Saltbox House (A Unique American Style)

The saltbox house is a uniquely American design that originates from the colonial period.  The house an asymmetrical roof with one side having a long pitch down to a single story.  Their name comes from the resemblance to colonial saltboxes. 

White Salter Home

What is a Saltbox House?

There are two tales about how saltbox homes became popular. I like the first.

Homes in colonial times were subject to different tax rates depending on the number of floors they had.  As a saltbox home has two and one story areas, the occupants could pay the lesser tax rate.  This is a great tale and does fit with the country at the time.

The more likely reason is that it was simply an economical way to add an extension to the home.  As families grew with more children and needed more room, a ” lean-to” addition was constructed.  This explains the lopsided look of these houses.  Although I still prefer the first explanation.

Another advantage of the saltbox house style was to combat the harsh winters.  The sloped roof let the snow and ice fall off and not damage the house due to the weight.  Most of these homes also had a central fireplace and chimney that distributed warmth throughout the home.

Below are five examples of salter homes, some old and some modern.

Modern Saltbox Homes

The saltbox style has been translated into modern homes.  Some have incorporated the look into their modern design, while others have built reproductions.  Below are three modern homes with a classic look.

Modern Saltbox Home

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This modern home retains the central chimney layout, and the pitched sloped roof.  You can see some modern safety rails on the roof to stop people from falling.

Reproduction Saltbox Home

This reproduction home is a classic saltbox style.  The rear of the house is a single story with the front two stories.  To add extra space, there is an extension on the side.

Saltbox Home With Snow

This colonial home shows the advantage of the sloped roof when covered in snow.  The snow will slide off the roof instead of collecting and putting the roof under the snow’s pressure.

Traditional Saltbox Houses

These two original saltbox homes are perfect examples of the style.

Traditional Saltbox Home

In this house, you can clearly see that the home was added to at the rear.  The windows are smaller and slightly different from the windows at the front of the house.  The height of the walls at the rear is lower than the height of the front door.

Colonial Saltbox House

This lovely home has had a lot of tender loving care.  Once again you can see the original frame of the house and the add on at the rear.  The rear windows are at a lower height than the ones at the front.  The large central chimney is a perfect example of the feature of this style of the house.

As these homes were popular in New England in the 17th and 18th centuries, it is not surprising they have some historical meaning.  John Adams, the second US president, was born in a saltbox house in Massachusetts.  

This architectural style is both striking and functional.  A small family would have built the original house, and once their family grew would have added the lean-to addition.   So when you see a historical home with a roof with a distinct slope, it is a salter house.

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