It’s Hip to be 4 Square
Sometime in the early 1880’s simplicity dusted off its shoes and headed to the city. It followed the new middle class whose confidence to roam was fueled by expanding economic opportunities. Meanwhile the recent centennial exhibition in Philadelphia renewed much interest in our colonial heritage including our early simple rectangular homes. The pendulum had swung, the flamboyant queen-anne style homes and other asymmetrical Victorian designs were being replaced with new symmetrical designs with restraint and nostalgia in mind. This shift also coincided with the departure of a few sobering economic recessions. When things get bad, get back to basics.
When simplicity arrived in these urban settings it encountered narrower lots so it was engineered into a square footprint and each floor was cut neatly into four equal quadrants. For builders and buyers alike, they were delighted with the cost-effective construction as square buildings are more efficient to build than rectangular buildings. Its signature pyramidal hat was inspired by its colonial half-brother’s Georgian hip-roof. This new hat also provided a modest third floor to make up for the lost square footage due to narrowness of the lot. On the street side, a generous front porch, borrowed from its bungalow cousin, was the perfect spot to create cooler outdoor spaces to socialize and to greet neighbors passing by.
The American Four-Square home had arrived and just in time. The working middle class demanded useful, affordable homes. House were no longer just for the wealthy. The new industry of homebuilding began to thrive. Homes could be ordered from a catalog such as Sears and be delivered to the site ready to assemble. Upgraded designs featured projecting bays, decorative columns, and more spacious dormers. Multiple styles- craftsman, classical, and Italianate, adorned the homes inside and out and allowed distinctive personalities. Simplicity can also have style.
Our current project involves a modest addition to a Four-Square home in a somewhat tight neighborhood. With no place to go, the new mudroom entry finds itself at the rear of the house on this narrow lot. An interior staircase brings us up to the first-floor kitchen area while another takes us down to a finished basement. Above, a new modest master suite completes the needs for a modern family. Simplicity has no expiration date.
Hip Four Square addition/renovation