Saltbox Architecture: A Window into Colonial Times

Phineas Upham
Phineas Upham House

Saltbox style was one of the most popular styles of homes during Colonial times.  The Colonial Period was the time of the early American settlers from 1680 until about 1820.  Saltbox is actually more of a building shape than a building style.

Back in those days, wooden boxes were used to store salt.  The style of Saltbox homes took after the same shape and style as the saltboxes.  Saltbox homes typically had a sloping gable roof and were 1-2 stories high.  Many times saltbox houses were formed with one-story additions across the back of a 1-2 story building.  This was often a method used to enlarge a house and create separate rooms.  There was usually a central area to house the fireplace and the oven.   The other two common rooms were a pantry and a room for giving birth and for the sick.

As far as depth, these homes usually only had a single room.  This is significant because these homes house on average, a dozen or more people.  Again, this is the reason that it wasn’t unusual to see additions made to the house in order to expand the amount of space.

Saltbox style homes had a very simple and traditional look to them which is reflective of the conservative culture of the time.

Saltbox style homes had a centralized chimney more often than not, and one main entry way.  The roof line and ceiling were characteristically low and the panes of the window were small and simple.

One of the prime examples of a Saltbox style home that is still standing today is the Phineas Upham House of Melrose, Massachusetts.  It was established back in 1703 and is open today for tours and visits.  It is even recognized by the National Register of Historic Places due to its significance in understanding the early American settlers.

The Phineas Upham House is one of the best preserved Colonial homes in Massachusetts.  However, there are some other ones to check out in Connecticut including both the Ephraim Hawley House and the Comfort Starr House.  All three of these homes are great examples of the traditional Saltbox style.