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House Styles in New Orleans and the Mississippi Valley

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Shotgun Houses
Brightly painted shotgun house in New Orleans, Louisiana

Brightly painted shotgun house in New Orleans, Louisiana

Photo (cc) Flickr Member Karen Apricot New Orleans
Shotgun houses have been built since the time of the Civil War. The economical style became popular in many southern towns, especially New Orleans.

Shotgun houses have many of these features:

  • The entire house is no wider than 12 feet (3.5 meters)
  • Rooms are arranged in a single row, without hallways
  • The living room is at the front, with bedrooms and kitchen behind
  • The house has two doors, one at the front and one at the rear
  • A long pitched roof provides natural ventilation
  • The house may rest on stilts to prevent flood damage
Why Are These Houses Called Shotgun?

A few theories:

  • If you fire a shotgun through the front door, the bullets will fly straight out through the back door.
  • Some shotgun houses were constructed from packing crates that once held shotgun shells.
  • The word shotgun might come from to-gun, which means place of assembly in an African dialect.

Shotgun houses and creole cottages became models for economical, energy-efficient Katrina Cottages designed after Hurricane Katrina devastated so many neighborhoods in New Orleans and the Mississippi Valley.

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