Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Tee Shape Farm House – An American Classic

One of the most predominate house styles on Delmarva and perhaps anyplace east of the Rocky Mountains is the Tee Shape farmhouse.  Although I refer to the house as a farmhouse it is found in towns and cities across Delmarva.  A tee shape floor plan, two stories high, one room deep, two rooms wide on all stories for a total of six rooms, stairs normally in the center of the house, side facing gables, a symmetrical façade with a center door, a front porch and a porch in the ell of the tee, a tall narrow profile, this is what makes the classic tee shape farmhouse.  Additional embellishments of ginger breading may have been added and more likely were removed at the time they had asbestos siding put on.   The results are houses that are very stark and houses that are fancy folk Victorian and many of us have lived in one or visited one at some period of our lives.


These house shapes are so predominate that cultural geographer Fred Kniffen labeled them “I” house.  The “I” comes from the Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa. Three states beginning with the letter “I”, in which these houses cover the country side. 


The style is so popular that even Beracah has house plans called “The Delmar”    they describe the house as;

The Delmar is a classic Eastern Shore Farmhouse with modern appeal & amenities. This 2-Story home is 2016 Sq. Ft. with 3 Bedrooms & 2.5 Baths. The 8 ft. wraparound porch is perfect for rocking chairs, porch swings and encompasses 3 sides of the home. Front & back doors are perpendicular to each other allowing you to open both for great natural ventilation. Natural lighting is extensive in this home with windows at every turn.

In typical Farmhouse fashion, the living quarters are downstairs while all the bedrooms are located upstairs. Upstairs, each bedroom has it’s own advantage (Bedroom 1 – access to the attic, Bedroom 2 – availability of a bench/window seat, Bedroom 3 – the view). With Beracah’s full roof rafter system combined with the 12/12 roof pitch of this design, you’ll have a large amount of storage space in the attic area.

The house shape evolved from a British symmetrical style called the center-hall or hall and parlor house.  The house was side-gabled, two rooms wide and one room deep with the central front door opening into a small vestibule.  When the British settled the area they brought with them the house style, here it had several modifications with the addition of a back room off the center of the house that became the kitchen being the most common change.  Thus it became a tee shape farmhouse.  As the new Americans moved west they took the style with them. 


With out the turrets and multi levels roofs of other types of houses, the house was simple in its construction and style so most local carpenters could build it.  

About the main variations of the house in this area is the direction of the base of the tee faces and the amount of embellishment.  In most cases the base of the Tee is the entrance but in some cases the house is turned and the side of the stem of the tee is the entrance.


In most cases there will be an open front porch although more than half have been closed in instead of being an open porch.    The stem of the tee will usually retain an open lean to/ shed type roofed porch on one side of the tee that serves as a utilitarian porch where family members and hired hands could enter the house.  On the other side of the tee will be a closed in lean to type roofed porch.  The closed in porch will usually be a service area for washing, possibly a bathroom, and may have the well pump or pump bench also located in it.  


The bedrooms are usually on the second story.  The three rooms on the bottom story will usually be the kitchen, a living room and the third room could be a formal parlor or in other cases it is made into a ground floor bedroom.  When built indoor plumbing was not predominate so in later years when it was added a bathroom was placed wherever it would fit.


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