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ABCs of American Architecture (Twentieth Century)

Click on the MEDIA ITEMS below for more information



According to Foley, "In a sudden clumping effect, the decade between 1900 and 1910 saw the crystallization of the modern house. The development was not merely another in the long parade of styles. New man-made materials and new structural systems had long been changing the medium through which architecture worked. ...By contrast, pioneers of modern domestic architecture, particularly Frank Lloyd Wright, sought to use their inherent characteristics to create radically new designs."(The American House)

Reinforced and precast concrete, structural steel, plate glass, central heating and electric lights had simplified structures, freeing space and opening interior areas which gave builders an opportunity to "break the box", to quote Frank Lloyd Wright, the pioneer of the modern age of architecture. Foley continues, "In its own way, this process was comparable to the breaking up and recombining of many styles in the much-maligned eclectic period. Victorian architects had pulled historic detail apart and put it together again in a kaleidoscope of eclectic themes. Sullivan and Wright pulled historic form apart and put it together again as modern architecture." (The American House)

An outgrowth of the "American Renaissance," the Beaux-Arts movement was the development of a typically American look applied to revivals of historic styles-Colonial revival, white-painted clapboards and shuttered windows; Georgian colonial, formal and graceful; Dutch colonial, cozy and quaint; Elizabethan (or Tudor) manor house, with stucco and half-timbers; Mediterranean, pale stucco, shallow tiled roofs and delight of delights--a patio.

The favorite small house design was the bungalow. There are literally hundreds of them in Cumberland, frequently a standard style in a particular housing development. The name is adapted from the Hindu word "bangla, belonging to Bengal," and derived from the resthouses for travelers that were built along the main roads in India. Technically, a bungalow is a small single-story house, but "bungalow-type" or "bungaloid" covers a greater group that have their second stories made usable by the addition of a single large dormer or cross gable overhanging a large pleasant porch. A very fine example of a bungaloid type home is at 741 National Highway, in LaVale. The exterior finish is borrowed from the Western stick and shingle style and it also sports handsome porch columns of rubble stone. It would be an interesting experience to catalog the various types of bungaloid houses within a certain community or neighborhood and attempt to trace their historical heritage.

Within the framework of traditional styles, one would be remiss to overlook the Cape Cod, a quaint, story-and-a-half Colonial, and the California ranch house, a minimum one-story house that became available to veterans of World War II through the GI Bill of Rights.

The Prairie style house was the first attempt of modern architects to break away from the historical mold. It is typically squarish, with low pitched roof and projecting eaves. Mostly two-story, it may have single-story wings, porches or carports. The theme is horizontality,


Page #:

Cumberland Historic Preservation Commission

City of Cumberland


Collection Location:

Original Size:
22 x 29 cm.

Helene L. Baldwin, Joy W. Douglas, Gary Bartik and John Eiser

Historic buildings, Maryland, Allegany County; Historic buildings, Maryland, Cumberland.

Cumberland (Md,); 1742-1980

Western Maryland Regional Library
100 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

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