- Beyond the American Foursquare: The Square House in Period Perspective
- Buildings & Landscapes: Journal of the Vernacular Architecture Forum
- University of Minnesota Press
- Volume 25, Number 2, Fall 2018
- pp. 48-65
- View Citation
- Additional Information
During the first two decades of the twentieth century the square house, now commonly called the foursquare or American foursquare, shared the consumer marketplace with the bungalow and dwellings in the colonial revival style. The form has not received the same level of attention as it did earlier in popular architecture and design media. This essay argues that the square house was popular despite its lack of formal definition because it was adaptable in size, exterior elaboration, interior plan, and cost. Designs were available to suit a range of budgets within the widely-defined middle class. The form was recognized for its cubic mass addressing the street, with openings and decorative elaboration governed by that proportion. The core of the square house was a centralized, looped circulation pattern through four main spaces located in the corners. Its period of popularity coincided with the transition from highly regimented Victorian plans, which emphasized the separation of public and private activities, to a more open arrangement with movement through contiguous spaces. The form’s basic cubic mass was an ideal fit for the narrow suburban lots of the streetcar suburbs. Early examples retained many Victorian elements, while later ones featured details associated with newer styles such as prairie, craftsman, or colonial revival. The evolution of the square house mirrored the changing aesthetic preferences and domestic usage patterns in the bungalow era.