Early humans did not live in houses. When it was stormy or hot, they found shelter under trees. Later they made shelters out of branches or stones. Early people also lived in caves. When people began to live in organized groups, they started to build homes. The first houses were like tents.
Early people built two kinds of houses. In cold places, people built hearth houses. There was one room with a fire in the middle. Animals often stayed inside. In warm places, people built courtyard houses. The houses were made from mud brick dried in the sun. They had a few rooms around an open space where the animals stayed. There was a flat roof to sleep on when it was hot.
Greece and Rome
In ancient Greece, houses were made from mud brick or stone. Rich people had brick floors, painted walls and porches with columns. The courtyard had a garden and a well. The Romans used some of the same ideas. They made a new type of house with a garden and more rooms behind the courtyard.
Early Europeans built hearth houses from woven sticks packed with mud. The roofs were made of straw. When Vikings in France invaded England, they built castles. At first they used wood, but later they used stone. Stone could not burn down. In the Middle Ages many houses were stone. Two rooms held a family and servants. (Now the animals stayed in a barn.) Town houses had upstairs rooms where shopkeepers often lived.
While the Tudors (the family of Henry VIII) ruled England, people built “half-timbered” houses. The houses had white walls and wood beams coated with black tar. They had chimneys and glass windows. After a huge fire in 1666, builders started using brick. In Queen Victoria’s time, some houses had fancy brick patterns and stained glass. They had windows that stick out, called bay windows. City workers lived in two-story houses built together in a row.
Native American tepees and wigwams were frames covered with hides or tree bark. Tribes following buffalo carried their tepee parts. Woodlands tribes found materials for new wigwams. Southwest tribes used sun-dried adobe, while Arctic tribes built igloos. Most houses the colonists made were one room with a sleeping loft and fireplace. Later houses were nicer. As pioneers moved west, however, they made log cabins or dug houses in the ground.
In the 20th century, people invented many things. Some of these things made homes better. Houses got electricity and running water. Later, people could buy refrigerators and washing machines. Houses today are comfortable as well as strong, and they come in all shapes and sizes. What is your favorite kind of house?
- Dallas Home Builders: Home Building Through The Ages
- Portland State University: History of Houses for Kids
- ThinkQuest: History of Houses
- HistoryOnTheNet: Medieval Life Housing
- Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute: The Architecture of New England and the Southern Colonies as it Reflects the Changes in Colonial Life
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