? What does its style say about the people who built it? You'll find the answers to such questions here.

This is how the book works: Each of thirty-nine chapters focuses on a particular style (and its variants). Each begins with a large schematic drawing that highlights the style's most important identifying features. Additional drawings and photographs depict the most common shapes and the principal subtypes, allowing you to see at a glance a wide range of examples of each style. Still more drawings offer close-up views of typical small details -- windows, doors, cornices, etc. -- that might be difficult to see in full-house pictures. The accompanying text is rich in information about each style -- describing in detail its identifying features, telling you where (and in what quantity) you're likely to find examples of it, discussing all of its notable variants, and revealing its origin and tracing its history.

In the book's introductory chapters you'll find invaluable general discussions of house-building materials and techniques ("Structure"), house shapes ("Form"), and the many traditions of architectural fashion ("Style") that have influenced American house design through the past three centuries. A pictorial key and glossary help lead you from simple, easily recognized architectural features -- the presence of a tile roof, for example -- to the styles in which that feature is likely to be found. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Virginia McAlester is a graduate of Harvard-Radcliffe College and attended Harvard Graduate School of Design. She is a founding member and past president of Preservation Dallas (formerly called the Historic Preservation League, Inc.) and of Friends of Fair Park, a support group for the Fair Park National Historic Landmark in Dallas, site of the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition. She serves on the Dallas Landmark Commission and is an Adviser Emeritus of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.Lee McAlester, a geologist by profession, is Chairman of the Geology Department at Southern Methodist University and was formerly Dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences there. He is the author of several geology textbooks as well as numerous scientific monographs and papers. He has an active interest in architectural history and has been involved in many Dallas preservation projects.Together the McAlesters are the authors of A Field Guide to American Houses (available in Knopf paperback), Discover Dallas/Fort Worth, and Great American Houses and Their Architectural Styles. The National Trust awarded them a Preservation Honor Award for creating A Field Guide to American Houses, and they have recently received the Texas Society of Architects' Flowers Award for excellence in interpreting architecture through the media.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Lots of good photos and drawings.
Maggy
This is a great book if you are in the process of purchasing a home, remodeling a home, or just want to understand housing styles.
steventdc@mindspring.com
I highly recommend it and refer to it in my book, Designing Your Perfect House.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

95 of 96 people found the following review helpful By Mark K. Mcdonough VINE VOICE on May 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
I worked for a few years as an architectural historian doing historic building surveys and wore out at least 2 or 3 copies of this wonderful book. There are lots of "pocket guides" to architectural styles which will tell you that yup, that thing with a turret is a Victorian. But this book is a priceless resource for anyone with more than a casual interest in American domestic architecture. The McAlesters focus on ordinary houses (rather than rare architectural landmarks) and cover everything from dog-run log cabins to Greek Revival cottages to 1950s ranch houes. The writing is clear, the level of detail is just right, and the book has hundreds of black and white photos and illustrations.
I learned about domestic architecture to make a living, but even 20 years later still enjoy it as a hobby. If you're a professional in the field, this book is essential. But I would strongly recommend it to amateur enthusiasts as well. Once you learn to recognize housing types, every drive becomes a history lesson.
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63 of 63 people found the following review helpful By bensmomma on January 3, 2003
Format: Paperback
If you are an old-house fan, this book is the equivalent of a college education. Here are some reasons this book is both entertaining and useful:
It starts with chapters on basic structure: shapes of houses, style of construction, ornamentation, etc. There are simple, remarkably clear drawings accompanying all this that will serve to give you a kind of 'vocabulary' to interpret houses when you run across something new (for example, a dozen different types of dormers - what are they all called?). (These involve almost entirely external elements, for detailed interiors you will need another book.)
Lots of delicious historical background about how history and technological advances changed housing. For example, the authors divide folk housing into "pre" and "post-railroad" because not until railroads made building materials nationally accessible did a national set of housing styles develop.
Following this, there are a series of chapters describing different styles (i.e., Victorian, Tudor, etc.), starting with the characteristic details, when and where the style is found, etc. The McAlisters do a particularly good job on regional variations; there are some remarkable maps showing the prevelance of different styles in different states.
The graphics are fantastic and plentiful. The simple stylzed drawings of building elements (rooflines, doorways, windows, etc.) clearly distinguish one detail from another, while the photographs make you want to pop into the car and drive all over to see the real houses themselves.
One note: there is a table, starting around p. 55, that will make the book much easier to use as a 'field guide' (i.e., driving around looking at houses the way birders look at birds).
Read more ›
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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 1, 1999
Format: Paperback
Of the several dozen books I own of American house styles, this is the only book that systematically breaks down every American house style from the Native American tipi to Modern architecture. For every style, it gives the two critcal elements of architecture, the form/shape of the houses and their details. As a land developer, I use this book as a pattern book for the design criteria of homes built in my neighborhoods - every homeowner gets a copy! This is truly the bible of American house styles.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By sherri j. thorne on August 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
It was during a conversation that I was having with a co-worker at a major N.Y. cultural institution that I was first handed a copy of this book. I needed it too, because I cound not identify the architectural style of my own house!! This book changed all of that! You will find every architectural style in covered in this book along with some fabulous illustrations, with variants and details. I was absolutely delighted to see a section devoted to Native American architecture, and eclectic architectural styles. The photographs are excellent as well. This book is perfect for students of architecture and Historic Preservation. In the many years since I was first introduced to this book I have yet to see any other publication beat it, and I don't think any will.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Judy Roberson on January 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a keeper book! I keep going back to it month after month. It has home styles as they came thru history grouped by style. It has pictures of house features that help identify what style a home is. It has lots of pictures. The only weakness I can think of is it does not have a lot of information on Home-styles being built right now. AntBiscuit@cs.com
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Mazza HALL OF FAME on December 8, 2000
Format: Paperback
If I could only keep one volume from my small library of books on home architecture, I would probably stick with "A Field Guide to American Houses," by Virginia and Lee McAlester. This is a true encyclopedia of the American home.
The McAlesters combine an informative introduction with a chapter-by-chapter guide to each of the major styles of home architecture in the United States. Each chapter includes both crisp, detailed line drawings and a wealth of photographs of actual houses themselves. The photographs alone--there are literally hundreds of them--make this book an invaluable reference work.
The McAlesters also provide newcomers with a useful primer to the language of home architecture. After reading this book you might find yourself using terms like "hipped dormer," "decorated verge board," "roof-line balustrade," and "ogee arch" when you visit a new neighborhood.
From Native American tipis to geodesic domes, from Chateauesque mansions to mobile homes--all this and more is in here. This book is a monumental achievement.
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