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Features Include:

  • Basically square, boxy design (slightly greater depth than width)
  • Two-and-one-half stories high with often livable attic
  • Typically four large, boxy rooms per floor
  • Low-hipped or steep gable roof with w/deep overhang and one to four center dormers
  • Full-width front porch with wide stairs—centered or to one side
  • Brick, stone, stucco, concrete block, or wood siding
  • Large, often grouped window
  • Arched entries between common rooms
  • Built-in cabinetry, and Craftsman-style woodwork
  • Later Four squares often had the same type of interiors as Bungalows with open floor plans, lots of built-ins, and fireplaces. Many examples are trimmed with tiled roofs, cornice-line brackets, or other details drawn from Craftsman, Italian Renaissance, or Mission architecture. 

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The American Foursquare, or the Prairie Box, was a post-Victorian style that shared many features with the Prairie architecture pioneered by Frank Lloyd Wright. The boxy Foursquare shape provided roomy interiors for homes on small city lots. The simple, square shape also made the foursquare style especially practical for mail order house kits from Sears, Aladdin, and other catalog companies. Foursquares seemed to spring up almost overnight. There were none in 1890. By 1910, thousands had been built.

Style Variants:

The debate rages: is “foursquare” a house type or a true style? When you can narrow down a building phenomenon to a period of about 25 years, what’s the difference? There’s no mistaking these houses for earlier cube forms like the Georgian Manor or the Italian Villa. Creative builders often dressed up the basic foursquare form. Although foursquare houses are always the same square shape, they can have features borrowed from any of these styles:

ARTISTICCraftsman details were incorporated in the early wave, ca. 1900–1915: boxed posts, exposed rafter tails, beamed ceilings, built-in cabinetry, and carefully crafted woodwork (Some of these examples could be called “bungalow in a box.”)

PRAIRIE: Many Foursquares throughout the Midwest incorporated the “modern” motifs of the region: horizontal banding, porch with a slab roof, geometric ornament, and “Prairie” art glass after Frank Lloyd Wright.

CLASSIC: Houses like this might be called Free Classic: note the Palladian-style window and oval “cameo”, and pediments or porticos. After 1915, most examples could be termed Colonial Revival .

Queen Anne - bay windows, small towers, or "gingerbread" trim

Mission - stucco siding and roof parapets

Inside the Foursquare:

Built-ins such as bookcases and window seats were popular enhancements; those building plan book or kit houses could order room-dividing colonnades and kitchen cabinets. The style of furnishings was eclectic, in keeping with the fast-changing times and the affordability of catalog and mass-production furniture. Interior style changed from decade to decade. Look for hardwood wainscot, woodwork, and trim; stenciled or papered friezes, and machine-printed wallpaper; upholstered and leather furniture; a strong focus on the hearth and mantel. Craftsman (“bungalow”) interiors—Mission oak furniture, mica lamps, and square-spindled staircases—would have been common with the first wave. But Colonial Revival styles were ascendant after 1915, and lush Jazz Age rooms came along in the Twenties.


McAlester, Virginia and Lee. A Field Guide To American Houses. New York, Alfred A. Knopf: 1984.
“House Styles, Picture Dictionary of Houses in North America and Beyond” About .com. Mar 1 2013 <>
Architectural Style Wikipedia. Mar 1 2013. <>
Last modified on Friday, 29 March 2013 18:16
Mark Smith

Thank you for visiting my website. My name is Mark Smith and my design company is located in Stevensville, Michigan where I reside with my wife and two children. 


Thank you for visiting my website. My name is Mark Smith and I reside in Stevensville, Michigan my wife and two children. I have been interested in Architecture since my boyhood days; however, because of my families business—a lumberyard—I never really got a chance to pursue my dream until later in my career. Read more...


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