Shotgun Houses

Reader Contribution by Arkansas Girl
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Houses are interesting, aren’t they? I have seen quite a few over the years, but during my childhood, I didn’t have many varieties to look at. The ones I did see, however, were all different. For the most part, my family always lived in the four-roomer, but there were other styles.

In case you’ve not seen this house, I’ll try to describe it. It has a front room, usually two bedrooms in the center, and the kitchen in the back; a linear house, in other words. This is a “shotgun” house that is built with all the rooms in a straight row. I assume it got its name because you could shoot a gun while standing in the front door, and the bullet would go straight out the back door.

The lady who had the beautiful flower garden lived in this house, and for some reason, I loved going to her house, because nothing was hidden – everything was in plain sight, and as I walked through her little, long castle, I certainly got an eyeful.

There are only two doors – the front and the back. The rooms in between these doors have no doors. In this style of house, you could walk right through the front door, through the living room (or front room, as we called it), into the bedrooms, and then into the kitchen. Usually, this house only has four rooms built one right behind the other in a semi-open floor plan.

Back then, I didn’t know why a house is built like this, but now, I imagine it’s built with economy in mind. The walls are pretty much missing between what would be the rooms, and with less wood used, more money is saved in its construction. I believe, too, that this simple house is built for the poorest of the poor, like my family, for instance, and no doubt it is also built for a young couple just getting started in life. With little money to spend building their habitat, and not needing anything fancy, a shotgun house proves the perfect design for a newlywed couple.

Not only is this structure easy to build, it is perfect for living. It’s comfortable. It’s simple. It’s ideal to clean, and it probably is an interesting place to live. The style is OK, but there certainly can’t be many secrets going on. It was neat, because whenever we went to the neighbor’s front door and knocked, if she was in the house, all she had to do was lean to the right or to the left a few feet and she could look straight through her house all the way to her front door. If she had good eyes, she could see who was standing on the outside of her screen door.

The house, like most during the 1950s, had not a speck of paint. Its color was dull gray, if you can call it a color. At any rate, there’s no need to worry about the wood fading or water washing the paint off. There isn’t any.

I never knew the history of these neighbors, and I often wondered if this was their only ever-in-life house. Perhaps, it was, but, if so, I’m sure it served its purpose. A house is a house. It is a shelter. It provides a roof over one’s head, and that is probably good enough for any inhabitant. In other words, these people had a house and though it had no extra frills, it was what they needed and it was their “home sweet home.”


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