If you’re interested in historic homes, you probably already know the Craftsman style. This architectural movement was one of America’s most popular for small houses or “bungalows” built between 1900 and the mid-1920s, meaning it’s well-represented in many of Austin’s central neighborhoods built around that period.
This wide distribution around town makes it a no-brainer for Preservation Austin to pick the Craftsman style for its 27th Annual Homes Tour, coming up later this month on April 27. The tour will take guests through seven well-preserved historic homes around Austin built between 1912 and 1936, giving us a nice range of expressions for this particular style.
Keeping that in mind, we thought the Craftsman style was a good choice for the next installment of our local domestic architecture field guide, which is based on Virginia McAlester’s incredible 1984 book, “A Field Guide to American Houses: The Definitive Guide to Identifying and Understanding America’s Domestic Architecture.”
This time around, we’re taking a look at a few of the Craftsman-style homes around Austin included in Preservation Austin’s tour, and using the guidelines to the book to identify some of their defining architectural features.
(Hey, would you like some free tickets to this event? Tell us your favorite local Craftsman-style home on the Facebook post for this article and we’ll give one of you a pair of tickets for the tour, courtesy of Preservation Austin.)
East 16th Street, Chestnut Neighborhood, Built in 1920 (Moved in 1954)
The first identifying feature of the Craftsman style mentioned by the book is a “low-pitched gabled roof with wide, unenclosed eave overhang.” That’s all on display in the home above — you can see the exposed “rafter tails” under the eaves of the roof on two sides, another common trait (in some cases, the rafter tails actually extend beyond the roof itself, and seem to do so very slightly here).
Craftsman homes also almost always include false ornamental beam ends under the roof gables, meant to give the structure a more authentic hand-built appearance. On this structure, you can see those beam ends on either end of the front roof gable, with those little triangular extra beams the book calls “braced supports” contributing to the overall homespun look. The gently-sloping support piers of the front porch, also known as “battered columns,” are another indicator of this style — not all Craftsman homes have these exact columns, but they almost all have front porches supported by different kinds of columns, along with decorative railings in many cases.
Wheeler Street, Aldridge Place Neighborhood, Built in 1916
Though a touch grander in scale than many homes in this style, the Craftsman house at Wheeler Street is a dead ringer. Those twin front-facing gabled dormers each include three heavily-ornamented rafter ends, and the slightly curved pitch of each dormer’s roofline is what the book calls “flared,” a feature thought to be influenced by Asian architectural styles. Rafter tails are visible under the main roof over the porch as well, and the twin porch support columns, which subtly reflect the home’s twin dormers, are specifically listed as a common style in the book.
Treadwell Street, Zilker Neighborhood, Built in 1936
This Zilker home is both a more humble example of the style and a testament to the great range of expression contained within Craftsman architecture. Dating back to 1936 — a late period for Craftsman homes when their ornamentation was often slightly more restrained — even the few architectural flourishes on display place the home squarely within the style. The small gable over the front entrance includes decorative “brackets” on either side of the door seemingly intended to evoke the look of a Craftsman home’s typical false rafter ends and other carved ornamentation, and the effect is obvious even in a modest structure.