Salt Box Style Homes

Originated in New England and is an Example of American Colonial architecture

This New England Colonial style got its name because the sharply sloping gable roof that resembled the boxes used for storing salt. The step roofline often plunges from two and one-half stories in front to a single story in the rear. In Colonial times, the lower rear portion was often used as a partially enclosed shed, which was oriented north as a windbreak. These square or rectangular homes typically have a large central chimney and large, double-hung windows with shutters. Exterior walls are made of clapboard or shingles. In the South this style is known as a "cat's slide" and was a popular in the 1800s.

A saltbox is a building with a long, pitched roof that slopes down to the back, generally a wooden frame house. A saltbox has just one story in the back and two stories in the front. The flat front and central chimney are recognizable features, but the asymmetry of the unequal sides and the long, low rear roof line are the most distinctive features of a saltbox, which takes its name from its resemblance to a wooden lidded box in which salt was once kept.


The Saltbox originated in New England, and is an example of American colonial architecture. It was popularized by Queen Anne's taxation of houses greater than one storey. Since the rear of roof descended to the height of a single-storey building, the structure was exempt from the tax.. The earliest Saltbox houses were created when a lean-to addition was added onto the roof of the original house. Old weathered clapboards are still in place on parts of the original rear exterior walls of some of the earliest New England saltbox houses. The hand-riven oak clapboards on both the Comfort Starr House and Ephraim Hawley House are preserved in place in the attic that was created when the lean-to was added onto the original house. The style was popular for structures throughout the colonial period and into the early Republic, perhaps because of the simplicity of its design.


Saltboxes, along with many other types of colonial houses, can be considered to be timber-frame houses. Timber framing, or post-and-beam construction, involves joining large pieces of wood with woodworking joints, such as mortise-and-tenon joints, or with wooden pegs, braces, or trusses. Metal nails were sparingly used, because of their expense. Timber frame construction was the construction method for all frame houses in 17th- and 18th-century America, where the abundance of wood made the timber frame house popular. The exterior of a saltbox was often finished with clapboard or other wooden siding. The Josiah Day House in West Springfield, Massachusetts is constructed of brick.

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