In the 1930s, the United States enjoyed a revival of interest in its Colonial past. John D. Rockefeller financed the restoration and reconstruction of Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. Royal Barry Wills published Houses for Homemakers, designs inspired by the colonial cottages of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The small size and simplicity of these houses made them affordable in the Depression. Then the U.S. entered World War II and all house construction ceased.

When America won the war in 1945 and the soldiers came home and got married, there arose a tremendous demand for affordable starter homes, coupled with a great feeling of patriotism and pride in America’s history. This combination led to the complete dominance of the Neocolonial style of architecture for the next decade. Most of the remaining empty lots in Oakwood were therefore filled with Neocolonial cottages.

520 North Bloodworth Street

520 N. Bloodworth St. is a good example. It is a simple rectangle with no front porch. The side-gabled saddle roof has almost no overhang. The Colonial-style front door is in the center, and there is one window on each side of it, with shutters. There is very little ornamentation. Actual Colonial houses in Williamsburg or Cape Cod did not have double windows, but postwar Neocolonial houses frequently did. The originals in Williamsburg and Cape Cod were usually of one and a half stories, with windows in the gables, but many of the postwar houses were of only one story.

Some houses in Colonial Williamsburg had simple dormers, with windows to light the half-story. Some colonial houses on Cape Cod had them as well, although these were not original to the houses, but added later. Yet a cottage with dormers came to be thought of as the archetypical “Cape Cod Cottage.” 529 N. Boundary St. has such dormers. But this house also has a front porch, which was not typical of either Colonial or Neocolonial houses. Yet in North Carolina, and especially in Oakwood, many people could not imagine not having a front porch, so many of our Neocolonial houses were built with one.

Several of Oakwood’s Neocolonials also have a room projecting forward from the main house, under a front-facing gable, with a porch across the rest of the front, such as 506 N. Boundary St. This front-facing gable may have been a leftover from the English Cottage houses of the 1930s. It may also have been inspired by the old gable-front-and-wing cottages. As usual, the national style has its regional and local variations.

Note that the proper term for this period is Neocolonial, not Colonial Revival. Colonial Revival was an alternate name for the Neoclassical Revival of half a century earlier, quite a different style.

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