What is a Shotgun House?

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The shotgun house is a recognizable architectural style of New Orleans that was unfortunately lost during Hurricane Katrina. The storm caused devastation to the city, resulting in the loss of lives and iconic buildings.

After the storm, it became evident that the city’s unique architecture would never be the same. The shotgun house, a long and narrow building, is a prime example of the city’s architectural style. Although the house’s exterior is modest, there are ornate features that add to its beauty.

The shotgun house’s origins are unclear, but it is believed that it was brought to America by Haitian refugees in the 19th century. The first shotgun homes were constructed in New Orleans and became popular throughout the country in the mid-19th to early 20th centuries. The shotgun house is associated with the African-American struggle for life in the United States, making it a significant contribution to the country’s architectural heritage.

The shotgun house has a unique design that has made it emblematic of the American South and African-American experience. The lore surrounding the house’s name is based on its layout, with all of the doors in the house following a single line perpendicular to the street. A person shooting a shotgun through the front door could expect the shot to pass through the house and out the back door without touching a wall.

Layout, Lore, and Design of Shotgun Houses

The shotgun house’s elongated design is such that a person could shoot through the front and out the back door without hitting a wall – or so the lore goes.

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The shotgun house’s unique design and cultural significance have made it a cherished part of the American architectural landscape.

The American shotgun house design has its roots in Haitian homes, and the doors were originally placed off center. However, this design was modified upon its arrival in the U.S. with doors being placed in the center. The shotgun house is named after the West African style of home known as “shogun” or “God’s house” in the Yoruba language. Despite their plain appearance, shotgun houses are often decorated with ornate fixtures such as intricately carved brackets and vent covers. Rooms in shotgun houses are surprisingly large and usually around 14 square feet. A modified version of the shotgun house, the double shotgun, was developed for larger families. The shotgun house introduced the concept of the porch to the U.S. and helped give rise to tight-knit neighborhoods. Shotgun houses are now emblematic of the African-American experience and represent the slaves’ reaction to adversity and intelligent modification of culture. Many shotgun houses are being preserved and protected due to their cultural legacy.

The popularity of the shotgun house design spread beyond the African-American community and by the early 1900s, building kits were available for purchase at $100. As a result, shotgun houses were constructed in cities across the United States. The simple design allowed for quick construction, making them a common sight in the boom towns of the West, as well as temporary and permanent housing after natural disasters such as the earthquake that struck San Francisco in 1906. Although new construction of shotgun houses declined in the 1920s, many of the original structures still remain and are inhabited, while others have been preserved as reminders of their significance in American history. To learn more, check out related articles on HowStuffWorks, and sources such as the Kislak Foundation, Architectural Patrimony, and the African American Registry.


1. What is a shotgun house?

A shotgun house is a narrow rectangular house style that originated in the southern United States. It typically consists of three to four rooms arranged in a straight line, and no hallway.

2. Why is it called a shotgun house?

The name “shotgun house” is believed to have originated from the fact that you can shoot a shotgun through the front door and the bullet will travel straight through the house and out the back door without hitting any walls.

3. Where did shotgun houses originate?

Shotgun houses have their roots in West Africa and were brought to the United States during the slave trade. They became popular in the southern United States during the late 19th century.

4. What are the characteristics of a shotgun house?

Shotgun houses are typically narrow and long, with rooms arranged in a straight line. They often have high ceilings and a gabled roof. The front door is usually located at one end of the house, and the back door at the other end.

5. What are the advantages of a shotgun house?

Shotgun houses are typically affordable and easy to build. They are also easy to cool because of their long, narrow shape, and they have good natural light because of the windows at both ends of the house.

6. What are the disadvantages of a shotgun house?

The lack of a hallway can make movement throughout the house difficult. Privacy can also be an issue because the rooms are arranged in a straight line.

7. Are shotgun houses still being built today?

Shotgun houses are experiencing a resurgence in popularity, especially in urban areas, because of their affordability and unique style. Many new shotgun houses are being built with modern amenities and design features.

8. Where can you find shotgun houses?

Shotgun houses can be found throughout the southern United States, but are especially common in New Orleans. They can also be found in other parts of the country, particularly in areas with a strong Creole influence.

9. What is the history of shotgun houses in New Orleans?

Shotgun houses have a long history in New Orleans, dating back to the 1800s. They were often built by African American slaves and free people of color, and were popular among working-class families. Many shotgun houses in New Orleans have ornate architectural details.

10. Can shotgun houses be renovated?

Shotgun houses can be renovated and updated to meet modern needs and preferences. Many homeowners choose to add a hallway or expand the living space by building an addition onto the back of the house.

11. Are shotgun houses a good investment?

Shotgun houses can be a good investment because of their affordability and their unique style. They are often located in up-and-coming neighborhoods and can be a good choice for first-time homebuyers or real estate investors.

12. What is the future of shotgun houses?

The future of shotgun houses looks bright, with many people rediscovering their charm and history. They are being adapted for modern living while still maintaining their unique character.

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