Talk:Shotgun house

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Merge[edit]

Uh oh. I created an article on this topic, but with the wrong capitalization (at Shotgun House. I suppose these two entries should be merged and mine deleted, I'll do that soon if there's no objection. --W.marsh 21:01, 12 August 2005 (UTC)

That's an excellent article you have over there (I'm glad there's a picture). If you merge them, preserve most of your information and structure, and add in whatever additional stuff there is at this title. 61.51.68.206 09:07, 5 September 2005 (UTC)

Amendment[edit]

I have changed the comments on land usage. You have to be an American to think that a one storey house can ever be an "efficient use of urban space" (I am typing this in a five storey house in England). Honbicot 23:05, 1 January 2006 (UTC)

I think the idea was to build them cheaply, too, while cramming a lot in... it's hard to build five storey houses cheaply, even us ignorant Americans know that. If the article makes it sound like the shotgun house was the best Americans ever did at high density housing... that's wrong. The density was needed, but there more important reasons shotguns were built, i.e. cheapness and air flow. --W.marsh 23:32, 1 January 2006 (UTC)
Well, it's the combination of considerations of density and low cost with the desire to have one's own house (as opposed to an apartment/flat). -- Infrogmation 15:34, 9 August 2006 (UTC)
That too. Although a lot of shotgun houses were built to be rented out initially... I guess having a yard and a detached house was quite an appeal, even if you were renting it. --W.marsh 17:17, 9 August 2006 (UTC)

Clarification needed[edit]

"A sign of its New Orleans heritage, the house is usually raised 2 to 3 feet off the ground, although basements were not built, in lieu of a cellar behind the house." This sentence needs clarification. 23:16, 12 January 2006 (UTC)

As I recall I took that fact from a referenced article [1] which reads:
The shotgun is typically raised 2 1/2 to 3 feet above ground level in deference to the New Orleans climate.
I suppose someone can explain this better than me, but obviously most of New Orleans (particularly the less affluent areas where shotguns would be built) is below sea level... some height off ground level would help with occasional minor flooding. Also, perhaps this helps with the cooling effect of the shotgun. --W.marsh 02:51, 13 January 2006 (UTC)
Oh, as for the basements... that would require further research. I just do not believe they were commonly (or ever) built under shotgun houses. Unfortunately without visiting a library, I can't really cite, this is just personal knowledge. You can remove that as original research if you want. --W.marsh 02:53, 13 January 2006 (UTC)
Sorry, my question wasn't very clear either. Do you mean to say the houses do or do not have cellars? If they do, the phrasing should probably be something like "with a cellar behind in lieu of a basement." 05:34, 17 January 2006 (UTC)
The ones I've encountered have cellars, but I've having a hard time tracking down an actual source for that. I've removed the sentence for the time being to cut down on confusion. --W.marsh 05:41, 17 January 2006 (UTC)
Raised houses have long been practical in New Orleans-- yes, flooding was a major concern (see Drainage in New Orleans for some historic background), though the parts of the city actually below sea level weren't developed until the 20th century, but between sub-tropical rainstorms and occasional river or lake flooding elevated architecture helped. Houses were often built elevated higher in poorer sections "back of town" (lower ground away from the river) more prone to flooding. Interestingly, I noted after Katrina that there were a number of older neighborhoods (like much of Treme and parts of the back of Uptown) where the streets flooded but buildings built before c. 1900 were elevated high enough not to flood. The air flow under the house also helps ventilation in a climate with a long summer and short winter. I've heard some locals say it also helps minimize insect pests, though I'm not sure if it really has much effect on that. There are very very few "cellars" or "basements" as they're known elsewhere in New Orleans for the same reason as the above ground tombs-- until modern mechanical drainage pumps, the water table was pretty close to the surface; dig a hole and it'd fill with water much of the year. Lots of houses have what are locally called "basements" in New Orleans, but they are actually enclosed spaces at or just above ground level with the main living quarters upstairs from them. -- Infrogmation

Sources[edit]

Mostly notes to self... some sources to expand/improve this article:

  • "Shotgun houses", Natural History 86 (1977), 51-57
  • "Shoulder to Shoulder... Mobile's Shotgun Houses" Gulf Coast Historical Review 6 (Fall 1990), 57-64
  • Henry Glassie, Pattern in the Material Folk culture of the Eastern United States (Philadelphia 1968)
  • The Shotgun House: Urban Housing Opportunities (Louisville 1980) --W.marsh 16:00, 3 April 2006 (UTC)
When you have sources that you're not quoting from yet, put them in a "Further reading" section, so that readers can benefit from them too. Stevage 12:48, 9 August 2006 (UTC)

Lower 9th Ward...[edit]

Are the majority of Houses in the Lower 9th Ward? I was under the impression that most houses from Claiborne to Florida were mostly post-war ranch style homes, but in the Holy Cross district was the place of major concentration of shotguns. (The NYT seems to be the source... I think they may be iffy. Mass media in the US was calling the "Ward Nine" area "one of the lowest in New Orleans" ... when it's one of the higher because of the proximity to the river.

I also doubt the source that says " There have been no new shotgun houses built in America since the war, although the concept of a simple, single-level floor plan lived on in ranch-style houses."

There are three new shotgun houses being build behind the rental that I'm in now on the West Bank and there are new shotguns peppered inbetween existing houses in this neghiborhood. Perhaps I should take some pictures. --Kunzite 00:25, 1 June 2006 (UTC)

I doubt that they're actual authentic shotguns being built... with high cielings, no hallways, etc. Shotgun-like structures have been built I'm sure, but the lack of hallways is a fundamental part of the original era ones. But if they are authentic, the article should be corrected... a source on that would be great. I don't have access to the NYT archives from here for your other point, but I'm pretty sure it's an accurate summary of the article. If the NYT is wrong (which wouldn't be unheard of) then another source could correct that, but I really don't know... I've never actually been to New Orleans. --W.marsh 00:40, 1 June 2006 (UTC)
Yes, most of the houses in back of Claiborne are of more modern design, though I have seen a few in the older style design. I've seen several designs of houses dating back to the 19th century used for new houses in New Orleans into the 21st, especially (though not exclusively) in neighborhoods where most of the surrounding housing stock is 19th century. -- Infrogmation 15:22, 9 August 2006 (UTC)

Shotgun houses, and their variants (camelbacks) are found throughout New Orleans and not just the lower 9. I live in New Orleans and own a shotgun in Mid City that was built in 1911. As you note, Holy Cross has a lot of them, but you find them throughout the older parts of the city that were built prior to WWII. In other words, shotguns are common throughout the Marigny and Bywater areas, all of uptown, and mid city out towards the cemetaries. As population spread towards the lake in the 30's you find more raised bungalows and arts and crafts style homes. Gentilly and older parts of Lakeview fit this mold.

floorplan?[edit]

I was fufilling an image request ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Requested_pictures ) for a floorplan. So, I scanned this drawing... but I see there is one already. If you like this one better we could swap-out? It's based on a house I've been in... and it has the rooms labeled.

Drawing of a floor plan by Susan Murray.

futurebird 02:00, 15 June 2006 (UTC)

That's great... I'll put it in the main article (the diagram there now was mostly a placeholder). --W.marsh 02:17, 15 June 2006 (UTC)
One problem with this "typical" floorplan is it has side windows, which are mentioned in the article as "almost never" existing. Stevage 12:47, 9 August 2006 (UTC)
The claim "almost never" having side windows is certainly not so in New Orleans. I've modified that claim. Any shotgun more than 2 rooms long certainly needs at least one side window per room -- remember their heyday of construction began before electric lighting became common! Shotgun houses may be very close together, sometimes with just barely enough room for one person to walk between them, but that doesn't stop them from having side windows. -- Infrogmation 15:16, 9 August 2006 (UTC)
image shotgun in Holy Cross section of Lower 9th Ward notice side windows. image row of shotguns uptown spaced close together; you can just make out the shutters of a side window on the right side of the middle house. -- Infrogmation 15:25, 9 August 2006 (UTC)
Back in the 1950s, my neighbor had a shotgun house standing on the side of their corner lot as a rental property; the front porch faced the street and the side faced the crossing avenue; the rooms were single file classic shotgun style, but both sides had windows and the side facing the avenue had a side door. There were variations off the basic style. A shotgun house in the middle of a block (not on the corner) would obviously not have a side door. Naaman Brown (talk) 20:36, 27 February 2012 (UTC)

Confusing wording, or mistake?[edit]

In cities like New Orleans, local industries supplied elaborate, but mass-produced, brackets other and ornaments for shotgun houses that were accessible even to homeowners of modest means.

Is it supposed to be brackets and other ornaments? -- 217.42.230.183 12:07, 2 August 2006 (UTC)

I think so. Fixed. MarkBuckles 12:16, 2 August 2006 (UTC)

Talking Heads Reference[edit]

Does someone want to include the Talking Heads reference in Once in a Lifetime?

Ref: http://www.lyricsfreak.com/t/talking+heads/once+in+a+lifetime_20135070.html Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Once_in_a_Lifetime_%28Talking_Heads_song%29

Sounds like a good idea to me, something like..
The first line of the 1980 Talking Heads song, Once In A Lifetime is "And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack".[2]
..would be a relevant addition. Moreover, this reference is probably known by many Talking Heads listeners around the world who otherwise do not know what a shotgun house/shack is.
72.82.211.163 06:55, 9 August 2006 (UTC)
That would be cool with me if someone wanted to mention it briefly. Probably in the "legacy" section which deals with the all the cultural stuff too. --W.marsh 13:40, 9 August 2006 (UTC)
Done Brholden 18:44, 9 August 2006 (UTC)

Etymology[edit]

The article currently offers two different explanations for the term. In the introduction: The term "shotgun" comes from the saying that one could fire a shotgun through the front door and the pellets would fly cleanly through the house and out the back door and under history The name may have originated from the Africa's Southern Dohomey Fon area term, to-gun, which means, "place of assembly." The description, probably used in New Orleans by Afro-Haitian slaves, may have been misunderstood and reinterpreted as "Shotgun." – Seems a bit odd. Good read, by the way. Rl 06:48, 9 August 2006 (UTC)

The theory that the name comes from the rooms and doors being in a row, so that you could shoot a shotgun through them, is almost certainly correct. It is plausible and well-attested in the early references. An African origin seems far less plausible, particularly as the term is not known to have been in use until 1903, but there are enough scholars who take it seriously that it deserves mention as an alternative. John M Baker 18:03, 9 August 2006 (UTC)

Ultimately the origin is not really known to anyone, making it pretty much folklore. If the article doesn't make it clear that both explanations are just the two most common theories, and the definitive truth isn't (and probably can't) really be known, please rewrite it to make that more clear. Thanks. --W.marsh 18:38, 9 August 2006 (UTC)

The current phrasing though, is a bit opaque: "However, the name's origin may actually reflect an African architectural heritage." What does African architechture have to do with shotguns? The to-gun gloss should, I think, be put back in, either in the text or the footnote. --Iustinus 18:41, 9 August 2006 (UTC)

Furthering the idea of the shotgun pellets going cleanly through the house, I have also heard that the term became popular due to the floorplan of the house being a useful defensive structure. Namely, in the event that a father/husband caught a strange man sleeping with his wife/daughter, he could get his shotgun and have a clear shot at the strange man fleeing the house down the straight row of doors, which led to most of the bedrooms being constructed toward the back of the house for just such an occasion. I'll see if I can find a source on that before offering to include it... --Mastalock (talk) 20:07, 11 January 2008 (UTC)


I'm not an academic in this area, but I'm an engineer/scientist that grew up in the 1950s - 1970s in several large Southern cities (Birmingham, Shreveport, Baton Rouge) with sizable shotgun house populations. Here's my two cents' worth: Shotgun houses were designed the way that they are because that's a cheap way to make houses. In the cities that I lived in, they were nearly always inhabited by people of very modest means, who were usually black. They were located in neighborhoods that had been of that soceo-economic for many generations, so it's difficult for me to believe that they had ever been inhabited by people from the middle class. The name "shotgun" refers to (and this is how it was always said, never any different) that one "could fire a shotgun into the front door and kill everyone in the house". I suppose the bit about "the pellets could fly clean to the back door" means the same thing, but it sounds like it's been clubbed with a PC stick. I put no faith in the "to-gun" theory at all. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Dsundin (talkcontribs) 21:07, 20 November 2008 (UTC)

But by the 1950s-1970s, those houses were already a century old. The people living in them then were, at best, the 3rd or 4th generation descendants of the first owners... more likely they were unrelated to the original owners entirely, and the neighborhood had changes substantially since then. At any rate, find a source... it sounds like you're applying 20th/21st century logic to 19th century housing standards. --Rividian (talk) 21:54, 20 November 2008 (UTC)

Modular Homes[edit]

It seems to me that these shotgun houses are a variation of modular homes. I am European and have never heard about shotgun houses before I came across this article (made me think about Ignatius Reilly seeing the images here), but modular homes I'm pretty familiar with. South state style modular homes..? Maybe a link to shotgun houses on the modular homes article..? --SWA 12:12, 9 August 2006 (UTC)

I thought something similar, but I never actually found a published source making the comparison... so I never mentioned it in the article. --W.marsh 13:38, 9 August 2006 (UTC)
I doubt it. Modular homes are specifically homes that are stick-built at a factory and transported to the site. This is a relatively new innovation, as I understand it, and shotgun houses greatly predate this.
Septegram 18:18, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

References #6 and #7...[edit]

...are blank. What happened? Stevage 12:47, 9 August 2006 (UTC)

Hmm? Looks okay now. Someone was messing with them earlier, adding gibberish to the reference names... but it seems to be fixed now. --W.marsh 13:40, 9 August 2006 (UTC)

A shotgun was featured as a This Old House project[edit]

It was in New Orleans and they remodeled it into a single unit in 1991. The project featured a couple of water stories in which it was talked about providing clean drinking water from the Mississippi and providing sewage services. You can read more at http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/tvprograms/houseproject/overview/0,16542,198695,00.html. I have no idea if the house survived Katrina.

I figure information like this should be added to the article.--Will 18:21, 9 August 2006 (UTC)

Cool, the article mentions that such conversions are done sometimes, and I've added this link to the "External links" section. It can be added to the article text to if anyone is so inclined. --W.marsh 18:45, 9 August 2006 (UTC)

"...Though initially as popular with the middle class as with the poor,.."[edit]

The shotgun house is working-class housing. Perhaps this derives from a misunderstanding of what "middle-class" meant and whom a shotgun house was built for. The remodellinmg described later in the article, that made a shotgun house livable for a new, middle-class owner, suggests that this is so. --Wetman 21:35, 9 August 2006 (UTC)

Widely accepted?[edit]

It has been suggested, most notably by folklorist and professor John Michael Vlach, that the origin of the building style and the name itself may trace back to Haiti and Africa in the 1700s and earlier. The name may have originated from the Africa's Southern Dohomey Fon area term, to-gun, which means, "place of assembly." The description, probably used in New Orleans by Afro Haitian slaves, may have been misunderstood and reinterpreted as "Shotgun."[5]

The theory behind the earlier African origin is tied to the history of New Orleans. In 1803 there were 1,355 free blacks in the city; by 1810 blacks outnumbered whites 10,500 to 4,500. This caused a housing boom, and as many of both the builders and inhabitants were Africans by way of Haiti, historians believe it is only natural they modeled the new homes after ones they left behind in their homeland. Many surviving Haitian dwellings of the period, including about 15 percent of the housing stock of Port-au-Prince, resemble the single shotgun houses of New Orleans.[5] This theory is now widely accepted by historians.

I would like to see a better source for the last statement here, "This theory is now widely accepted by historians." This theory has been the subject of much debate, and a conclusive statement like "widely accepted by all historians needs a much better, more academic source than victoriansecrets.net's article on southeast shotguns. I am going to hide the statment until better sourcing can be presented. IvoShandor 01:29, 4 October 2007 (UTC)

Wrong word for "land parcel"?[edit]

"increased the number of plots that could be fitted along a street"

Where I come from, that is called a "lot". A "plot" is a burial site. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 198.147.225.49 (talk) 20:37, 27 January 2008 (UTC)

Thanks... I fixed the error. --W.marsh 20:57, 27 January 2008 (UTC)

Origin of shotgun houses[edit]

I've had friends that stayed in a few, and I've always heard a story about how shotgun houses were created because New Orleans once had a tax on hallways. I'm not sure if this is a urban legend or not, and I couldn't find any references with a quick google search. Still, it's something that should be easy to check, and I thought you guys should know. Great job on the article. 98.212.180.11 (talk) 06:12, 28 February 2008 (UTC)

A "tax on hallways"? I wouldn't think so as it sounds unworkable. It sounds like the old British system where taxes on homes were computed based on the number of rooms. Under that system, closets were counted as rooms, which is why they stopped building closets in rooms. Leaving a hallway out made sense, since a hallway would cost extra and detract from the basic purpose of the design - to allow free flow of air through the house. __209.179.8.16 (talk) 03:24, 27 January 2015 (UTC)

Citation needed tag removal[edit]

The CN tags were put there to indicate exactly which claims were supported by attached citations, and which were NOT. Wholesale removal of CN is not appropriate here, as a good deal of WP-editor opinion and interpolation needs to be cleaned up or de-POV'd. In my opinion, there's no way this article meets GA, given all the un-specifically-supported claims. It's not bad, it's just not Good. Note that I'm not a deletionist, or I would have deleted the unsupported claims without further comment! I am instead, a skeptical, inclusionist. Let's not gladhand and backpat this article through, as part of some sort of GA/FA "drive." Please. Discuss. I'm going to insist that every single CN removal be justified, one at a time, or in list format, in comments. Sorry. --Lexein (talk) 20:35, 9 August 2010 (UTC)

I removed the citation needed tags. Please move this discussion to the ongoing FAR, which I referenced in my edit summary. A general need for better citations was discussed there prior to the citation needed tags being added, and has been discussed further there since. Please discuss there to hold the discussion together. --doncram (talk) 21:21, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
Lexein, in this edit reverses that, with edit summary suggesting s/he misunderstood me. I did not avoid commenting; i did comment at the FAR, linked here. Lexein, are you wanting to argue about where to discuss this? Or, just discuss at the FAR. Are you aware of the Featured Article Review going on? --doncram (talk) 21:37, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
Taking discussion to FAR for continuity, but not copying or moving. --Lexein (talk) 22:17, 9 August 2010 (UTC)

Lizzie Borden[edit]

If you look at the house of Lizzie Borden it sure looks like a shotgun house except that there are two stories. In both the first and second floor, there are no hallways, the rooms lead into each other. But they did have back stairs and front stairs as well as a basement and an attic — Preceding unsigned comment added by 173.165.104.27 (talk) 09:08, 20 July 2012 (UTC)

Just a quick question[edit]

Are shotgun apartments also featured in tenements or apartment blocks? I mean, just like railroad apartments? It's not clear to me, I'm not American so I'm not familiar with the whole shotgun house thing, sorry.... --Teno85 (talk) 02:29, 29 May 2014 (UTC)

Non-New Orleans Shotguns -

The shotgun model, of homes with rooms that follow one another in order, was widely used in rural Louisiana during the building rush of the sawmill days through the late 1920's. (I grew up in one!) In many cases, it was a double model with a center wall and the home was originally built so that it could host either two families or one family (and often these homes went back and forth from one to two to one, depending upon family and community needs. Again, this was the pattern of my own family's occupation of a double-width dogtrot, and this occupancy model was followed by many others in my region of Southwestern Louisiana). In the actual transitory sawmill towns such homes, built by the sawmill company, were usually single shotgun. I added a few un-referenced sentences, but I can only provide photographic evidence from the period and direct photographic evidence of such homes as they exist now for this documentation. . .perhaps such documentation exists and I am just missing it. Hopefully, someone will be able to provide documentation. It's frustrating; I can go to street view on Google Maps, go to a town such as DeRidder that was built during the sawmill era, drop down to a street that was built during that era and see house after house that was built on this model and tell you exactly what the configuration of rooms inside the house is, right down to the double front doors, center wall, interior connecting doors, and box-like configuration of rooms with halls added later in the life of the house! — Preceding unsigned comment added by 69.2.52.23 (talk) 18:02, 5 January 2015 (UTC)

The real reason for the shotgun house design?[edit]

Unless I missed it, I thought the main reason for the design was that it made the free flow of air through the house much easier, which was vitally necessary here in the hot, humid South, especially in the days before air-conditioning. Right? __209.179.8.16 (talk) 03:32, 27 January 2015 (UTC)