Learn About the Shotgun Houses of New Orleans

New Orleans is one of the places that is filled with architecturally diverse homes. When you visit the city, you will find one building style that is more common than most and is always linked with the Southern city’s history – shotgun houses. These are charming modest homes that are easily recognizable due to the fact that they are very narrow. They are also not limited to New Orleans, as they are seen in many cities across the South. 

Shotgun-style houses have a rich history and probably a brighter future, too. With minimalism becoming more popular, a lot of home buyers today are choosing smaller houses. If you are looking into learning more about shotgun houses, you’re in the right place. Today, we are going to give you more information about the shotgun houses of New Orleans.

What is a Shotgun House?

Traditionally, shotgun houses feature a rectangular footprint with a narrow frontage. In fact, sometimes, it is only 12 feet wide. Many of them have a deep, gabled front porch that is designed for socializing. Due to the slim shape of the shotgun house, the interior rooms are mostly stacked backward from the front door, one after another, without using any hallway. 

Historically, the living room comes first, then a bedroom or two. The kitchen always comes last, with a rear exit to the backyard. Also, before indoor plumbing became a thing, most shotgun houses did not have any bathrooms. But as time passed, kitchen plumbing and bathrooms were added to the back. 

Before, shotgun houses were only a story tall. But as families grew and residential life transformed, some homeowners added some space vertically. Shotgun houses have a second story over only a part of the home. These are called “camelbacks.” 

There are also some shotgun houses that expand horizontally. Some have an added hallway on the side, which is either covered or enclosed. This is called a “side gallery.” There are also times when two shotgun houses are aligned together like a duplex. These houses share a front porch and middle wall. These are referred to as “double-barrel shotguns.”

Where Did The Name Come From?

The name “shotgun house” may have come from two possible sources. One is linguistic, while the other one is a legend. Some people believe that the word “shotgun” is from the Yoruba word “togun,” which means house or gathering place. This may have derived from African American heritage. 

Other people, on the other hand, believe that “shotgun” referenced the linear layout. It’s because when you open all the doors in the home, you could fire a shotgun straight through and not hit anything inside. Though there is no clear story behind the name, both of these interpretations may be correct.

Where Are Shotgun Houses Located?

The original structure style of shotgun houses came from hot climates. The tunnel style of the houses could help harness cooler breezes. Yoruba people in the West and Central Africa were known to build dwellings like shotgun houses. This type of house is also popular in Haiti. 

In the United States, the best-known city for shotgun houses is New Orleans. Haitian refugees are believed to have brought a variation of the shotgun house into the city back in the late 1700s, which are called the “Creole cottage.”

Aside from New Orleans, shotgun houses are also found in places like Louisville, Raleigh, Atlanta, Nashville, and other cities. Even though they are found elsewhere around the country, shotgun houses are mostly located in the South. The influence of shotgun houses can also be seen in Northern row houses or railroad apartments. However, those styles have different functions.

Different Styles of Shotgun Houses

Originally, shotgun houses were made using basic wood siding with some windows. They were also lifted on short stilts in parts that are prone to flooding. But as time passed, different architectural styles were adapted in some neighborhoods to enhance the appeal of shotgun houses. At the present time, here are some of the different styles of shotgun houses:

  • Modern: Modern shotgun houses are chic. They feature Californian styling, making them great for minimalist living.
  • Italian: Shotgun houses with Italian-style feature corbels. These are decorative wood pieces beneath the edge of the roof. They also usually have arched windows that look very charming.
  • Victorian: This style of the shotgun house has ornate details such as latticed rooflines and intricate railings. They also usually have bright colors making them look more appealing. 
  • Craftsman: These shotgun houses feature clean lines, deep colors, and stained wood accents, making them feel modern while remaining classic.
  • Greek: Shotgun houses with this style have porch columns and angular roofs. They create a pre-colonial style that can make them feel grander.
  • Classic: This style is similar to Greek shotgun houses, but they have smoother and simpler details.

Advantages of Living in a Shotgun House

If you are thinking of living in a shotgun house, here are some of the benefits that you can get:

Shotgun houses are practical.

Since shotgun houses feature simpler construction, they are easier to maintain compared to other home styles. It is a great choice for first-time home buyers and as well as those who love to travel. Also, smaller size means a lower price. And with shotgun houses, you can also keep renovations and upkeep low. If you are looking for something bigger than a tiny home, then a shotgun house might be perfect for you as it offers the same easily-managed lifestyle. 

Shotgun houses are very functional.

When you live in a shotgun house, you can maximize every inch of it. Each room in a shotgun house has its purpose, or even dual-purpose at times. In addition to that, they are also energy efficient. It also has a breezy quality when you open the doors and let the cool air flow naturally from front to back.

Shotgun houses may help you save money in taxes.

There is a myth that shotgun houses were built to avoid property taxes on road frontage. According to lore, narrow houses were easier on the pocketbook. However, there is no hard evidence that frontage tax was ever really a thing. But there is some truth to the idea that it can help you save money in taxes. It’s because property taxes are based on assessed home values influenced by appraisals. Therefore, that slim style of a shotgun house may end up saving you a little money in taxes. 

Shotgun houses are great in urban areas.

At the present time, being close to city life is very valuable. There are buyers who prioritize location that is within walking distance to their work and other establishments like markets, hospitals, and schools. Shotgun houses may be the key to convenience. There are also shotgun homes that are near the tourist hotspots, making them perfect for short-term rentals. 

Disadvantages of Living in a Shotgun House

While there are lots of advantages when it comes to living in a shotgun house, it also comes with a few drawbacks. Here are some of the disadvantages of living in a shotgun house that you might want to consider first before moving in:

Living in a shotgun house may require a lifestyle challenge.

Compared to a modern lifestyle, the interior layout of a shotgun house may not be as favorable. Some people are into open concept living and dining spaces. Therefore, the sequential and interconnected rooms of shotgun houses may not be as appealing to everyone. 

Shotgun houses lack privacy.

Since shotgun homes in the city are close together, you can expect very little separation from your neighbors. Also, inside your home, you will be living in close quarters with your family members, too. This is something that is not very ideal for larger families.

There might be some renovation restrictions.

Shotgun houses are considered historical homes. There are times when historic home preservation societies are stepping in to prevent the houses from being demolished or transformed. Therefore, if the shotgun house you are eyeing is in a historic district, there may be specific things that you can’t do when it comes to renovations. You may also need to seek approval for everything, such as paint colors and more.

Conclusion

While shotgun houses are found throughout the American South, these homes are a unique part of the heritage of New Orleans. Since they were most common in working-class neighborhoods in Southern cities, they also became associated with poverty in the middle of the 20th century. But in recent years, many preservationists have become interested in the unique style of shotgun houses, and a lot of them are working to restore these historic homes. We hope this post helped you learn more about the shotgun houses of New Orleans.